Leading With Style – What Is Yours?
Leadership styles are the way that leaders offer vision and direction for a group; how a leader oversees plans and goes about motivating people. Before World War II, Kurt Lewin led a research project to find different styles of leadership. He identified three major leadership styles and blends of these have influenced leadership thinking ever since.
The three main leadership styles are:
- Authoritarian or autocratic – “I want you to….”
- Participative or democratic – “Let’s work together to….”
- Delegative or Free Reign – “You take care of it while I…”
Most modern analyses of leadership describe a blend of these three leadership styles but the underlying themes remain the same. Good leaders use all three styles with the most appropriate dominating at any particular time, depending on the situation. For example, in a crisis, there is little room for discussion – clear orders, well given, can save lives. The time taken for participation or giving inexperienced people free rein could be dangerous.
Most of us are drawn to one of three styles as the most comfortable for us to use. But each one has disadvantages if used on all occasions.
Being told what to do all the time in an authoritative style is demeaning and demotivating. This style also means one brain finding solutions rather than having access to contributions from the group. A participative style gains more commitment; it raises motivation and morale.
When using a participative style, the leader retains final responsibility for any decision made and “carries the can” if that decision is not the right one. But all the group can be engaged and contribute. Using a participative style shows confidence and it is a sign of strength. This is the style of leadership that most employees respect above all others. But, as I’ve suggested above, it isn’t right in all circumstances; among other things, participation takes time.
Using a delegative style means the leader leaves those led to make the decisions. Of course, the leader is still accountable for the decisions made. This style is used most often, and most constructively, with well established groups who are quite clear about their roles, as well as the task and they have full information. They are then able to decide what needs to be done and how to do it. The leader needs to have confidence in the group to use this style comfortably. And, the leader still needs to set priorities and make sure the risks associated with the task are properly managed.
What style of leadership do you use and how do you make sure that your style is the right one for the task?
Wendy Smith is a career consultant, life coach and business coach with depth of experience in organisational development, management, coaching and personal development. That experience means she is equally at home helping clients find a new career direction, starting-up new businesses or dealing with life’s more challenging personal issues. You can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wendy has written a little eBook on how to get on with your boss and a book on job search – you can find all her books on Amazon at this link