Leadership style – which is the best?
We all like to think that we are good and effective leaders. We think the style of leadership we adopt is perfect for achieving success. But if we were to undergo analysis, would that analysis match what we think?
When I consider the leadership styles that I have experienced, I can safely say that I have been the recipient of most styles in varying degrees of success!
This style is often the “telling” style (Tannenbaum) or the X style of leadership (McGregor). This is where the leader does not request nor do they want your opinion. They don’t believe they can trust you to work without direction so will essentially micro manage you. Autocratic leaders are very rule orientated and believe that your motivation is to just earn your money and go home. They do not recognise achievement nor do they encourage development or progression. This style of leadership promotes a culture of reward and punishment and will often use threat to achieve desired outcomes.
So, whilst this style seems negative and quite unpleasant, it does have a place in certain circumstances such as emergencies, military situations, low skilled workforces and also with inexperienced trainees. However, from a personal perspective, I found this style to be highly demotivating, insulting and ineffective. It created a real lack of commitment from myself and within the team to that particular leader and organisation.
Often known as the Y style of leadership (McGregor) or participative (Tannenbaum). This style of leadership promotes the sharing of responsibility and decision making. The leader who adopts this approach has substantial faith and trust for their team, and consequently promotes a culture of mutual respect. This leader believes that their workforce want to participate and be involved. Understanding that their team enjoys autonomy, they encourage innovation, creativity and the sharing of ideas. They believe that recognition for achievement is one of the key motivators for their team. This type of leader knows their staff, understands them and will endeavour to provide opportunities for development, progression and success.
So whilst this style of leadership was highly motivational for me it did also have negative aspects. It slowed down decision making and was relatively high risk. Definitely not a suitable style to use in an emergency situation! I can also see how this style would not have been suitable for me in the early stages of my career as I would have needed more direction due to my lack of experience and knowledge.
This contingency approach to leadership, is where leaders adopt various styles dependent upon the situation and the experience of the individual or team. This style evidences that there is NOT a “one size fits all” mentality when it comes to effective leadership. It promotes the fact that leaders may adopt all styles of leadership if it is deemed suitable at that time.
So, in a time restrained situation, leaders should adopt a more directive/autocratic approach but when there is more time available, they could adopt a more democratic approach. With a highly experienced team performing a familiar task, they may adopt a more delegatory/laissez faire approach. Here they would communicate the objectives for the task. But how the team/individual completes the task is up to them – they essentially hand over responsibility. However, where an individual may be highly knowledgeable and experienced within their own specialism but has been given a task that is new to them, then a more directive/coaching style of leadership may be adopted with them.
Emotions and relationships are also important
This style of leadership also takes in to account the emotional and relationship side of leadership. Here the leader will adapt their level of support and direction provided according to the situation. They also do this dependant on the experience level of the team/individual. Being flexible in your approach to leadership, adopting a more situational approach will ensure you get the best out of everyone in your team, in all situations, though this can be difficult to master initially. I have found this to be the most effective approach. My leader at the time explained why they adopted that more directive approach and this helped me to understand. When they adopted my preferred style (Democratic) I could proceed as usual by ensuring that I delivered at a high performance level.
So I mentioned earlier that your own personal leadership analysis can make for an uncomfortable read! This is especially so when your perceptions of your style are not what is being displayed! Take comfort in the fact that it is only from self-analysis, reflection and learning that you can improve your leadership practices. After all we must accept that we are not perfect and that we cannot learn unless we make mistakes. An individual CAN learn the skill and gain the ability to be a leader. So as long as you continually strive to improve and develop yourself then it will not be long before you have mastered how to effectively lead your team.
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