- by Bergeron
- May 18, 2018
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“She’s a natural leader!” You’ve heard this said about people before in your life, and you may have even heard it said about you. But what does this mean, exactly? What is a leader, and how can you determine if someone is a “natural” leader. The answer lies in understanding leadership styles.
A leadership style is the manner in which you go about providing direction, motivating people and implementing your plans when in a position of leadership. Through years of study, psychologists have identified ten leadership styles that characterize leaders of all types. Some of these leadership styles have been around for a while, while others are relatively new. Other styles could easily be added to this list, and some could be combined as they are somewhat similar, but this list is a comprehensive look at the way leaders lead.
What type of leader are you? Understanding and embracing your own personal leadership style will help you understand why your team is or is not succeeding. Embracing leadership styles that stretch you past your limits will help you get even more out of the people you are leading, so your entire team will find success. A thorough understanding of leadership styles is the first step in understanding how to effectively lead the people under you.
Good or bad, these leadership styles have an impact on the people under any leader. Most leaders use a combination of leadership styles, and you may notice some overlapping between the different styles listed here. This is because leadership is not an exact science. Leaders often think on their feet, coming up with solutions to problems on the fly, so most leaders will see themselves in several different styles. The most effective leaders will embrace the positives of a handful of leadership styles to guide and inspire their teams.
This book is designed to help you determine what your leadership styles are, and how they are affecting your organization. In the end, you will be able to make positive changes to help create an environment where people work as hard as they can for you, their leader.
As you read through these leadership styles, keep one thing in mind: there is no right or wrong way to lead people. Your team is different than the team under your competition, and your leadership style needs to meet the needs of your team and your organization. Understand these leadership styles, and then draw on the one that matches your own personal talents and the abilities and personalities of the people you are leading.
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The transactional leader views the people he is over as contractually obligated to obey his leadership. This type of leadership is often seen on the job. Because an employee is agreeing through his job contract to follow the leadership of his boss, the boss may take a transactional leadership role. Because of the emphasis on the “boss,” this type of leadership is sometimes called managerial leadership.
In a way, most managers in an employment environment embrace this style, at least partially. Workers are, after all, obligated to do what their boss requires. However, some leaders fall heavily into this leadership style, and they should understand how it affects their workers.
How Transactional Leadership Plays Out
In the transactional leadership style, the leader believes that those he is leading have an obligation to follow. Often, punishment of some sort comes when the team members don’t meet the leader’s standards. Those who do reach the standards are rewarded, usually through greater compensation.
Because of this emphasis on rewards and punishments, transactional leaders often set up their workplaces so that their team members are closely monitored. This is seen as the only way to see if the team members are following instructions of the leadership. Rules and standards are carefully laid out for all employees and are expected to be followed at all times.
Benefits of Transactional Leadership
In a transactional leadership situation, all members of the team, including the leader, have a clearly defined role. This helps the individuals fill their roles well, and also limits confusion.
In a transitional leadership setup, members of the team are judged almost entirely on their performance. Those who perform well are rewarded, and those who don’t are punished or not given rewards. This works well for those who are motivated by extrinsic rewards. They often are motivated to push harder and perform better because of the promise of a reward.
Drawbacks of Transactional Leadership
Transactional leadership is not perfect. Workers may not feel like they can improve their position, so they may not be satisfied in their work. Because the focus is on performance, some team members will feel stifled. Creative thinkers, especially, may not thrive under a transactional leadership style.
Some employees also do not appreciate the close monitoring that comes from the leadership in this type of environment. Turnover may be higher than average because of this. Finally, transactional leadership does not create any type of personal connection between leaders and subordinates. It does little to foster a sense of “team.” Leaders can easily be viewed in an “us” vs. “them” mentality.
Where This Works Well
Transactional leadership works well for performance-based jobs. Factory work, for example, often requires transactional leaders. Employees thrive because they know what is expected and what they can do to earn better compensation or move up in the company. Creative thinking type industries, however, are not the best fit for this leadership style, because it stifles creative thinkers.
At its most basic level, autocratic leadership is transactional leadership taken to an extreme. This leadership style is also sometimes called “authoritarian.” In this setup, the leader has the ultimate power over the team. This is a “my way or the highway” type of leader.
How Autocratic Leadership Plays Out
An autocratic leader is the head of the organization. His ideas are what everyone must follow. No one is able to make suggestions, even if the suggestions would improve the workplace and be in the organizations, and therefore the leader’s, best interests.
