Leading With Style – What Is Yours?

Leading With Style – What Is Yours?

Leadership style is the way that a leader provides vision and direction for a group; how that leader oversees plans and goes about motivating people.

Before World War II, Kurt Lewin led a research project to identify different styles of leadership. He identified three major styles of leadership and blends of  these have influenced leadership thinking ever since.

The three main 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 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 reign 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 appropriate 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 determine 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 ensure the risks associated with the task are properly managed.

What style of leadership do you use and how do you ensure that your style is appropriate to the task?

Wendy Mason is a career coach.  She helps people reach their goals and aspirations, without sacrificing their home and personal life.  Before working as a coach, Wendy had a long career in both the public and private sectors in general management and consultancy as well as spells in HR.  She now divides her time between coaching and writing. You can contact Wendy at wendymason@wisewolfcoaching.com and find out more at http://wisewolfcoaching.com

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