Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Leadership Styles

Modern leadership demands finding the right balance between both. You need to recognize your own strengths and exploit them, but you also need to have an ability to adapt your style to different situations in order to achieve the maximum effectiveness. If you lead in a manner that is solely in line with your own preferred leadership style, then you will fail to be effective. If you only try to adapt to the situation, you will suffer from executive burnout.

Leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. Kurt Lewin (1939) led a group of researchers to identify different styles of leadership. This early study has been very influential and established three major leadership styles. The three major styles of leadership are

Ø  Authoritarian or autocratic
Ø  Participative or democratic
Ø  Delegate or Free Reign

Although good leaders use all three styles, with one of them normally dominant, bad leaders tend to stick with one style.

Authoritarian (autocratic)

I want both of you to. . .
This style is used when leaders tell their employees what they want done and how they want it accomplished, without getting the advice of their followers. Some of the appropriate conditions to use it is when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time, and your employees are well motivated.
Some people tend to think of this style as a vehicle for yelling, using demeaning language, and leading by threats and abusing their power. This is not the authoritarian style, rather it is an abusive, unprofessional style called “bossing people around.” It has no place in a leader's repertoire.
The authoritarian style should normally only be used on rare occasions. If you have the time and want to gain more commitment and motivation from your employees, then you should use the participative style.

Participative (democratic)

Let's work together to solve this. . .
This style involves the leader including one or more employees in the decision making process (determining what to do and how to do it). However, the leader maintains the final decision making authority. Using this style is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength that your employees will respect.
This is normally used when you have part of the information, and your employees have other parts. Note that a leader is not expected to know everything — this is why you employ knowledgeable and skillful employees. Using this style is of mutual benefit — it allows them to become part of the team and allows you to make better decisions.

Delegative (free reign)

You two take care of the problem while I go. . .
In this style, the leader allows the employees to make the decisions. However, the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made. This is used when employees are able to analyze the situation and determine what needs to be done and how to do it. You cannot do everything! You must set priorities and delegate certain tasks.
This is not a style to use so that you can blame others when things go wrong, rather this is a style to be used when you fully trust and confidence in the people below you. Do not be afraid to use it, however, use it wisely!


A good leader uses all three styles, depending on what forces are involved between the followers, the leader, and the situation. Some examples include:
Using an authoritarian style on a new employee who is just learning the job. The leader is competent and a good coach. The employee is motivated to learn a new skill. The situation is a new environment for the employee.
Using a participative style with a team of workers who know their job. The leader knows the problem, but does not have all the information. The employees know their jobs and want to become part of the team.
Using a delegative style with a worker who knows more about the job than you. You cannot do everything and the employee needs to take ownership of her job! In addition, this allows you to be at other places, doing other things.
Using all three: Telling your employees that a procedure is not working correctly and a new one must be established (authoritarian). Asking for their ideas and input on creating a new procedure (participative). Delegating tasks in order to implement the new procedure (delegative).

Forces that influence the style to be used included:
How much time is available.
Are relationships based on respect and trust or on disrespect?
Who has the information — you, your employees, or both?
How well your employees are trained and how well you know the task.
Internal conflicts.
Stress levels.
Type of task. Is it structured, unstructured, complicated, or simple?
Laws or established procedures such as OSHA or training plans.

Positive and Negative Approaches


There is a difference in ways leaders approach their employee. Positive leaders use rewards, such as education, independence, etc. to motivate employees. While negative employers emphasize penalties. While the negative approach has a place in a leader's repertoire of tools, it must be used carefully due to its high cost on the human spirit.
Negative leaders act domineering and superior with people. They believe the only way to get things done is through penalties, such as loss of job, days off without pay, reprimanding employees in front of others, etc. They believe their authority is increased by frightening everyone into higher levels of productivity. Yet what always happens when this approach is used wrongly is that morale falls; which of course leads to lower productivity.
Also note that most leaders do not strictly use one or another, but are somewhere on a continuum ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative. People who continuously work out of the negative are bosses while those who primarily work out of the positive are considered real leaders.

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