In this scenario, members of the group are not trusted enough to make decisions beyond the simple day-to-day aspects of their work. All decisions are made at the leadership level, and group members must follow the decisions without question.
If this sounds somewhat tyrannical, that’s because it is. Most leaders do not rely on this leadership style on a regular basis. Still, it does have its benefits and its times when it is necessary.
Benefits of Autocratic Leadership
While this form of leadership does not sound appealing to many who may picture themselves under a tyrant, it does have its benefits. Particularly, autocratic leadership works in scenarios where decisions need to be made quickly, and where a strong leader who is willing to take the risk of making those decisions is needed.
This type of scenario may be seen in a school setting. Picture a group of students who are working together on a project. If they are struggling from a lack of organization and an inability to make decisions, then they will never finish the project. In this scenario, an autocratic leader can step in and make the decisions that no one is willing to make.
Often in the professional field, a leader is the leader because of his or her superior knowledge of a field. This means that the leader may be the best person to make a decision. Leaders can use autocratic leadership well when they step in and make an authoritative decision in scenarios where the group is not able to do so.
Drawbacks of Autocratic Leadership
While it may work well in small groups, autocratic leadership rarely works well in management for the long term. People simply resent having their ideas and opinions ignored for an extended period of time. When this leadership style is abused, the leader becomes a bossy and controlling dictator.
When autocratic leadership is the primary leadership style, members of the group often lack creativity. After all, why should they be creative when their ideas are likely to be ignored, anyway? Over time, this can hurt overall performance. Companies with autocratic leaders often experience high turnover, high absenteeism and low job satisfaction.
Where This Works Well
Many leaders must turn into autocratic leaders in crises. When decisions need to be made quickly and there isn’t time for alternating opinions, autocratic leadership is required. This is why this form of leadership is often found in the military. Commanders make decisions and their troops must follow them without argument or delay. Without this form of leadership, military maneuvers would never be able to be performed.
In just about any other scenario, particularly in long-term leadership roles, autocratic leadership is too stifling to be effective. This is why leaders are rarely autocratic at all times. Yet in its place, autocratic leadership is an effective way to get decisions made quickly when the need is present. Also, it works well in scenarios were people are required to perform the same routine that requires few skills. In this case, the workers may not care as much if their opinions are heard or not.
The bureaucratic leader is one who believes in going “by the book.” This leader follows the organization’s rules to the letter, and expects those under him to do the same. While similar to the autocratic leader, the main difference is the bureaucratic leader follows the rules the same way that is expected of workers. Thus, there is less resentment than with other strict leadership styles.
How Bureaucratic Leadership Plays Out
The bureaucratic leader knows the rules of the organization and is careful to follow them, almost to a fault. This is the individual who spend time reading the rulebook and quoting regulations to employees.
One of the primary differences between a bureaucratic and an autocratic leader is the fact that the bureaucratic leader is more willing to give praise and rewards when people do well. Yes, conformity is expected, but it is also rewarded. On the flip side, these leaders will punish quickly if the rules are not followed.
Benefits of Bureaucratic Leadership
Workers working under a bureaucratic leader know what to expect. If they ever have a question about what is required, all they need to do is look up the rules. This can make the organization work effectively. This fact also means that employees have a clear understanding of what they need to do to advance in the company. Clear reviews, clear rules and a clear leadership style means those who are motivated by their success will feel confident that they can advance in the company.
Also, bureaucratic leaders are able to ensure that safety protocols are followed well. The emphasis on following the rules ends up being an emphasis on staying safe, which is beneficial to all involved. Companies with strict compliance rules due to government regulations, such as OSHA or food handling laws, may thrive under this type of leadership.
Drawbacks of Bureaucratic Leadership
Like other inflexible leadership styles, the bureaucratic leader often finds his workforce demoralized. Staff can feel replaceable, and this makes them feel as though their work is unappreciated. Yes, this is less true than with the first two leadership styles, but it is still a possibility.
Where This Works Well
Bureaucratic leaders also are vital in situations where safety is paramount. For example, in situations where workers are working with toxic chemicals or heavy machinery, this type of leader will ensure that the safety rules are followed. This creates a safe environment where everyone can do their job without undue risk.
This emphasis on rule following also works well when working with highly valuable items, like jewelry or money. Leaders who require adherence to the rules often limit problems from doors that remain unlocked or alarms that fail to get set at the end of the work day.
