What’s Your Style: 4 Leadership Approaches to Try on for Size

By December 20, 2017Leadership

What kind of leader are you? Before you start mentally running through a list of leadership types you’ve read about once upon a time, let’s talk. We all have a natural leadership style. It’s the space we feel most comfortable in. It’s our default setting. Occasionally, however, our natural style isn’t the right approach for a situation or employee. Understanding the pros (and cons) of each leadership style and when to use them is a value skill.

Authoritative Leader

This is the captain of the ship. It’s the person with the plan for where the company is headed, and the ability to guide the team in that direction. This person’s clear knowledge, wisdom, and experience encourage others to follow her. Authoritative leadership is not to be confused with authoritarian leadership. The latter creates a dictatorship, and while there is a rare case to be made for such a style (crisis management, as an example), it’s typically not an approach that nurtures a healthy, growing work environment. An authoritative leadership style, on the other hand, is beneficial during times of transition and uncertainty. Stepping into the space with a clear purpose and vision can give your organization the confidence to move forward. Just be wary of asserting too much “I’m the expert and I say we go this way” and not enough “Let’s talk about your ideas on how we can move forward in this direction.”

Coaching Leadership

From the Little League fields to the boardroom, a good coach is focused on “player” development.  It’s important that coaches recognize that each of their team members has a unique skill set. To build morale and employee buy-in, focus on nurturing each person’s strengths, not on fixing their weaknesses. To continue the sports analogy, a good manager is going to place his quickest feet and softest hands at shortstop. He’s not going to take his least agile player and work to mold him into a solid middle infielder. This leadership style does not work with staff members unwilling or unable to take constructive feedback, or when a leader lacks a perceived mastery of the subject manner.  Coaching does involve a lot of one-on-one interaction and feedback. If not done correctly, employees can feel micromanaged. Be clear that you’re offering input/advice, not dictates. Ultimately, the final call on how to execute specific job requirements is up to each team member.

Democratic Leadership

You’ve got a team of accomplished pros. They know their stuff. They’re self-starters with a proven track record of getting things done. You may want to consider a democratic leadership style with this group. In this environment, leaders encourage input and build a consensus. Employees, in turn, take ownership of the plan or goal. You’ve hired your team for a reason, in some cases it’s to complement your own skill sets by offering experience in areas you are not as strong. If you’re employing this approach, don’t forget that ultimately the final decision (and responsibility) is still yours as team leader. This style may not be the best approach to take for major decisions or time-sensitive challenges.

Visionary Leaders

Companies that grow and transform over time are companies that last. Setting out with a clear idea of what your organization offers today is just the beginning. Having a vision of what you’ll be doing 20 years from now is a core component of lasting success.  Visionary leaders have a plan for the future and they clearly communicate that plan to the organization in a manner that motivates the team forward toward this common goal. Visionary leaders encourage autonomy and innovation. The team members are encouraged to try new things. Failure is accepted as an opportunity to learn and grow. This method does not work without a clearly stated mission, however. Nor will it work if you’re unable to communicate that vision to your team.

Ultimately, the best leaders can combine elements from multiple leadership styles in a way that meshes with their own natural inclinations, their corporate culture, and their team’s specific needs. What about you? What’s your leadership style? Join the conversation on LinkedIn: linkedin.com/in/cherylmarksyoung