Which Leadership Styles Do You Use?

Managing and leading are NOT the same!  They can both come from the same person, but they represent different roles. Managing comes from power attached to a given title, while leading can emerge from anywhere within your company.  The primary distinction between the two may best be summed up from a quote by American management consultant, educator, and author Peter Drucker, “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Managers are empowered by the company to help their team members to succeed. Their role is to ensure everyone has what they need to be effective and productive.  They also focus on educating and training; helping to ensure processes are in place and roadblocks are removed; encouraging improvements and goal-setting, and recognizing great performance and achievements.

A leader typically leads based on his or her strengths, not on titles. A leader can feel empowered by the company, but more often, they empower themselves.  A leader can be anyone on your team.  They are talented, creative thinkers, self-motivating, analytical, and typically individuals who care about both team members and the success of the company.

Good managers in your company are people who allow different leaders to emerge organically from the company system and to inspire members of their team to succeed.   The best managers, however, also empower themselves to learn how to be an effective leader.

The first step is recognizing that leadership is less about your needs, and more about the needs of the people and the organization you are trying to lead. The next step is understanding the various ways one can lead, and how you can grow in your leadership styles.

Leadership styles are not fixed, genetically-based, or inherent.  Rather, leadership styles can be learned, and different ones can be applied in different contexts and situations, with different team members, and as you consider the different challenges or goals at hand.

While there are numerous models and lists that explore leadership styles, the work of Daniel Goleman (the man who popularized the idea of “emotional intelligence”), remains a standard way people and companies consider six different styles of leadership.

Do What I Tell You!  

The Commanding (or Coercive) style is commonly referred to as “military style leadership.”  It remains a popular choice among leaders (and managers), but is often ineffective.  This style demands immediate compliance from team members. It rarely involves praise, it frequently employs criticism, it can quickly make people feel alienated, stifle creativity, and undercuts morale or job satisfaction.  The best time to utilize this style is during a crisis.  It can be effective during a takeover attempt, during natural emergencies, and – if everything else failed – to help control a problem teammate.

 Come with Me!

The Visionary (or Authoritative) style seeks to help team members move towards a common goal or vision, and is concerned with end results, not with how people get there.  This style is most helpful when a department or company needs a new direction. It can be effectively used when circumstances have changed or when explicit guidance is not required.  The visionary leadership style encourages an entrepreneurial spirit, enthusiasm, experimentation, and innovation.  It is not effective when the leader is working with experts who have more knowledge than s/he possesses.

People Come First!

The Affiliative style is primarily concerned about team dynamics.  It is focused on creating emotional bonds between team members, creating a sense of harmony, and creating a sense of belonging to your company.  This style is effective during times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a trauma, when the company needs to rebuild trust, when you need to increase morale, or when you frequently have miscommunication issues. This style is not effective when utilized frequently (or exclusively!)  It can create a company culture where team members rely too heavily on praise and it can create the perception that average or mediocre performance is acceptable.  If used too heavily, this style can also lead to frequent occurrences of groupthink, where harmony or conformity in the group becomes so important people fail to speak up and challenge team decisions – even when it’s extremely important to do so and/or when a team becomes dysfunctional.

What Do You Think?

Everyone loves democracy, right?  The Democratic style is concerned with building consensus through participation. It focuses on people’s unique talents, knowledge and skills, and it attempts to create an environment where your team is committed to reaching certain goals.  The Democratic style is effective when the direction the company should take is unclear, when the leader needs to consider the collective wisdom of his or her team, when it’s important for team members to “buy-in” or own a decision or goal, and when the leader simply realizes his or her limitations in a particular area.  It is not effective in times of crisis, when you’re under a time crunch, or when members of the team aren’t afforded time to become informed about the decisions or goals at hand.

Do as I Do, Now!

The next style of leadership is Pacesetting.  The pacesetting style applies high standards of performance on team members and this leader seeks to model excellence.  When a leader utilizes this style s/he focuses heavily on doing things better and faster and the leader expects every team member to follow suit.  This style can be effective when you’re working with team members who are already talented and motivated to succeed and/or when quick results are necessary.  Goleman suggests you use it sparingly as it can decrease morale, decrease one’s confidence in their abilities, decrease innovation and make team members feel overwhelmed.  At worst, it can poison your system with negativity, frustration, and a sense of failure.

Try This!

The final leadership style is Coaching and it is concerned with developing individuals, helping them to improve performance, helping them to focus on the future, and encouraging them to connect with company goals.  It is an effective approach when a leader wants to encourage team members who already show initiative learn how to develop and build lasting personal strengths or to help them to become more successful.  It is not effective with team members who are unmotivated, defiant, or simply unwilling to learn and grow.  If used too frequently it can also be perceived as micro-managing and undermine a team member’s self-confidence.

Leadership Styles

While many leaders have dominant leadership styles, the most effective leaders can move among all styles, adopting the one that meets the needs of the moment, the context, and/or depending on the makeup of team members.

Which types of leadership styles do use most often?  Which styles do you think you need to develop and utilize to increase success in your company?