Inspiring others is one of the most critical components to effective leadership. The best leaders do this by helping their people reach higher, achieve more and think bigger. The ability to lead is possible for everyone and is all about inspiring others to be more than they are by helping them recognise their true potential. Leadership is not about a title or position, but rather the continuous series of opportunities in which a person consciously decides to create a positive change through his or her actions and behaviour. True leadership thus is not a single act, but rather a mindset to serve others and is more about performing right actions and making right choices to bring the best in other people.
At some point in your life, you may assume on leadership role in some capacity. Whether it is leading a project, a team, a department or a group of people. As you do so, you will most likely use different processes and methods to achieve your objectives and meet the needs of people by identifying with or adopting to a definite leadership style. In other words, as there are personality types, there are different leadership styles and no one size fits all. We all have a go-to leadership style consisting of default set of markers when it comes to enhancing the morale, performance and motivation of people we are leading or managing.
Why is it important to know your leadership style
To effectively lead, you might use different leadership styles at any given time. A leadership style refers to a person’s characteristic behaviour, when directing, motivating, guiding and managing group of people. Most people develop their leadership style based on factors like experience, personality traits, needs and their work culture and knowing your leadership style is essential to identify your strengths and to know which areas you need to make some improvements.
No two leaders are alike and there is a difference how each person leads. Knowing which of the style works best for you is part of being a good and effective leader. Understanding your leadership style is essential to identify and describe your individual unique characteristics when it comes to leading or transitioning into a leadership role to fit into a given position’s requirements.
Knowing your leadership style, you can assess whether these qualities are helping or hindering your ability to lead and further can determine which areas need some work to improve. By taking time to familiarise yourself with each of these types of leadership, you might recognise certain areas to improve upon or expand your own leadership style.
Different leadership styles
Knowing which of the leadership styles works best for you is part of being an effective leader. Here are few of the best known leadership styles.
Authoritative leadership. The authoritative style is the mark of confident leaders who set the direction and expectations, while engaging and energising the people they lead along the way. This style is more indicative of ‘follow me’ approach where the leaders set clear expectations for what needs to be done, what and how it should be done. This focuses on definite outcomes through command and control. Authoritative leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the other members of the team or people they are leading or managing.
Pros: Quick decision-making, few mistakes, chains of command can be clearly defined and creates consistent outcomes.
Cons: Creats dysfunction and hostile environments. Stifles creativity and innovation and reduces collaboration.
Participative leadership. This is a most effective leadership style and is democratic. Leaders of this style offer guidance to team members, participate and allow input from them. They are more likely to share information about anything that affects work responsibilities and seek their opinions. They encourage group members to participate in their decision-making process, but retain their final say. They tend to make the people they lead or manage feel like they are important part of the workplace or organisation.
Pros: Engenders trust and promotes teamwork like cooperation and collaboration. Improves employee motivation and job satisfaction. Encourages creativity and teamwork and results in high level productivity.
Cons: Decision-making becomes time-consuming. Leads to communication failures. Poor decisions can be made if unskilled are involved and may result in security lapses due to transparency of information sharing.
Delegative leadership. This particular leadership style focuses more on delegating initiatives to team members. This works better with competent team members. They take responsibility and prefer engaging in individual work. Leaders of delegative style offer little or no guidance to team members and leave the decision-making to the team. This often leads to poorly defined roles and lack of motivation. This results in lack of direction, blaming each other for mistakes, and refusal to accept personal responsibility.
Pros: Encourages innovation and creativity. Experienced people can take advantage of their competence and experience. Creates a positive work environment.
Cons: Lack of clearly defined roles and direction. Less progress and low productivity.
Transformational or adaptive leadership . This style of leadership is often considered as the single most effective style of leadership. Leaders of this style are able to motivate and inspire members of their team and direct them towards positive changes. They are emotionally intelligent, passionate and energetic. People of such leadership style are often motivated and identify themselves with the big picture or organisation’s goals. They not only commit to helping the organisation achieve its goals but also help individuals achieve their full potential. This results in higher performance levels, increased employee engagement, contented workplaces and improved well-being.