The charismatic leader is often the face of a company. This leader is the person who can inspire people simply by his energy level. They create a sense of energy and excitement and tend to be highly motivating. Most of the energy of the charismatic leader is focused on themselves. They believe that they have much to offer and are excited about what they can do, and that excitement rubs off on the people under them. The charismatic leader is one who is naturally positive.
Benefits of a Charismatic Leader
The charismatic leader is able to see what needs to get done, and then turn that into a vision that can be articulated, using metaphors and stories, to the followers to inspire them. People under the charismatic leader see themselves as part of the success, and they are inspired to help the leader make that visualization a reality. This ability also causes the followers to support the goals of the organization more readily.
Drawbacks of Charismatic Leadership
The charismatic leader is one who relies largely on his or her own abilities, rather than the abilities of the team. Yes, the leader is inspiring, but ultimately the leader is focused inward. This creates a situation where when the leader leaves, the organization crumbles.
Sometimes, the transformation that happens when a charismatic leader takes over is uncomfortable for workers. Some workers resist this type of change, and may even take it personally. Some may not relate to this vision of the future, particularly if they are used to focusing on the day-to-day mundane work.
The personality of the charismatic leader is often the draw of this leadership style. The perceptions of the workforce about the personality of the leader can be influenced by the rumor mill. Leaders relying solely on charismatic leadership may fall when rumors start to fly about them. Because of this, this leadership style works best when combined with others.
Charismatic leaders often find themselves believing that they can do no wrong. This can be a recipe for disaster, because no leader is infallible. When others in the organization try to warn the charismatic leader about potential pitfalls, the warnings may fall on deaf ears, leading the entire group into danger.
Finally, charismatic leadership can lead people astray, as is clearly seen in many cult leaders. It is often the charismatic personality of these religious leaders that allows them to lead many people into dangerous behavior, including extremes like mass suicides.
Where This Works Well
Charismatic leadership works well in situations where a workforce needs to be inspired. Adding some charisma to the leadership style can help get people moving and working toward a common vision. When mixed with other leadership styles so that the leader is not relying solely on his or her own personality, this can be an inspirational way to get people to make positive changes.
Everyone loves a democracy, right? Unfortunately, a pure democracy may not work well in the work environment. Yet principles of democracy or the ability to allow the members of a group to help in the decision making process, can work quite well. Democratic leaders understand this and use it to the benefit of their groups.
How Democratic Leadership Plays Out
A democratic leader often draws on the opinions of her team when making important decisions. These leaders encourage their team members to express opinions and offer ideas. They reward creativity in the workplace by using the ideas of their team members.
In the workplace, a democratic leader may send out surveys, hold thinking sessions and ask for the input of people on a regular basis. This leader welcomes her team members into her office to share their thoughts and ideas. She also regularly uses the ideas of the people she is over in day-to-day practice.
Benefits of Democratic Leadership
Democratic leadership leads to a high level of job satisfaction. People like working for a leader who appreciates their ideas and seeks their input. They also tend to be productive because they have had a say in the decisions made in the workplace. People want to work on projects they chose, for instance, so they are more apt to keep working.
A democratic leader understands how to develop people’s natural skills. This leads to higher motivation across the board. When people are able to work in areas they are good at, they thrive and are motivated by more than just the promise of a reward.
Because the ideas of the entire team are sought in the decision-making process, the outcomes tend to be positive. Not only do people work harder, but the opportunity to get more ideas and insight tends to increase the chances of a positive outcome. They also feel more engaged in the organization as a whole, and this leads to a better work ethic.
Drawbacks of Democratic Leadership
The democratic decision making process is time consuming. Making decisions will be slow, because it takes time to gather the input of all people on the team. If the organization is facing a crisis or a situation where a fast decision is required, this can be a major drawback. No matter how positive democratic leadership may be, it simply is not efficient. When efficiency is vital, it will not work well.
If the roles are unclear in the organization, democratic leadership can make things confusing. No matter how well others’ ideas are embraced, in the end someone has to have the final say. If the leader is not clearly defined, then this style creates confusion.
Democratic leadership requires getting the input of all members of the team. However, there are situations where some team members may not have the necessary knowledge to contribute a reasonable idea. In this case, some people may feel overlooked when their ideas are never used.
