When researching leadership style models, it can get quite confusing as to which ones to apply.
Leadership models may vary in the names they use to describe each of their styles and in the quantity of styles they offer, and this can get quite baffling. A more directive leader may be labeled a certain way depending on the theory you choose, for instance, “the authoritarian”, “the commander”, “the telling” or even “the driver” style of leadership. Am I a driver or an authoritarian? Is there a difference?
With all of this confusion surrounding the matter, I have decided to create a guideline to help you determine which leadership style would be most suitable for your business.
Let’s get to it!
Dominant leadership style
What I’m trying to say is that leadership styles exist to give you an idea of where your tendencies lie in a leadership role. In other words: what your dominant leadership style is. Different leadership models have their unique styles labeled a certain way, but when comparing theories, you get a pretty good idea of what the more universal styles look like.
The “style” is typically an indicator of how a person is naturally build to lead and what approaches will come more naturally to them in such a role. For example, if someone falls more within a democratic style, they are more inclined to use a participative approach, where the team will feel implicated and heard, but where handling difficult employees may cause them discomfort.
This however does not mean that once you know your dominant style, it’s the only style you will use. It is important to understand that one can tap into a range of different leadership styles during various times and situations, despite having a dominant style that is more representative of their personality and natural reflexes.
The key point I am trying to make is, if you constantly have to suppress or do the opposite of what your natural leadership style would suggest, because a situation requires you to, this can drain your energy and demand a lot more from you in the end. Is it possible? Yes. But it may not be natural.
Let’s go back to our “driver/authoritarian” leader. Capable of asserting himself, having a take-charge attitude, and being task-oriented and in control, this person is likely to handle any conflict situation without dodging.
However, when it comes to implicating his team in a decision-making process, demonstrating empathy or making systematic check-ins with them to ensure they are happy and being supported, (basically leaning more towards a democratic, facilitator or amiable leadership style, whatever the model may be), this leader will be going against the grain. Is he capable at times of tapping into this more people-oriented, encouraging role? Yes. Is it natural? No.
Aligning people’s dominant leadership styles with the right environment
Aligning people’s dominant (and therefore natural) leadership styles with the right environment. Not only will these people be utilising their strengths, but they won’t feel like they are swimming against the current in their day-to-day responsibilities. Sure when a situation requires it, they can develop (to a certain extent) other capacities or mechanisms that may not come as natural to them, but the key thing is allowing their more dominant leadership style to shine through.
Other aspects to consider when finding the right leadership style
On top of uncovering one’s dominant leadership style, there are other aspects to consider when finding the right style for your business.
Leadership style & organizational culture
What is accepted or not accepted within your organization? What are your core values and best practices?
I think about companies that have unionized workers. Could the forceful, autocratic leadership style cause more friction than productivity? How are decisions made? Does upper management always have the final say, or is there flexibility? Are you a large organization or a small-medium enterprise? Are there constant emergencies or long term projects? These aspects, and more, can influence what leadership style best suits your organization. You have to know what works and what doesn’t with your organizational culture.
Leadership style & the team being lead
Many organizations fail to consider the characteristics of the team before choosing its leader. That’s like building a bridge without support beams. It’s important to take into account certain things like the size of a group, if they are in close proximity or remote, are they self-sufficient or do they need a lot of direction, are there any difficult members that are harder to manage, etc.
Also, understanding the team member’s strengths and innate personality traits as well as what motivates them will help you position a leader that can meet their needs. A challenging team with strong personalities may require strong, directive management style. The “telling”/“commander” leadership styles come to mind.
Re-positioning current leaders
Sometimes a person’s leadership style is right for one team but so wrong for another. Before embarking on a full blown recruitment process, look within your organization. Perhaps an existing leader just needs to be moved around to another team, department, or branch. Align the more sensitive, non-confronting leaders with those who can benefit from their empathy and reassurance. Sometimes it’s about repositioning to bring out the best in someone, and their team.
To conclude, no matter what leadership style model you choose to apply, once you uncover people’s natural reflexes, you will already be able to better >predict the potential leader inside them, or if they are better off giving the reins to someone else. It will then be up to you to decide if they fit in your organization.