What’s the perfect Leadership Style?
Have you ever asked yourself how your approach to work differs from other people? Are you more of an assertive, active and decisive person who enjoys a challenge? Or are you more of a likeable team player who is supportive and nurturing towards your colleagues? Are you more of an impulsive risk-taker or a practical person who weighs every side of an issue before taking a decision? Don’t get me wrong here – these are not mutually exclusive and all of these traits are important and can be the right approach! It all depends on the situation you’re in and the people you work with.
This is why there is no one ideal leadership style that is applicable across all situations and people in your team. Different people need different things from their leader. Different situations require the leader to react in a different manner. Over the years researchers have come up with a variety of leadership styles that we gravitate towards naturally. For example, some people naturally adopt a servant leadership style. Others tend to adopt a more autocratic or a more democratic Leadership Style. A short explanation for each of these follows below:
Servant leadership Style:
If you naturally gravitate towards this leadership style, regardless of your level, you lead by meeting any and every need of your team members. You lead with high integrity and generosity, which can lead to exceptionally high morale in your team. It’s a highly commendable leadership style based on your values, ideals and ethics. However, on the other hand, particularly in competitive situations or crises, this type of leadership style can leave you left behind other leaders who make quick decisions and apply pressure more easily.
Autocratic Leadership Style:
Autocratic leaders tend to make decisions quickly and without consulting their team, making it a highly effective leadership style, particularly in times of crises. However, it ignores team members’ expertise and can be highly demoralizing, since they never get a say in decisions. They might see problems or other options that the leader doesn’t see and ignores since he or she doesn’t consult team members.
Democratic Leadership Style:
In a democratically organized team, similarly to a democratic country, the leader makes the final decision, but the team members are included in the decision making process. Team leaders encourage creativity and team members are highly engage in the decision-making-process. This leadership style has the opposite effect of an autocratic leadership style: it leads to high team motivation and satisfaction but slow decision making.
What’s the problem with these Leadership styles?
All those leadership styles have one thing in common: they fail to be applicable across different situations. In today’s ever-changing times, instead of being fixed in a never-changing position, a leader needs to be able to adapt his leadership style in accordance with his followers and the situation they’re in. Therefore, in the 1960s Dr. Paul Hersey developed the Situational Leadership Model, a powerful and flexible tool that enables leaders to adapt their leadership style.
Situational Leadership Style:
Situational Leadership requires you to make an assessment of the needs of a specific situation and based on that apply a leadership style that seems most fitting. This is not an analytical or in a lot of cases an entirely conscious decision, but being aware of this can make you a more adaptable and flexible, and in the end better leader.
The original Situational Leadership Model is based on:
- The amount of guidance that is required by team members
- The amount of socioemotional support that is required by team members
- Team members’ level of readiness in regards to a specific task or objective
It is literally built around the problem described above: that there is no ideal leadership style fitting across all situations. It is based around the theory that the most effective leaders are those that are able to adapt their style to the task at hand, the nature of the team and other cues.
Based on these cues one of these four leadership styles is most appropriate:
Telling Leadership Style: highly directive but low support
Selling Leadership Style: Highly directive and highly supportive
Participating Leadership Style: Low directive but highly supportive
Delegating Leadership Style: Low directive and low supportive
According to Hersey, if a team is coming together for the first time, the leader can move seamlessly from the first into the second, third and fourth style as time passes and the team develops. A more “telling” leadership style may be the most appropriate when team members lack the knowledge or experience they need to work by themselves. As their knowledge and experience increases, the leader can shift styles and move step by step towards a delegating leadership style. This type of leadership style is built around the needs of the team and enabling a leader to be the best they can be in every situation.
What leadership style works best in your experience? Which leadership style do you gravitate towards naturally? Have you tried situational leadership and has it been working for you? Let us know in the comments!