Finally, purely democratic leadership may not work well in situations where employees have a strong difference in opinions. The leader will eventually in this scenario have to step in and make the final decision.
Where This Works Well
The democratic leadership style is an inspiring one, and in scenarios where fast decisions are not required, it can work well. Industries that require creative thinking often turn to democratic leadership to get the creative juices flowing. It also works well in scenarios where the workers or group members are skilled and are willing to share their ideas.
Laissez-faire is a French term that translates “Leave it be.” This phrase perfectly captures the way this leader works. The Laissez-faire leader is willing to provide some general direction, then sit back and let his team do the rest. The Laissez-faire leader does little in the way of hands-on leadership.
How This Plays Out
A Laissez-faire leader will allow a team to work almost entirely on its own. They offer complete freedom, and may even allow the team to set its own deadlines. They are not completely disconnected, however, and will provide support for the team, resources necessary to get the job done and advice, when requested or needed. Outside of these basic support offerings, a laissez-faire leader will not get involved with the team.
Benefits of Laissez-Faire Leadership
Laissez-faire leadership carries excellent benefits, particularly where a team of creative thinkers needs the freedom to pursue their own skills. When the individuals on a team are not limited by their leader, their individual skills are able to shine. As long as the leader monitors performance and offers regular feedback, this style of leadership can allow individuals to really shine.
This, in turn, leads to high job satisfaction. High job satisfaction, in theory, will create high levels of productivity. In the perfect setting, this combination allows the organization to thrive.
Drawbacks of Laissez-Faire Leadership
The problem with leaving a team alone to do their own thing is the fact that few organizations are made up of perfect workers who are all self-starters. Because of this fact, the primary drawback of laissez-faire leadership lies in the freedom it provides.
Unless the team is made up of people who have a high level of intrinsic motivation, the organization may not work efficiently. Team members may not be motivated to do their work, and they may not manage their time well at all. Deadlines may get dropped and the work may not get done
Where This Works Well
Laissez-faire leadership has its place. It works well in groups where creative thinking needs to be nurtured. Creative thinkers tend to respond poorly to too much oversight, and as such they thrive in environments where they are allowed to follow their own ideas without too much oversight.
This leadership style also works well in an organization that is structured so that the team members directly benefit from the fruits of their labor. When there is a direct correlation between the work performed and the compensation the workers receive, team members are more motivated to work hard to improve that compensation.
The task-oriented leader is focused on one thing and one thing only: getting the job done. If the job is getting done, this leader is happy. If the job is not getting done, this leader can morph into an autocratic leader, insisting that rules get followed so the job will get done.
How Task-Oriented Leadership Plays Out
The task-oriented leader loves structure. This leader will put clear structures in place, spend a lot of time planning, organize well and clearly define the roles of those on the team so that efficiency is maximized. Because the end goal is the result, punishments and incentives are often put in place with this leadership style.
Benefits of Task-Oriented Leadership
A team that has a task-oriented leader is going to meet their deadlines. This is important if the team is not good at managing their time. Creative thinkers who have to work on deadlines, for example, may benefit from a leader who uses this particular style.
Also, task-oriented leadership tends to give clearly defined structure to the workplace. For many workers, knowing what their role is and what is expected of them to fulfill that role is a benefit. Clear standards can improve job satisfaction, when used well.
An emphasis on the end result and high standards with it can also create greater efficiency, especially for employees who tend to get side tracked. This can make production better and improve the overall efficiency of the organization.
Disadvantages of Task-Oriented Leadership
The task-oriented leader is so focused on the task, often the people in the organization feel overlooked. The well-being of the individuals and the team as a whole is not important. All that is important to this leader is getting the job done. As such, while the organizational structure can make people feel comfortable in their job, some will feel overlooked, and thus not appreciated. This can counteract the benefits of the structure and hurt job satisfaction.
This challenge is particularly true when working with self-motivated employees. When an individual is highly self-motivated, constantly being told the steps to perform and then being monitored for performance can cruse their desire to work. These employees may view the task-oriented leader as non-trusting and condescending.
Others may feel micro-managed under this type of leader. The leader may find it challenging to show genuine concern for the employees. All of this can lead to high turnover in organizations that have this type of leader at the helm.
Employees working under a task-oriented leader tend to be discouraged from goofing off or spending time chatting with their co-workers. While this improves efficiency, it can damage morale and makes it difficult to foster a sense of team camaraderie.
