Leadership Style and Why it is Important to Have One
We all live in styles. In facing challenges, in life or at work, we do the same; we tackle the matters and find our way out of the problems in a very distinct fashion. So, we all have our own leadership styles (also read about personality types here). This article reviews few of the leadership models that are widely referred to in leadership literature and try to help to identify your leadership style.
Why is it important to know our leadership style, or even have one? We can thrive at work and in life by adapting to a leadership model that revolves around our strengths. It will help us connecting and bonding with others. Today’s fast pace life/work imposes a lot of stress to us. So in order to cope with the stresses and to influence our surrounding to our will, we need to learn more about ourselves (self-awareness), and about our leadership style.
Most of the leadership models have a spectrum of definitions from highly directive to highly democratic and then even into visionary and inspirational leadership. Goleman (2000) model is widely used in the leadership literature. It defines 6 leadership styles:
Visionary: this is best when an organization needs a new direction. The aim is to move people towards a new set of shared dreams. Leaders communicate where a group is going, but not how it will get there. This way, people free to innovate, and experiment.
Coaching: this style focuses on developing others, showing them how to reach their goals and improve their level of performance. One warning is that too much hovering over an employee might, instead, be perceived as micromanagement.
Affiliative: stresses importance of teamwork and connecting with others. This style is not good to use by itself because it tends to emphasize group praise allowing for poor performance to go uncorrected.
Democratic: this style works best when the organizational goal is unclear and the leader needs to tap into the feedback and wisdom of the group. This style is counter productive in times of crisis, for example when quick decisive decisions are needed from leaders.
Pacesetting: leader sets a high expectation of performance. But it must be cautioned that using it too often can result in lower employee morale because employees may feel that their work is never good enough.
Commanding: while this military style is the most often used, it’s also the least effective. It leads to lower morale because there are more criticisms and less praise.
Hersey and Blanchard introduced another model based on 4 leadership styles. But again the 4 quadrants are defined based on different levels of distinctiveness versus support. I like this model because it is simple and easy to understand. Often I found myself in one of these quadrants i.e. leading in one of these styles based on the situation.
In addition to the above, there are several leadership approaches (or philosophies) that have been referred to vastly in this context:
- Leadership from front (versus behind)
- Leading by telling stories
- Leadership by serving
- Leadership by mentoring
- Situational leadership
- Centered leadership (McKinsey)
In my experience, leader’s success to lead others highly depends on how effective s/he inspires others with the sense of purpose. McKinsey’s Centered Leadership model (see left) refers to this as Meaning.
Story telling is one of the effective approaches that can be used for sharing a vision and inspiring others. Leader in this case, should be living in her/his values day and night. This approach is found very effective in managing strategic changes.
The leadership style is one of the key questions in the interviews nowadays. Companies often promote the individuals who are in high degree of alignment with the company culture. Observing managers and leaders in different organizations, I have noticed that companys’ culture is often an important shaping factor in the leadership style of the present and future leaders.
By experience we can act out of our natural personality style occasionally and for a short period of time. In long run, you will lose the steam, interest and efficiency. You wont be able to shine and be the best in what you do if you act out of your natural personality profile.
Understanding your nature (self-awareness: personality, ego, trait, introvert/extrovert, interest, etc.) and learning about different leadership styles could help you to pick the right style and ultimately it can help you to outperform in your role as a leader.
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