Discovering which leadership approach works best for you can make the most of your strengths and play down your weaknesses
by Bethan Rees
Leadership style is how someone relates to the people they work with. This ranges from how a person deals with decision-making to how empathetic they are, to what drives them to strive for success, and their natural strengths and abilities.
It’s important to note that leadership styles aren't strictly the reserve for traditional leadership roles, such as a manager of a team or a CEO. "Even if you’re not managing a team on a daily basis, you might still have to step into a leadership role from time to time. Maybe you’re spearheading an important cross-functional project or you have to host a meeting," says Kat Boogaard in an article for The Muse.
Understanding what leadership style you have can give you a "better sense of control over the size and scope of your reach and impact", says Joyel Crawford, Muse career coach, quoted in Boogaard's article.
Here are some common leadership styles.
"The phrase most illustrative of an autocratic leadership style is 'do as I say'," writes Bruna Martinuzzi, presentation skills training specialist and author, in an article for American Express. This style tends to have leaders make the decisions themselves, with little to no input from their team members.
There are positives to be seen from this way of thinking, explains Boogaard in The Muse article. "Decisions are often made quickly and strategically, and teams are kept on track as a result," she writes. An Indeed article says that an autocratic style of leadership can be beneficial in organisations with strict guidelines or compliance-heavy companies. However, there are also cons to this, writes Boogaard. "Employees can feel ignored, restricted and – in the absolute worst of cases – even abused." The Indeed article adds that it can "stifle creativity".
"The pacesetting leadership style is one of the most effective for driving fast results. These leaders are primarily focused on performance," says the Indeed article. These types of leaders tend to be driven, set high standards and hold their team accountable in reaching goals. This leadership style can promote high-energy and dynamic work environments, it says.
Although this style could be effective in getting things done and driving fast results, there is a danger that it will lead to stress among employees if this continues in the long run, according to Martinuzzi for American Express.
“Democratic leaders are more likely to ask, ‘what do you think?’” writes Martinuzzi. This style of leadership emphasises teamwork, even if they are technically more senior, and values other people’s ideas and considers their feedback before making a decision. In short, the team functions like a democracy.
In The Muse article, Boogaard reports some of the benefits of this leadership style. “Creativity and innovation are encouraged, which also improves job satisfaction among employees and team members,” she writes. Martinuzzi echoes this viewpoint and says that “it can engender trust and promote team spirit and cooperation from employees”. There are some reported negatives, however. Boogaard says that it could be difficult to achieve a consensus among a group, which could lead to inefficiency.
Laissez-faire means ‘leave it be’, which sums up the hands-off approach of this style of leadership. This style is most relevant to a leader in the traditional sense of the word (a manager or a boss). In the American Express article, Martinuzzi explains that this is “at the opposite end of the autocratic style”.
The Indeed article summarises some key characteristics of this style, which include the ability to delegate, belief in freedom of choice, and the provision of sufficient resources and tools. The article lists some benefits of this leadership approach. “This style encourages accountability, creativity and a relaxed work environment. Because of this, it can also increase employee retention.” However, in The Muse article, Boogaard reports that this can also cause chaos and confusion if a team isn’t organised.
Boogaard describes these leaders as those who “seek to change the business or groups in which they lead by inspiring their employees to innovate”. She adds that these leaders are focused on improving things and finding solutions to streamline or upgrade processes. These leaders can “establish a high level of trust with employees and rally them around a shared vision”, she writes. However, the desire for change could also “ruffle some feathers”.
The Indeed article says that transformational leaders value personal connections with their team, which can boost morale and employee retention. However, the article adds, “Since transformational leaders look at individuals, it can cause team or company wins to go unnoticed. These leaders can also overlook details as they are big picture thinkers.”
This style of leadership suits someone who is “laser-focused on performance”, says the Indeed article. “Under this leadership style, the manager establishes predetermined incentives – usually in the form of monetary reward for success and disciplinary action for failure,” it continues. This style can be beneficial for hitting specific goals, including sales, but it can hinder creativity and can be demotivating for employees who aren’t spurred on by monetary reward.
Recognise any of the above? “Knowing which of the leadership styles works best for you is part of being a good leader,” says Martinuzzi.
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