Finally, task-oriented leadership will stifle creativity, so it will not work well in industries where creative thinking is necessary for success. Employees are not rewarded for their thoughts and creativity, but rather for their performance, so creative thinkers who want to feel valued will likely move to other places of employment.
Where This Works Well
Task-oriented leadership works well when an organization has many people who struggle with time management. It also works well when tight deadlines do not leave room for idle use of time. Finally, it works well in a scenario where clearly defined job responsibilities are important. With many of the same difficulties and benefits of the autocratic leader, the task-oriented leader will be beneficial in similar scenarios.
Leaders who follow a people/relations oriented leadership style will be focused more on team building and less on results. These leaders thrive on organizing their people into effective teams, and then supporting them in their efforts once they are let loose. This leadership style helps creative thinkers thrive.
How People/Relations-Oriented Leadership Plays Out
In an organization led by a relations-oriented leader, team members will be put into groups to work collaboratively. Everyone on the team will be treated equally and valued as an important member of the organization. The workers often know the leader by name and feel as though they have a friendly relationship with them. These leaders are approachable, available and attentive to the welfare of the people they lead.
Benefits of People/Relations Oriented Leadership
A people-oriented leader is one that employees trust. While employees may realize the leader can, and will, make mistakes, they trust that the leader has their best interests in mind.
Employees under a relations-oriented leader feel valued. They have a high level of job satisfaction, because they feel as though their contributions matter on a personal level. They also appreciate the fact that they can go to their leader for advice and help when needed, without fear of being reprimanded for a lack of production.
Because they feel valued, team members under a people-oriented leader are more willing to take risks. This, in turn, leads to a more effective business, as people are constantly willing to push themselves just a little bit farther, knowing that support is there if they stumble.
Drawbacks of People/Relations-Oriented Leadership
Relations-oriented leadership has few drawbacks, but when used alone it’s not perfect. If leaders take this approach too far, focusing only on the people on their team and not at all on the results of their efforts, then the organization may not produce anything. Since the goal of the organization is to do something, this can lead to the downfall of the organization. For this reason, most leaders have a measure of task-oriented leadership alongside their people-oriented leadership.
Where This Works Well
Most leaders who are effective have a measure of people-oriented leadership they are already tapping into. This leadership style works in almost any organizational structure. Creative thinkers thrive when they feel valued, and unskilled workers are more motivated to gain skills when they are valued.
The servant leader is one who leads by example, serving team members generously and with high levels of integrity. Servant leadership can be viewed as a type of democratic leadership, but these leaders are often not in the forefront of the organization. Rather, they lead from the shadows, staying out of the limelight while their team members shine and get recognition for their work.
The term “servant leadership” is not always found discussions of leadership styles, because it’s a relatively new term. Coined in the 1970s by Robert Greenleaf, the term “servant leader” is sometimes ignored because these individuals may not be viewed as “leaders” in the traditional sense.
How Servant Leadership Plays Out
The servant leader leads from behind, inspiring people and then allowing them to take the credit for the work that is accomplished. It’s almost a form of democratic leadership, as the team is involved as a group in the decision making process. These leaders are rarely seen in the limelight, and many on the outside of the organization may not know they exist.
The servant leader, according to Greenleaf, puts the growth and well-being of people and the community as a whole first. The leader shares power and focuses on meeting the needs of others, helping the team develop and perform as highly as possible. These leaders are loved and trusted by their team members.
Benefits of Servant Leadership
Servant leadership offers several benefits. These leaders have a high level of integrity and strong ethics, which in and of itself is beneficial. These characteristics can lead to a highly positive corporate culture within the organization, and team members often have excellent morale when they are led by a servant leader.
Unlike the bureaucrat who sits in an office and issues orders by the book, the servant leader is in the field, working alongside the everyday workers. When team members see their leadership getting their hands in the middle of everything that is going on in the organization, they often feel inspired to work harder and do a better job.
Drawbacks of Servant Leadership
Servant leaders may inspire their team members to be the best they can be, but they may also get left behind when compared to others with more forceful leadership styles. Some leaders may not care if they are left out of the limelight, but if the organization is in direct competition with others, this can be problematic.
A second drawback is the fact that it takes time to create a servant leader. Leaders who lead from the back do not have the ability to make fast decisions, and they may not be able to meet tight deadlines. Unfortunately, it takes team members a little while to notice the actions of their leader and respond accordingly.
