Which leadership style is best?
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Which leadership style is best?

We all like to think that we are good and effective leaders, and that the style of leadership we adopt is perfect for achieving success, but if we were to be analysed, would that analysis match what we think?

Autocratic/Authoritarian Leadership Style (Lewin)

This style is often the “telling” style (Tannenbaum) or the X style of leadership (McGregor) 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. They 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 of leadership 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.

Democratic Leadership Style (Lewin)

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, and understands that their team enjoy autonomy, they encourage innovation, creativity and the sharing of ideas and 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.

Situational Leadership Style (Hersey-Blanchard)

Sometimes known as the contingency approach to leadership, this style of leadership is where various styles of leadership are adopted 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 and it promotes the fact that all styles of leadership may be adopted if it is deemed suitable at that time. So, in a time restrained situation a more directive/autocratic approach may be adopted but when there is more time available a more democratic approach may be adopted. Where a team is highly experienced within a particular task a more delegatory/laissez faire approach may be adopted, in that the objectives for the task are communicated but how the team/individual completes the task is up to them – the responsibility is essentially handed over. 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. This style of leadership also takes in to account the emotional and relationship side of leadership and the leader will adapt their level of support and direction provided according to the situation and the experience level of the team/individual. By 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.

Leadership Style Analysis

So as mentioned earlier, your own personal leadership analysis can make for an uncomfortable read, especially when your perceptions of your style are not what is being displayed! Take comfort in the fact that it is only from self-analysis and awareness, 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. Leadership is a skill and an ability that CAN be learned, 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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