What makes an effective leader?

Are there different approaches to leadership? And if so, are they equally valid?

Do different people respond to different types of leaders?

These are the questions I’m mulling over this morning (and all last night, I assure you). I find myself in a situation at work where I am responding really well to one person’s leadership, and very poorly to another–which really frustrates me because I’ve been trying really hard to learn as much as I can from the second person. I just don’t seem to retain anything she tries to tell me.

The differences, from my perspective:

Leader A:

  • Walks me through a process
  • Stops me where I err and explains both why it doesn’t work and what I need to do differently
  • Follows up correction with the question, “Was I clear in explaining that?”
  • Takes note of my strengths and my weaknesses, and discusses both with me
  • Encourages me, making me feel like trying harder
  • Seems to be growth-oriented

Leader B:

  • Tells me what to do
  • Stops me when I err and says something like, “Nope, let me show you,” and then takes over without explaining the process (so I still don’t know how to do it)
  • Does not follow up correction at all
  • Notes my weaknesses, and pushes me to conquer them, but has yet to acknowledge when I’ve done something right/well
  • Pushes me with (what I feel are) unrealistic goals, then tells me I’m not meeting the goals, and then I feel like it’s not worth trying to reach the goals
  • Seems to be results-oriented

So what do you think? Am I unfair to Leader B? I really think that her approach would work for some people–just not for me–so I don’t want to be unfair. I am an affirmation type of person, though. I need (especially partnered with correction) encouragement and positive feedback. And the incredibly frustrating thing about that need is that when I started this job, Leader B had me fill out a form about how I want to be taught and how I respond, etc, so it’s not as if she doesn’t realize there’s a conflict.

I’m trying really hard to sift through the difference in her coaching style and my learning style so I can glean something from our time together. I know intellectually that she is a wonderful asset, and that I should learn as much as I can from her. I really am trying. I just feel like there’s an enormous brick wall of a learning barrier between us, and I’m trying to scale it or bring it down or something–but I’m not getting much help from her in conquering it.

And it frustrates me to realize how well I responded to Leader A. Under his coaching, I think I would have the potential to really succeed at my job. But…Leader B is the one who works with me most days, and that’s not something I can choose.

Anyway, what do you think? Have you ever been in a situation where you and your leader spoke different languages? Do you think all leaders are valid, and we just need to be more aware of how we pair up a leader and a learner?