Leadership is an opportunity to develop and change the climate in an organization. Some business leadership styles are more effective than others, but successful managers blend styles for optimal results.
The Situational Leader
The situational leader is flexible and adaptive.
Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed the theory of situational leadership in 1969 to help leaders adjust to the work environment and the needs of their organizations. This style involves leaders modifying their approach to suit each organization, team and person that leaders work with.
Within situational leadership, there are four secondary styles:
- Directing involves specific guidance and close supervision. These “telling” leaders communicate exactly what the team or person should do and how to do it. This style is appropriate for inexperienced workers or those new to the organization. It can also be appropriate for crisis situations or when repetitive results are needed.
- Coaching involves explaining and persuading. These “selling” leaders persuade others to buy in on certain ideas to gain cooperation. They are also open to ideas and are focused on supporting the team or individual in developing skills and strong commitment. Like a coach for a sports team, these leaders direct and support others to create the best teams and workers.
- Supporting involves sharing and facilitating. These “participating” leaders are present but tend to leave decisions to their team members.
- Delegating involves letting other people progress on their own. These leaders monitor the progress of team members, who have strong skills and are committed to the end goal. Leaders are responsible for the overall outcome and may be asked to help make decisions, but otherwise they provide minimum guidance and support. More focus is given to relationships.
The Bureaucratic Leader
The bureaucratic leader is strict and focused on rules and regulations. Leaders in this style pay close attention to detail and give clarity to situations. As a result, bureaucratic leaders can benefit organizations by being direct. Certain standards are maintained, and employees know how well they are performing the job, whether positive or negative. All of this is especially important when health and safety is paramount, in fields such as security, construction and crime scene investigation.
However, this is a leadership style that should be used sparingly. Inflexibility can demoralize staff. Bureaucratic leadership also tends to discourage innovative and creative thinking.
The Laissez-Faire Leader
The laissez-faire leader is hands-off and allows workers to make decisions and solve problems on their own. Laissez-faire leadership is rooted in providing subordinates with little guidance, but leaders in laissez-faire leadership are not completely hands-off. They provide workers with the tools and resources needed to do the job, and they are available for feedback and assistance when needed. If staff members are capable, skilled and motivated, the autonomy that leaders provide in this style can be beneficial.
If staff members do not have the right experience, knowledge and drive, issues with projects can develop. This style has been credited with the lowest productivity levels among staff members by executive recruiting search firm Joseph Chris Partners. Another potential issue is that leaders may seem withdrawn and uninvolved, which can lead to chemistry problems.
The Servant Leader
Then He [Jesus] came to Capernaum. And when He was in the house He asked them, “What was it you disputed among yourselves on the road?” But they kept silent, for on the road they had disputed among themselves who would be the greatest. And He sat down, called the twelve, and said to them, “If anyone desires to be first, he shall be last of all and servant of all.”
Mark 9:33-35 NKJV
The servant leader is motivated by truly helping others and is unlike any other leadership style or trait. As a result, few negatives are associated with this style. For more, the article “What is Servant Leadership?” expands on servant leadership and traits of these leaders.
The Transactional Leader
Transactional leadership theory holds that leaders should conform to the existing structure of an organization, and leaders in this style motivate employees with rewards and consequences. Formal authority positions help establish a definitive chain of command. The focus is on results; rewards and consequences are the most direct way to motivate employees.
This style works well in positions where monotonous tasks are repeated and measured, such as factory work. Transactional leadership is often seen in large corporations, the military and law enforcement.
Transactional leadership is not as effective in environments where new solutions to problems are required because creativity is not encouraged.
The Charismatic Leader
The charismatic leader is eloquent, persuasive and committed with a focus on skilled communication. Charismatic leaders are not only verbally eloquent but are able to connect to employees or followers on a deeply emotional level. In business or politics, charismatic leaders are often the driving force in developing, communicating and sticking with a clear vision for the future.
This style is highly motivational, and employees often feel like their leader is truly with them. They identify with the personal qualities and traits of charismatic leaders.
However, charismatic leaders can motivate people to do things they wouldn’t normally do, and dangers can result. Some of these leaders struggle with delegating, sharing the spotlight or praising others. Others can possess or develop qualities of being self-involved, which can turn people away once they noticed these tendencies.
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