6 Effective Styles of Leadership

Leadership involves guiding a particular group of people towards a common goal. Each organization and individual may use different styles of leadership at different times.

The style of leadership used should draw the best out of the employees. Leadership is more about the needs of the organization rather than the needs of individuals.

6 Leadership Styles and When You Should Use Them

1. Participative

Participative leadership involves leaders working for buy-in by seeking employee input. They encourage and involve employees in management decision making, ensuring their decisions are heard and considered. Sometimes, the employees are rewarded for their team effort.

This style is most effective in a stable environment where employees collaborate and have credibility and experience. It is less efficient in crisis situations or fast-paced environments where there is little time for meetings. High coordination among employees is necessary.

Participative leadership is best when an organization requires significant internal change. It engages workers in the process, helping to minimize conflicts within the organization.

Characterized by: active involvement of employees in the decision-making process.
Best used: in stable environments requiring collaboration and innovation.

2. Affiliative

An affiliative style is suitable when the organization needs to foster a sense of belonging or bonding. It aims to create harmony among team members, translating to a “people come first” approach.

This style is most effective following trauma or stress from management or when employee performance is lacking. Affiliative leadership works well with other leadership styles, enhancing their effects.

Characterized by: prioritizing emotional connections and harmony within the team.
Best used: after organizational trauma or to boost morale and cooperation.

3. Pacesetting

In pacesetting, the leader sets a high standard, expecting employees to follow by example. The leader models self-direction and excellence. This approach requires employees to be highly competent and motivated, suitable for teams of experts that require little coordination.

However, it is least effective where workloads are heavy, and innovation is necessary. Pacesetting can stifle creativity and overwhelm employees.

Characterized by: high standards and leading by example.
Best used: with highly skilled, self-motivated teams needing minimal guidance.

4. Authoritative

Authoritative leadership is goal-oriented, with leaders guiding employees towards a common vision. The leader says, “Come with me,” using a firm but fair approach. Employees receive feedback on goal attainment, which serves as motivation.

For this style to be effective, the leader must be credible, offering clear direction and standards. It is not suitable when employees lack the development to work independently.

Characterized by: clear vision and direction from the leader.
Best used: when a new direction or clear focus is needed.

5. Coaching

Coaching is where a leader works on developing individuals with the aim of improving their performance. The style simultaneously advances the employees’ goals as well as those of the organization. The manager has a development role. Employee motivation comes from providing workers who perform well with greater opportunities.

The style works best for developing employees who need to acquire new skills. They shouldn’t be defiant or unwilling to learn. The leader, on the other hand, has to be an expert and proficient and is able to applying successful teaching strategies. The style should be applied with caution. Employee self-confidence can suffer, especially if they perceive their leader as micromanaging.

Characterized by: personal development and continuous learning.
Best used: for employee skill development and aligning personal goals with organizational objectives.

6. Directive

Directive leadership involves setting clear expectations and closely monitoring employee performance. Discipline or the threat of discipline is used to enforce compliance. It is most effective in crisis situations where deviation from the plan is risky.

Employees need to be experienced, as this style does not support development and learning. Experienced employees might resent the lack of autonomy.

Characterized by: strict oversight and control over processes and outcomes.
Best used: in crises or when high-risk decisions need firm guidance.

Adjusting Your Leadership Style

Adapting leadership styles to fit unusual and changing situations is crucial for organizations and leaders. The ability to shift approaches based on context is a hallmark of effective leadership.

MBA management training programs are able to play a significant role in this adaptability. They offer participants an array of leadership models, preparing them to choose the right one for each circumstance.

Ultimately, success in leadership comes from capitalizing on the strengths of different styles. Leaders who can skillfully navigate these choices are better positioned to guide their teams to achieve their goals.

Cultural Influences

Leadership is also culture-dependent. For example, a common leadership style in Australia is the “laid-back” approach. It’s also a phenomenon you see at Australian universities.

Because Australia has an egalitarian culture, it’s not the done thing to have a commanding approach and be telling others what to do in an overt way. Instead, everything is done in a casual, understated way that seems to remove hierarchical boundaries. People are aware of who’s in charge, they just don’t like the fact to be emphasized.

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