Where This Works Well
Servant leadership works well in organizations that are not under tremendous pressure and do not face a need to compete with others. You will often find servant leaders in non-profit and charity organizations for this reason. Servant leadership also works well when it is combined with other leadership styles that focus on guidelines and results. Finally, servant leadership works well when working as the leader of a committee or community. For this reason, it’s often seen in politics.
In most business situations, the transformational leadership style is the most effective. Similar to charismatic leaders, transformational leaders have a high energy level and a positive outlook on life and the organization as a whole. They believe in their team, expect the best of their team and help their team achieve that best. The difference between this and charismatic leadership is this focus on the team. The charismatic leader believes that he has the ability to achieve whatever the goal as, while the transformational leader believes that the team can do it.
How Transformational Leadership Plays Out
You’ve probably seen a transformation leader at work at some point in your life. Perhaps you have been involved in a group where someone naturally took charge, but rather than giving orders, this individual showed a passion for the work that naturally inspired the rest of the group. As you got to work, you felt energized and enthusiastic for the work. If you have, then you may have been in contact with a transformational leader.
Because the transformational leader believes so strongly in his team, is often highly focused on ensuring that the team has what it needs to succeed. Thus, ample support and individual attention often comes from these leaders, and most team members will thrive.
Researcher Bernard M. Bass was instrumental in defining this leadership style. According to his writings, transformational leadership has four main components. These are:
• Intellectual stimulation – These leaders challenge their people to think creatively, helping stimulate their intellectual development.
• Individualized consideration – These leaders often support and encourage individual followers directly to create a supportive relationship.
• Inspirational motivation – These leaders have a clear vision of their goals and are able to inspire and motivate their people to reach those goals.
• Idealized influence – These leaders’ foster trust and respect and become people their team members use as role models.
Benefits of Transformational Leadership
The benefits of transformational leadership are quite vast. Transformational leaders inspire people, and those people are effective in their work. Often, these leaders work themselves out of a job, in a way, because they create such an efficient team. Because the focus is on the team, not the individual, the team can thrive even without the influence of the leader.
Because transformational leaders expect the best from their team, and then provide the support to allow the team to achieve that best, they tend to create an environment that is highly productive. They also experience a high level of job satisfaction from their team members.
Drawbacks of Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership has few drawbacks, but as with all leadership styles, it works best in conjunction with others. A managerial team that has a transformational and a transaction-oriented leader will be highly effective.
The primary drawback of the enthusiasm associated with transformational leadership is its ability to lead people astray. Enthusiasm is inspiring, but it is not necessarily truthful. If it is applied carelessly, it can lead people wrong.
Also, the level of enthusiasm most transformational leaders have can be draining on others. The energy that helps people jump into a task with enthusiasm is difficult for most team members to maintain, and thus they get burnt out and give up. To combat this, transformational leaders need to see the big picture, and this includes seeing how their people are responding to their leadership style.
Where This Works Well
Transformational leadership, when paired with other leadership styles, works well in just about any industry. It is particularly effective in business structures.
If you’ve found that your leadership style is not a good fit for your team, what can you do? Is it possible to change your leadership style?
The answer to this question is a resounding “yes.” In fact, this is exactly what effective leaders do. Good leaders are able to spot the needs of the group and adapt their leadership techniques to match. This is why a study of leadership styles is so valuable. The more leadership styles you understand, the more tools you will have in your management arsenal to inspire and encourage your team. If you want to change your leadership style, here’s what you need to do.
Understand How Leadership Develops
The first step in changing your leadership style is by understanding how leadership styles develop. To understand this, consider the following formula:
Your ideas and thoughts + your behavior and responses = your leadership style
This straightforward formula shows that the foundation of your leadership style is your ideas and thoughts. If you can change your ideas, you can change your leadership style. It’s really as simple as that. With new ideas, you will have new behavior, and in the end your leadership style will change.
In order to change your ideas, you need to better understand your team. While you may not welcome criticism of your leadership style, you do need to know what your team thinks. Ask them for honest answers about your leadership style and how it affects them, ensuring them that there will be no negative repercussions for their responses.
This exercise is difficult if you have an autocratic or similar leadership style, because you will face some criticism. You must be willing to take the good with the bad and do an honest assessment of how your leadership is affecting your organization. Make sure you do not take action on the responses you get. A good way to do this is to make the survey anonymous, if at all possible.
