Flexing your leadership style for greater inspiration, inclusivity and impact

By Elisabeth Goodman, 1st July 2020

My copy of the July-August issue of Harvard Business Review has arrived and it includes a great read about power in leadership (Long Lingo and McGinn 2020) that dovetails nicely with one of the presentations at the recent “Coaching in the Workplace” conference (Hull 2020).

The days of control over others as a source of power are long gone

Jeffrey Hull’s presentation referenced his book (Hull 2019), a copy of which I have ordered and am eagerly awaiting. He suggested that the days of the authoritative and heroic leader are long gone, and it is now time for a more holacratic approach that relies on inspiring and involving others, whilst taking a wider perspective of the overall system in which we work.

Elizabeth Long Lingo and Kathleen McGinn (2020) have completed many years of research and consulting with senior leaders and they also assert that “the traditional concept of power… may not even be an option”.

Inspirational and situational sources of influence – connecting with “purpose”

I’ve written before about the nature of inspirational leadership (Goodman 2019).

Daniel Goleman et al (2017) for instance defines inspirational leadership as:

“..the ability to inspire and guide people to get the job done, and to bring out their best.  With inspiration, you can articulate a shared mission in a way that motivates and offer a sense of common purpose beyond people’s day-to-day tasks.”

Long Lingo and McGinn (2020) suggest that a leader’s ‘power is situational“. It depends on thinking about the goal that you want to achieve in the context of what’s important to “your colleagues, your company, and society”. This sounds to me like the systemic basis of Hull’s (2020) holacratic approach.

Long Lingo and McGinn also talk about the importance of understanding the environment in which you would like to make things happen, what barriers might be present, and how articulating the “why” (akin to Goleman’s “purpose”) will help you to win people over.

Lastly, Long Lingo and McGinn talk about aligning with the “bases of power” in the organisation, which include shared values as well as other existing practices and commitments that you can build upon. With shared values you can understand and identify with what is important to you and your colleagues and essentially be seen as one of us.

Building on existing practices and commitments is a bit like building on the opportunities in a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats). They are the ‘open door’ that give you the opportunity to continue an existing conversation.

Inclusivity is another aspect of influencing through ‘relational’ connectivity

Matthew Lippincott (Goleman et al 2017) references relationship management as one of the key aspects of emotional intelligence for inspirational leadership.

Long Lingo and McGinn (2020) also assert that “power is relational” and Hull (2020) cites collaborative skills as one of six key dimensions for leadership.

Long Lingo and McGinn (2020) encourage leaders to understand, develop and work with their network: those who will help them to achieve what they want, those who might resist or otherwise affect their plans.

They suggest various ways to choose who you interact with and how for instance by:

  • Including key players in developing your ideas and solutions will help to build buy-in
  • Finding opportunities to support and help others succeed, whilst recognising how others can help you will create a stronger climate of interdependency
  • Bringing people strategically together to achieve specific goals (and also deliberately choosing when to keep them apart!)

Keeping things under dynamic review

Having a dynamic approach is the third of Long Lingo and McGinn’s (2020) definitions of a leader’s sources of power, and indeed no-one’s job is complete without continuous review.

In this case it is about:

  • Taking time to pause, reflect, and evolve your approach based on changes in the environment or in your network.
  • Carrying out small scale experiments to test ideas and build support
  • Giving people who resist time to adjust to your ideas and approach
  • Generally looking for ways to help people buy-in more easily in the future

Working with a coach to flex your strengths and achieve greater impact

What kind of leadership style are you adopting? How could you flex your strengths to achieve the kind of impact that you would like to have?

Hull (2020) described 5 other key dimensions of leadership in addition to the collaborative one mentioned previously:

  • Flexible decision making
  • Intentional communication
  • Emotional agility
  • Real authenticity
  • Collaborative
  • Engage

(The terms are chosen so that the first letters spell out F.I.E.R.C.E!)

All of these would seem to relate in some way to: being inspirational / situational; deliberately including and involving others / being relational; taking a dynamic approach that takes account of significant changes.

Leaders are likely to be on a spectrum for these dimensions that bring them closer towards the heroic or the holacratic polarity of leadership.

Working with a coach can help leaders to develop greater awareness of where they are in relation to these dimensions, and how they could flex their approach to achieve a more inspirational, inclusive and hence more impactful approach.

I’m looking forward to reading Hull’s book to find out more.



Goleman, D. et al (2017) 12. Inspirational Leadership, in Building Blocks of Emotional Intelligence, Key Step Media

Goodman, E. (2019) Inspirational Leadership through the Lens of Emotional Intelligence – https://elisabethgoodman.wordpress.com/2019/02/05/inspirational-leadership-through-the-lens-of-emotional-intelligence/

Hull, J. (2019) Flex: The Art and Science of Leadership in a Changing World. Tarcher / Putnam

Hull, J. (2020) The Six Key Dimensions of Leadership in Coaching in the Workplace. Performance. Culture. Mastery. Association for Coaching and Institute of Coaching (digital conference).

Long Lingo, E. and McGinn, K.L. (2020) A New Prescription for Power: spend less time exerting control and more time mobilizing energy and commitment. Harvard Business Review, July – August: 67-75

About the author

Elisabeth Goodman is the Owner and Principal Consultant at RiverRhee Consulting, a consultancy that specialises in “creating exceptional managers and teams”, through courses, workshops and coaching, and with a focus on the Life Sciences. RiverRhee is a member-to-member training provider for One Nucleus.

Elisabeth founded RiverRhee Consulting in 2009, and prior to that had 25+ years’ experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry in line management and internal training and consultancy roles supporting teams on a global basis.  She is developing her coaching practice, with a focus on helping individuals to develop management, interpersonal and communication skills, and to deal with change.

Elisabeth is accredited in Change Management, in Lean Sigma, in Belbin Team Roles, MBTI (Myers Briggs Type Indicator) and is an NLP (NeuroLinguistic Programming) Practitioner. She is a member of the APM (Association for Project Management) in which she was a founding member of the Enabling Change SIG.

Elisabeth is also a member of the ICF (International Coaching Federation) and is working towards her PG Certification in Business and Personal Coaching with Barefoot Coaching and the University of Chester.

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