The Leadership Spectrum

A spectrum can be defined as a continuum of characteristics over a range of distance or time.

We rarely refer to leadership in reference to a spectrum or continuum unless, of course, we’re talking about something like 360 degree evaluation (which involves our supervisors (above), our colleagues (beside), and our reports (below)). There is another way to consider a Leadership Spectrum as we consider the critical nature of a leaders’ perspective.

Simply, whenever we’re in a leadership position of any kind, we must become experts of the past, present, and future. Now, before we break out the science-fiction books and grandiose thoughts of time travel—remember I’m talking about perspective!


The best leaders are those who have an intimate understanding of what happened in the past that affects their leadership now—either personally, or as it relates to the team, or to the organization as a whole that they’re leading.


What is the actual state of affairs right now?
Does the leader have access to the actual facts, or are there people who filter reality to try to save the leader from the cold hard facts? Leadership is making decisions: with inaccurate or incomplete data, effective leadership isn’t even possible!


Another critical aspect of leadership is vision for the future.  This is the one characteristic differentiating leadership from management. Effective leaders have a clear, preferred future in mind as they influence the team and adjust the culture of the organization to move it toward the stated vision and goals.

Someone has summarized this leadership spectrum by stating that every leader must be part historian, part analyst, and part prophet.