If you search online for ‘leadership’ you are provided a list of hundreds of books and articles about leading in organizations in all industries and organizational size.
The challenge is that different leadership skills serve different scenarios and you are incorrect to think that one leadership size or style fits all situations. The best leaders are the ones who understand that the more flexible they can be in their style, the more they can adapt to be the leader their organization needs.
Do you lead in an environment that is stable or unpredictable? Is the work at hand routine or is it innovative? What kind of skills do the folks on your team need to have in order to be effective - and do they have them currently? Is your team experienced or in at the beginner stage?
Executives, Managers and Supervisors tend to develop a style that works well for them and this becomes their set or ‘default’ style. Would your current team describe you as laid-back or exacting? Overly involved and in the details or missing in action? In most organizations, the culture may be fixed, but the landscape always changes so not only does one kind of leadership style not work, it may be biggest reason for turnover and team collapse.
There are times when it’s best to be:
Undemocratic - The leader who is in control and needs to impose their will on others. With tight time frames or inexperienced employees, this style of leadership insures that things won’t spin out of control. Too much of this style can hamper motivation because it is seen by others as a lack of trust and/or confidence. While this style can benefit the employees who require close supervision, creative employees who thrive with autonomy or group interaction will chafe with this kind of leadership.
Delegation – The leader that delegates or give assignments to those employees that can handle the task. They are trusted to get the job done and develop their skills so that they are ready to do exactly that. This leader doesn’t abdicate their role but instead monitors the employee’s readiness. This makes perfect sense when the employee is well trained or needs little supervision. The challenge is that this style of leadership holds back those employees who need closer supervision, and can result in poor performance and sub-standard production. It’s an easy way for the leader to lose control.
Relationship - This leader is focused on developing the skills and confidence of employees. This style is a perfect fit when the leader is focused on getting people to cooperate and collaborate. While the responsibility of making the final decision rests with the leader, this style values the input of team members and peers. Morale is often high because others make contributions to the decision-making process and feel as if their input matters. This style can be very useful when going through am organizational change because it allows for everyone to play a role in the process, but if the timeframe for transition is short – it can create some problems.
Transactional - This leader rewards or punishes the team based on performance results. While the goals may be set by both the leader and the employee, it’s the employees that agree to follow direction. Rewards are determined by the leader based on goal accomplishment.
Transformational - This leader can articulate a clear and motivating vision and delegate tasks to the team to accomplish goals. This style requires a great deal of leader visibility, frequent, clear communication, the ability to articulate clear goals, and supports employees so that they can in turn, get the work done, and are recognized for doing so.
There are also some unfortunate behaviors that leaders may display:
MIA - hiding out somewhere; can’t be found
Jekyll/Hyde - unpredictable; no one knows who will show up
Best Friend – eager to share personal information and hang out together
Focused Upward – cares more about what’s going on at the organizational levels above than below
Most leaders have good intentions but the proof of a really good leader is in the execution. Understanding that the workplace is always changing and requires awareness of what leadership style to use and for how long is what makes all the difference.
If you or your boss can only use one leadership style, you may call yourself a leader, but other people may use a different word for what you do.