Look Inside Yourself
In addition to collecting responses from your team, do a self-assessment to determine what you think your own leadership strengths and weaknesses are. Write down your thoughts. Then, compare what you think to the responses of your team.
You will likely see some parallels, and some differences. This exercise will open your eyes to important distinctions between the way people view you and the way you view yourself, and this can begin changing your thinking about leadership.
Taking inventory by looking inside yourself and getting the thoughts of your team will go a long way in changing your mind about your behavior. What you thought was effective leadership may not be effective at all. Changing your mind with the right information will allow you to then change your behavior. Over time, you will have adapted your leadership style.
Make Small Changes
You aren’t going to switch from being an autocratic leader to a transformational leader overnight. Trying to do so will only frustrate you and your team. Instead, make small changes that will improve the situation around your organization. Over time, you will be able to make a transition into a new leadership style.
Take, for instance, a leader who regularly micromanages everything. If you are hearing from your team that they are stressed by your controlling behavior, find a non-vital project, and try to change the behavior. Don’t try to change it on your most pressing deadline, because you will only stress everyone. As you experiment with letting go of some control, you may see that you enjoy letting your team shine.
Make the Style fit the Situation
As you consider ways to alter your leadership style, make sure you are doing so in line with the situation you are facing. Not all styles of leadership fit all situations, and you must learn to identify situations that warrant various styles.
The same is true for the individuals on your team. Not all individuals will respond well to the same leadership style. While you need to be consistent and fair, it’s perfectly fine to give more freedom to your creative thinkers and more structure to those who thrive under structure.
Creating a Leadership Team
While leadership styles can be adjusted to meet the needs of an organization and its people, some measure of leadership seems to be inborn in the leader. Because of this, it can be valuable to create a management team that has a variety of these skills. If you are in the position of creating a leadership team, take into account the skills your current leaders have, and try to build on them by adding leaders with different styles. Soon you will have a leadership team that inspires, organizes and monitors your team well, and you will see greater productivity as a result.
If you’re content with your leadership style and unwilling to make a change, you could be pushing your organization into failure. Knowing when it’s time to change up your leadership style is the mark of an effective leader. Look for these situations as you are considering making a change.
Changes in Your Followers
If your followers change, your leadership may need to change. For instance, if your team is filled with skilled, experienced professionals, then you can use a laissez-faire approach successfully. If, on the other hand, you have new recruits with few skills, you cannot give them too much freedom. These workers will benefit more from a transitional leadership style.
Similarly, if the commitment of the team members to the task at hand or the organization as a whole shifts, your leadership needs to shift. Uncommitted workers need supportive and encouraging leadership, while those who are fully committed may not need as much oversight.
You must be able to evaluate your team and make decisions on what you see. Do you have a group that needs to be told what to do? Then dip into your bureaucratic tendencies. Do you have a team of creative thinkers? Then give them freedom. Does your team need a healthy dose of inspiration? Then put on your charismatic hat.
Changes in Relationships
A good leader will carefully monitor the relationship between leadership and team members. You want to have an organization where your subordinates know they can trust you and feel that you value their influence. If you are sensing that your team is not trusting you or looking to you for support and encouragement as they once did, it may mean that it’s time to switch up your leadership approach.
Changes in the Work
If the work you are requiring changes, your leadership will need to change. If your workers are performing a repetitive task that requires no risk or special skills, you can sit back and enjoy the role of being a task-oriented boss. If the work shifts to one that requires creative thinking, risk taking and problem solving, you are going to need a more encouraging and inspirational leadership style.
Changes in the Climate
What is the climate like in your organization? Would you say people are mostly excited about the work and the potential for the future? Are you sensing a spirit of anxiety settling in?
Good leaders are in tune with their subordinates. They know what people are thinking, feeling and saying about the organization. When the climate in the organization switches from one of excitement and enthusiasm to one of anxiety and worry, they will switch their leadership style to provide the enthusiasm that is lacking.
Have you seen yourself in one of these 10 leadership styles? Have you found areas where you can improve, or styles you wish to incorporate into your leadership abilities? Good leaders are able to tap into the strengths of a variety of leadership styles, know what their team needs and change their leadership style when needed.
Knowing the type of leadership style that comes naturally to you is the first step in being an effective leader. The second is embracing the styles that would benefit your team. So go ahead and label yourself, then take steps to make positive changes. Your entire organization will benefit as you strive to become the best leader you can be.