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Modes of Leadership were postulated in David Wilkinson's 2006 book 'The Ambiguity Advantage'. See below for a description of the modes and what a mode is.

Mode v's StyleEdit

Styles of leadership from Situational leadership theory refer to behaviors that a leader should engage with in different situations. By comparison modes are different systems or levels of thinking, logic and development that people (leaders) view the world from. Individuals either stay in one mode all of their life or move from one mode to another (in order) as they mature and develop. There is evidence that different people start naturally in different modes depending on their degree of maturity.

Modes and Problem Solving / Decision MakingEdit

The four modes of leadership also describe differing views of the world and therefore different ways of seeing and solving problems based on the work of Ronald A. Heifetz:

  1. Technical Problems
  2. Cooperative Problems
  3. Adaptive Problems
  4. Generative Problems - Added by Wilkinson (2006)


There are four validated modes with 2 more currently (2008) being researched. Each mode describes levels of ability to deal with increasing degrees of ambiguity and complexity.

  1. Mode One - Technical Leadership. These leaders usually deal with ambiguity by denial or creating their own certainty. They are also more dictatorial and are very risk averse by nature.
  2. Mode Two - Co-operative Leadership. The aim of mode two leaders is to disambiguate uncertainty and to build teams around them to mitigate risk.
  3. Mode Three - Collaborative Leadership. Mode three leaders have a tendency towards consensual methods of leadership. They prefer to work towards aligning team members values and getting agreement. Their approach to ambiguity is for the group to examine it.
  4. Mode Four - Generative Leadership. These leaders use ambiguity to find opportunity. They tend to be inveterate learners and innovators.


Heifetz, R.A (1994) Leadership Without Easy Answers Belknap/Harvard University Press.

Wilkinson, D. (2006) The Ambiguity Advantage: What great leaders are great at. Palgrave Macmillan. London.

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