One way to judge someone’s leadership maturity is based on the maturity they show in taking responsibility and the maturity they show in engaging others, be they subordinates, superiors, peers, customers, vendors or others. Adapting a Control/Responsibility Matrix presented by Seth Godin, we’ll present our “Leadership Maturity Matrix,” identifying four different leadership personas, representing different calibers of leadership maturity.
Dimensions of the Leadership Maturity Matrix
The Leadership Maturity Matrix has two dimensions; one is responsibility maturity; the other is engagement maturity.
A leader with an immature sense of responsibility is one who assumes responsibility when prospects for success are high, and avoids it when those prospects are low. Similarly, such leaders will take credit for successes, but delegates blame in failures.
Conversely, a leader with a mature sense of responsibility is one who “owns it.” Further, such leaders will share credit for successes while assuming the blame for failures.
A leader who is immature in their ability to engage with others is more interested in being liked, and popular opinion is their guide. These leaders do not distinguish between the individual and the issue when they engage with others. These leaders also have a single style to which they expect others to adapt.
Conversely, a leader with a mature ability to engage with others, is more interested in their team’s performance, development and results. These leaders do distinguish between the individual and the issue when engaging with others. And these leaders have a repertoire of various styles upon which they will draw as warranted—they sense the state of the individual and/or situation and adapt their style to them.
Matrix Quadrants and Leadership Personas
These dimensions—Responsibility Maturity, high or low, versus Engagement Maturity, high or low—creates a 2×2 matrix, with each quadrant representing a different leadership persona. In the sections that follow, we’ll explore each of these personas, providing a list of defining characteristics that is not intended to be exhaustive but certainly sufficient to illustrate the point.
Quadrant I: High Responsibility Maturity/Low Engagement Maturity
The upper left quadrant, Quadrant I, where Responsibility Maturity is high, but Engagement Maturity is low, is home to the “Martyr.”
The Martyr leader centers their behavior and decisions on their team. They are kind and bring huge empathy to the situation, and they help people feel seen. However, they seek to please their team, to be their “buddy.” They don’t have power (either it’s been denied to them, or they avoid it), and their willingness to take responsibility is hollow. As a result, they are ineffective.
Quadrant II: Low Responsibility Maturity/Low Engagement Maturity
The lower left quadrant, Quadrant II, where both Responsibility Maturity and Engagement Maturity are low, is home to the “Victim.”
The Victim leader has no center. They seek to please their boss. They acquiesce to being a cog in the system. They are willing to accept what’s given them in exchange for being let off the hook.
Quadrant III: Low Responsibility Maturity/High Engagement Maturity
The lower right quadrant, Quadrant III, where Responsibility Maturity is low, but Engagement Maturity is high, is home to the “Whiner.”
The Whiner leader centers their behavior and decisions on their own self-interest. Expediency and short-term gain are their guiding values; they will sacrifice long-term goals and objectives in the name of short-term gains. They seek to please themselves. They are quick to grab control while avoiding responsibility. Leaders in this quadrant are brittle megalomaniacs and demagogues; they are disasters waiting to happen.
Quadrant IV: Hight Responsibility Maturity/High Engagement Maturity
The upper-right quadrant, Quadrant IV, where both Responsibility Maturity and Engagement Maturity are high, is home to the “Servant/Agile” leader.
The Servant/Agile leader centers their behavior and decisions on their principles—even when it may lead to an outcome they do not prefer. They have courage in their convictions. They are powerful—able to turn their intentions into reality. They are also generous with their support in service to their team and their service to their mission. The Servant/Agile leader understands that loyalty must first flow down before it will flow up. They are continuous learners, constantly inspecting and adapting. They are resilient—faster and more reliable in their proactiveness and responsiveness to change. The Servant/Agile leader does not fear failure, only lost opportunity.
In many situations—not all, but in more than we realize—we have the freedom to choose. We can choose a quadrant, or we can choose not to participate.
And if we’re lucky or care enough, we can choose: for whom to work, for whom to vote, where we’re headed.