What is a ‘vanguard leader’ and how do you spot one when recruiting?

what is a vanguard leader

In the modern workplace, competition is the new norm and businesspeople are more connected than ever before. Global virtual teams and modern tools such as LinkedIn, Twitter and videoconferencing have enabled new forms of collaboration. As a result, many companies are trying new leadership approaches in order to engage workers, increase productivity and encourage growth.

'Vanguard leader’ is a buzzword that is gaining popularity in recruitment circles. Contrary to the traditional management approach of top-down leadership, a vanguard leader is a new breed of manager with egalitarian principles and a collaborative approach. Here we look at the traits of a vanguard leader, what they can do for your business and how you can spot one in the ranks.

1. Sharing the power

In his book Leadership Jazz, Max De Pree, chairman of leading furniture company Herman Miller, insists that workers have a right to exert upward influence on their bosses and ask questions of their employers such as “Can I achieve my own goals by following you?”, “Are you ready to be ruthlessly honest?” and “What do you believe?”

The way vanguard leaders manage is the antithesis of the more traditional ‘command and control’ management style. These leaders recognise the importance of an open, honest and consultative approach. They act as facilitators in team brainstorming and discussions, encouraging creativity and allowing solutions to come from the best insights of the group.

2. Information

Retaining ownership of information is a key way in which traditional leaders maintain both control and authority. Vanguard leaders instead set aside their self-interest in an attempt to find ways of helping each discover beneficial solutions.

These individuals are sound networkers who help to build and sustain relationships with other teams within the business. They often take an interest in business trends outside of their own company or industry, thinking outside the box and encouraging innovation.

3. A personal approach

Vanguard leaders recognise that employees are increasingly seeking greater autonomy and engagement. Yet rather than taking a hands-off approach, under their management leaders and team members work closely on a daily basis. This provides the opportunity for regular feedback and also allows for any issues to be quickly addressed.

A vanguard leader is personal leader, someone who wears their heart on their sleeve and often interacts closely with their team. They often seek feedback from those they lead and believe in fairness and equality, promoting trust and striving for shared understanding.

While there is no silver bullet or ‘right’ leadership style, the vanguard leadership style often works well when people are capable and motivated in making their own decisions, and where teamwork can produce better outcomes than working in silos. By engaging employees in the decision-making process, this style of leadership has the potential to foster greater loyalty, innovation and growth within a business.

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