Great leaders are behind a success of great businesses. There are various types of leadership styles that can help you lead your business and team members as well as to develop leaders yourself.
What are effective leadership styles? To answer this question, let’s talk a little about what leadership really means because it is often confused with management. While the two are related and leaders should be able to manage people, they are not one and the same. Consider Dwight Eisenhower’s statement:
“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it, not because your position of power can compel him to do it”
Whilst management is the day-to-day supervision and guidance of the team, leadership is the inspirational and motivational aspects that help each of them understand their purpose within the company/venture and encourage them to challenge themselves. Each member of a team is a cog in a machine, some are larger cogs than others but without all of them, the machine falls apart. Whilst this analogy is overused, a large part of being a leader is making people feel important and driven to succeed.
That being said, as we have outlined already in our discussion on personality and leadership, we know that there are various styles of leadership, all of which can be effective in the right settings. Here are some of the most common types of leadership styles, drawing from Daniel Goleman’s leadership styles that get results:
First, we have authoritarian, or autocratic leaders and as the name implies they focuse on control and chain of command to achieve results. While you don’t have to be a dictator to use this style, authoritarian leadership style certainly involves direct supervision, unwavering support of the message from leadership, and more one-sided feedback and communication than other styles.
It’s in the name with this one...paternalistic leadership is centred around treating subordinates as a parent would. Advocates of this style would posit that treating their team as a family and focussing on maintaining personal relationships with them generates shared respect for one another, however, very much like in a real family, this respect is often based on loyalty and the need to feel part of a community rather than being earned.
Democratic leader builds upon the notion that a leader isn’t someone who necessarily knows everything about everything, but is someone who is willing to listen to others, able to synthesise opinions and concede to popular opinion (within reason) when backed up by evidence. Using democratic leadership style can lead to more group buy-in as members feel they have a voice, but only works when all employees have skills and knowledge that they are willing to share.
Again, much like the political and economic behavioural science, laissez faire leaders can be described as leaders who allow their followers to do work and make decisions as they see fit, with little guidance or restraints from the leader. Although at times we do have groups who are mostly self-sufficient, laissez-faire can border upon not being a leader at all, if we are not providing enough of a vision or incentive for team members to do their part.
Transactional or exchange leadership is built around rewards and punishments. Like a carrot and a stick, this binary style presumes that good outcomes and bad outcomes are driven solely by either the fear of punishment or the anticipation of a reward. You can think of the relationship between leader and follower as a process or transaction that has set rules and outcomes and concerns itself with performance alone, as opposed to individuals' engagement levels, personality types or wellbeing.
Finally, transformational leadership is, in some respects, the opposite of transactional leadership. While the transactional leader expects everybody else to follow their strategies in pursuit of absolutist goals and objectives, the transformational leader is open to reform and adapting policies to truly incentivise followers. This type of leader may even be willing to step outside their comfort zone in the pursuit of driving better morale and commitment to allocated roles. This style is more focused on relationship building vs blindness obedience, charisma vs tyranny, work culture vs employee loyalty.
In the last decade, there have been some new models of leadership emerging, such as humble leadership , disruptive leadership and the group-think model - which we evaluate extensively here - however, most of these reflect either a transformational or democratic approach to leading.
The concept of shared leadership, the idea that leadership is a property of a group rather than an individual poses that different people may emerge as leaders in different situations and will so as group conditions change. Group conditions can refer to contextual situations as well as factors including personality types, group maturity (how dependent they are on senior guidance) and the amount of time, power and concern for wellbeing a leader has. Nevertheless, in many industries, a designated leader will be expected to lead under a variety of situations so, to be an effective leader, one must be prepared to switch leadership styles as the situation demands.
After reading these, it may be pretty clear to you which style you think works best but, it is important to note, that even autocratic leadership, whilst potentially wildly unethical, is effective within certain contexts. If you are not satisfied with this timeless selection you might want to look into servant leadereship, bureaucratic leadership, or explore how self-leadership can drive innovation in your company or why team leadership is key for employee engagement.
Ready to learn more about how you can engage others at your organization? Read our guide on employee engagement.
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