There is a significant body of research that has evaluated the most common leadership styles and their effectiveness at motivating employee performance. Most effective leaders are aware of this research, and have selected a leadership style to emulate.
While each and every leader will place their own personal spin on their style of leadership, as a rule, leaders fall into one of three major categories.
Each of these methods has its own particular set of benefits and weaknesses, and is critical that all truly effective leaders periodically evaluate their leadership style and its effects on their employees.
Leaders may choose to evaluate their style by simply reading about the major trends and undergoing a short session of self-analysis.
While this quick reflection is an effective tool, it may also be biased by the leaders’ own perceptions. Instead, leaders should turn to their employees to determine how they are perceived, and whether or not the leadership style being used is a good fit for everyone involved.
Whether you choose to send around a survey or appoint a team member in charge of conducting a performance appraisal on those in leadership positions, employees should be provided with a way to anonymously evaluate their leaders to ensure that they answer honestly and without fear of repercussions.
Once the results are in, the leader must determine which style they believe the fall into.
Laissez-faire leaders tend to provide support and guidance when employees seek help, but for the most part focus their leadership style on employee autonomy. This can increase job satisfaction for the employee, but may affect productivity if the employee is unmotivated or unable to manage their time well.
If a leader finds that their methods fall into this category and employee performance has been suffering, it may be time to consider a change in leadership style.
Autocratic leaders are almost exactly opposite of Laissez-faire leaders, and have a distinct tendency to remind their employees of the old fashioned parenting notion of “Because I said so!”
These leaders rarely seek input from their employees before making decisions, even in scenarios where employee input would benefit all parties involved. Employees tend to find this leadership style demoralising if it is used regularly, and this leadership style often increases rates of absenteeism and turnover.
Finally, democratic leaders take into account the opinions, knowledge, and experience of their entire work team when making decisions, while regularly encourage creativity and innovative thinking.
Employees working for democratic leaders tend to have high levels of job satisfaction and productivity, as well as decreased rates of absenteeism and turnover. While the majority of employees will flourish under democratic leaders and feel oppressed by autocratic management, this rule of thumb does not apply to all employees.
A hallmark ability of an effective leader is the ability to identify employees who flourish with clear directions for how and when to complete tasks, and those to thrive when provided with job autonomy.
Periodically reflecting on the effects of their leadership styles allows leaders to tailor their approaches to maximise the job satisfaction and productivity of their diverse workforce.
Head of Training and Development
Originally published: 29 September, 2014
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