Pros: Conflict resolution through collaborative relationships. Creates an environment of trust and cooperation. Freedom of failure and have the opportunity to learn from their mistakes. Leads to balanced workplaces. Places high value on vision and big-picture thinking.
Cons: They might struggle with detail as they are too focused on big picture. Might set unrealistic expectations that can lead to stress and exhaustion due to increased pressure to maintain high productivity at all times. Consistent motivation and constant feedback may be required.
Transactional leadership. This involves transactions between a leader and his or her team in the form of rewards, punishments and other exchanges to get the work done. The leaders sets clear goals, and team members know how they will be rewarded for their work. This is a give and take leadership style where one is more concerned with following routines and procedures in an effective manner, than making any transformational changes to an organisation.
Pros: Creates specific, measurable and time-bound goals that are achievable. Increased motivation and productivity to receive rewards. Minimises confusion with clearly defined roles where people know hat their task is and what they will receive in exchange and offers direction and supervision.
Cons: Stifles creativity and innovation. Creates more followers than leaders and is less empathetic.
Choosing leadership styles
An effective leader knows that his or her respective leadership style will not work for everyone. Being able to successfully navigate different situations and people requires flexibility as well as willingness to change to course of leading or managing. Developing a particular style with the ability to stretch into other types as the situation demands helps you enhance your leadership effectiveness. To choose from different leadership styles, one must strive towards improving their
- Self awareness. Raise your awareness of your dominant style by knowing your leadership strengths and weaknesses. This way, you can assess yourself correctly so that you will know what style you need to implement.
- Situational awareness. Being aware of what is happening around you is a sign of innate leadership strength. It is important to be fully aware of the events happening within the working or organisation as well as the working environment as a whole.
- Communication skills. Acknowledging and appreciating others’ efforts and treat each member as a valued individual are all aspects of effective leadership across leadership styles. Listening, facilitating dialogue, asking questions, and being assertive are essential to improve your leadership agility
- Negotiating skills. When it comes to skilful leadership, reaching agreements involving different opinions, dealing with disagreements or resolving conflicts requires good negotiating skills to create a win-win situation.
- Collaboration. Ability to create an environment of trust and display care and consideration for your team and value their inputs is essential to work towards common goals.
- Vision. A clear vision provides guidance as to not only the goals at hand, but also how to accomplish them. Great leaders influence through their vision and high standards of performance. Make decisions based on your vision, values and preferences enhances your leadership skill.
So, What is your dominant leadership style?
Is your present leadership style helping or hindering your ability to lead ?
How aware are you of your leadership strengths?
Where can you improve your leadership abilities?
As a leader, How often do you listen and encourage others to express their opinions?
Do you consider the best interest of all concerned during conflict resolution?
How timely do you recognise and appreciate others’ efforts?
Does your mission, objectives and goals reflect your highest principles?
How often do you delegate responsibility and accountability effectively?
Do you encourage initiative, involvement and innovation from others?
*work on the above questions for self-reflection to understand and strengthen your leadership style*
It is important to recognise and understand different leadership styles and the the situation you work best. Leadership is not about providing a certain response in certain situation, but is more about using your strengths to inspire and motivate others. Even though traditional leadership styles may be relevant in today’s workplace, they may need to be combined with new approaches in line with evolving needs.
Understanding and strengthening your own leadership style raises self-awareness and provides chance to practice effectiveness in different situations. Be genuine with any approach you use. Moving from a dominant style to different one may be challenging at first, but by Practicing the new style until it becomes natural can be more beneficial. Develop a signature leadership style with the ability to stretch into other styles to adopt yourself to circumstances and situations to enhance your leadership effectiveness.
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