Understanding Your Leadership Style To Get Results

Leadership wooden blocksAre you a mushroom, a kipper or a seagull? Don’t worry; this isn’t about what you were for last years’ Halloween party. These are commonly used leadership styles and probably you want to be neither! So a mushroom leader keeps everyone in the dark, a seagull leader flies in, gives too much direction and criticism (squawks and dumps) and flies away and the kipper leader is two faced and gutless much like the fish. Now after reading this, you probably want to ensure that you don’t display these traits in any way as a leader. But considering the business changes, diversity, cultural nuances, remote management responsibilities, there is no one leadership style that a leader can stick to. The key to a leader’s success is the ability and willingness to adapt her or his style as per the circumstances, tasks at hand and the people being led. The style of leadership the leader chooses depends on the following factors:

  • Level & degree of control a leader wants
  • The trust he has in the people he manages
  • How much independence and influence the leader wants to allow his team
  • Situation or circumstances

Every leader of course has his own natural style, a style that he will tend to lean, prefer and revert to in a crisis situation. Good leaders however have a high degree of emotional intelligence (empathy and social skills among others) that helps him to understand the people around and create a tone that will reverberate amongst the team members and drive them to action. A study called “Leadership that gets results” was conducted by Daniel Goleman to uncover specific leadership behaviours and their effect on the corporate climate and bottom line results. The research discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the organisations bottom-line profitability. Imagine that! So armed with this crucial statistic, let’s explore the different leadership styles and the situations in which each will be most appropriate. The Authoritative Leader An authoritative leader has the ability to articulate a mission and win people over to it with enthusiasm. He focuses on the end goal and leaves the ways to get there to each individual. It encourages creativity and innovation. This style is however not suitable when explicit instructions or guidance is needed for the achievement of the vision (for example: when there are new or inexperienced employees). The Coercive or Autocratic Leader The coercive leader insists on immediate compliance to his/her orders or instructions. S(he) believes in achieving tasks by dictating the exact commands on how  and when to perform each activity.  Though this may not be a recommended style due to its tendency to stifle creativity and flexibility, it could however be effective in crisis situations like mergers or acquisitions or emergencies when there is panic and a strong command is required. The Affiliative Leader This leader works on the premise that “people come first”. This style is most effective in situations of low morale, poor teamwork and where the team needs to work on rebuilding trust. As popular as this style may be with the team members, using only the affiliative style of leadership can foster mediocre performance. The leader may avoid conflicts for fear of toppling the apple cart. To effectively use this style it’s recommended that it should be combined with some other leadership style to get maximum results. The Coaching Leader This leader believes in developing people, by recognising talents and providing challenges to help people realise their true potential. This coaching leadership style is not effective when there is a perceived lack of proficiency in the leader knowledge and skills. This leader’s style of “try this” could be construed as him not knowing what is required and thus making a guess. It’s also not effective when team members are defiant and unwilling to change The Democratic Leader This leader believes in building consensus through participation. The democratic style aims to ensure buy-in from the team as they are involved in the decision, plan or goal. It’s also effective when the leader wants more ideas from qualified team members. This style Is not recommended in situations where time is of essence, in an emergency or when the team members are not informed enough to give suggestions or guidance to the leader. The Pacesetting Leader This leader “Walks the Talk” He sets high performance standards for everyone including himself/ herself. This style of leadership can be effective when the team members are highly motivated and with strong technical skills and the leader wants quick results. This style if used extensively could overwhelm team members and stifle innovation. These are the commonly used and identified leadership styles. Leadership literature throws up lots of research and information on the questions – “Are leaders born or made?”, “Do leaders have inherent traits that make them better leaders?”, “Do certain crises bring out extraordinary leadership qualities in an ordinary person”? Leadership is thus an inexhaustible subject and research and management knowledge and experience has given rise to innumerable leadership qualities like “trait theory”, “situational leadership theory” and “great events theory”. Perhaps the answer to effective leadership lies somewhere in between traits, situations and skills. After all leadership is about getting ordinary people to achieve extraordinary goals. A true leader is one who aspires to inspire his team members’ success by challenging and developing them. “A leader is one who knows the way, goes the way, and shows the way.” ~John C. Maxwell

Many Thanks

Mark Williams

Head of Training and Development

MTD Training | Management Blog | Image courtesy of Big Stock Photo

Management Blog Call To Action