Do you always lead with a style that’s most comfortable for you, or can you adapt your natural style to meet the need of a given situation?
Here are two ways to classify leadership styles, and 10 different styles:
The Situational Leadership model uses a 4 box grid based on the amount of direction and support an employee needs. The four styles are:
Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the 'follower', and supervise them closely. Decisions are made by the leader and announced, so communication is largely one-way.
Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower. Decisions remain the leader's prerogative, but communication is much more two-way.
Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower. The leader facilitates and takes part in decisions, but control is with the follower.
Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower. The follower decides when and how the leader will be involved.
Another approach categorizes styles according to emotional intelligence competencies, some of which work better than others in specific situations. These styles are:
Coercive: This “Do what I say” style demands immediate compliance. It is especially useful in turnaround situations, in a crisis, and with problem employees. However, using this style inhibits your organization’s flexibility and can dampen employee motivation.
Authoritative: This style mobilizes people toward a vision. Specifically, it provides an overarching goal, but gives others the freedom to choose their own way of reaching it. This approach is most effective when a business is at sea and needs direction, or during an economic or business downturn. This style is less successful when the leader is working with a team of experts who may have more experience—and may disagree with his approach.
Affiliative: This “people-first” style engenders the creation of emotional bonds and team harmony. It is best used when team coherence is important or in times of low employee morale. But this approach’s focus on praise may permit poor performance among employees to continue unchecked, and employees may lack a sense of overall direction. The downside of this style, however, is that it may result in indecision, and some people may be left feeling confused and leaderless.
Democratic: This style builds consensus through participation. It is most appropriate when organizational flexibility and a sense of individual responsibility is needed. The downside of this style, however, is that it may result in indecision, and some people may be left feeling confused and leaderless.
Pacesetting: This style expects excellence and self-direction. It works best for highly skilled and motivated people who work well on their own. Other people, however, may feel overwhelmed by a pacesetting leader’s demands for excellence. Their self-esteem, trust, and, ultimately, their morale may drop under the regime of this type of leader.
Coaching: This style focuses on personal development. Coaching leaders help people identify their strengths and weaknesses, and tie them to their career aspirations. While this style is highly successful with people who want to change or improve professionally, it is largely unsuccessful with those who are resistant to learning or changing their ways.
While some styles may be more comfortable for you to adopt than others, the more you stretch yourself to learn a range of styles, the more effective you will be as a leader.