6 Classic Leadership Styles

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Leadership is a role to which many aspire but few are suited; there are countless motivations that compel an individual to pursue the role. For some, the pursuit of leadership roles emanates from ambition. For others, leadership is a natural extension of their expertise in a certain field, ability to inspire a group of colleagues to work together effectively or a native talent for goal and strategy setting that helps them to produce results. One may become a leader by design or default.

Leadership requires an array of competencies, including superior analytic ability and judgment, big-picture thinking, the willingness to take on responsibilities and emotional intelligence. An effective leader knows that the style of leadership must fit the demands of the circumstances.

How can a leader obtain buy-in on a vision and goals? Will it be possible to encourage the growth of trust and bonding that are the building blocks of a cohesive team? What methods might inspire team members to give their best performances? The truly adept leader will assess the team and the project, and employ a leadership style that will support the team and ensure the desired results.

I. Directive

A no-questions-asked coercive style that demands compliance.”Do as I say” authoritarian. Motivation is “encouraged” via threats and discipline. Are you looking for a way to kill motivation, persuade the team to lose commitment and enthusiasm and squelch any respect that they may have had for you? Look no further.

Most effective: In a crisis when decisive action must be taken ASAP and there is no room for deviation from a tightly prescribed rescue strategy. Former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani used the Directive style as he brilliantly managed the September 11 crisis.

Least effective: With highly skilled team members, who will quickly resent micro-management and the demoralizing authoritarian culture.

II. Visionary

Inspires the team and the members understand how and why their work contributes to the realization of the vision. Moves people toward shared goals and outcomes through empathy and clarity. This leader communicates the vision clearly and compellingly, gets buy-in and then steps back and allows the team to work, checking in from time to time to restate the vision and reinforce commitment and enthusiasm.

Most effective: When seeking to help the team create and achieve mission-critical, long-term goals.

Least effective: When the leader is not credible and team members do not support the vision and goals proposed.

III. Affiliative

Creates harmony that boosts morale and resolves conflict. Builds trust between the leader and team. People first, project second. The focus is on helping the team to bond, but there may be hesitation when it’s time to take charge and get down to business.

Most effective: When stepping into an environment where conflict has damaged commitment and morale.

Least effective: When producing results is imperative and clear direction, strategies and action plans are needed.

IV. Participative

A superb listener, team builder, collaborator and influencer. A primary objective is to build commitment through consensus. Team members know that their input is valued and this generates commitment. However, constantly seeking consensus can impede progress toward completing projects.

Most effective: With a highly competent leader and team members, mutual admiration and respect is generated.

Least effective: When close supervision is required for the inexperienced, or when there is no time to build commitment and consensus.

V. Pace setter

Leads through example, has great initiative and a strong drive to achieve through his/her own efforts. This leader has high personals standards and high energy, but little patience. S/he might become a micro-manager. The team is a meritocracy and only A + results are acceptable; under-performing members will be removed from the project. Nevertheless, team members will be inspired, engaged and motivated by a leader who “walks the talk”.

Most effective: Managing highly motivated experts.

Least effective: When skills development, coordination and coaching are necessary.

VI. Coaching

A good listener who helps employees identify their strengths and weaknesses. Knows how to delegate, which provides skills training for staff members. Encourages peak performance by providing opportunities for professional development and building the employee’s long-term capabilities.

Most effective: When professional development is needed and employees are motivated to achieve.

Least effective: When the leader lacks the required expertise in the subject matter of the project and/or the ability to teach or coach effectively.

Thanks for reading,