Oasis Leadership

Another leadership metaphor occurred to me recently:  some leaders are like an oasis, and others are more like a thunderstorm.

Some leaders are a quiet resource. They are not showy, they don’t seek the limelight, they don’t draw lots of attention to themselves.  They aren’t a loud voice in the room, and they aren’t “impressive” at first glance.  And yet, people are naturally drawn to them.  They seek them out for counsel, for support, for inspiration and help.  In the midst of whatever crisis is going on around them, these leaders provide shelter and much needed value.  As you get to know one of these “oasis leaders” over time, you may find yourself listening more acutely to what they say, and seeking out their quiet company.

Other leaders are more like thunderstorms. They come on strong, they’re in people’s faces. They are louder, more forceful, and harder to ignore. These leaders can also be quite effective.  Their dynamic personalities may help them create change more quickly, or call the group’s attention more powerfully to a problem or solution.

We live in a society that tends towards the extroverted.  Many people equate leadership with loudness.  But some very effective leaders, including some very senior leaders, are more quiet in their leadership style.  They draw to them followers that are  inspired and happy working with their type of leadership.  And there are definite advantages to working for a quiet leader. A quiet leader may be more focused on the people that they lead, and less focused on commanding attention for themselves.  Oasis leaders are often outstanding listeners. And just because they are quieter doesn’t mean that they can’t engage in a good fight when one is needed.

All of us have a combination of leadership styles, part oasis and part thunderstorm.  But no matter what your natural leadership style, you’ll be the most effective if you also develop the opposite capacity.  If you are by nature an oasis leader, there will be situations that call upon you to become louder and more aggressive.  You’ll be more effective if you have that in your toolbox, even if it’s not your natural style.

The reverse is true for the thunderstorm leaders. The best leaders are comfortable in their natural style and fully understand its strength and limitations; and they also develop other styles so that they can be whatever is most needed in the moment.