Which leadership style is the best?
We can be very brief about that; there is no such thing as one best style. Often, we assume that a leadership style is given by a certain position or person. This is unjustly, the art of leadership is to make strategic choices and switch your behavioral style without losing yourself. Instead of choosing the only style that fit’s your temper, it’s all about behaviour matching with a certain situation. Research (source: Daniel Goleman, HBR) shows that the most successful leaders have strengths in the emotional intelligence competencies. This means the ability to lead effectively ourselves and our relations.
This is the ability to both ‘read’ and understand your own emotions and recognizing the impact of them at your work performance, relations, etc. This demands a secure self-assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. It also concerns self-confidence, a strong and positive awareness of self-esteem.
The ability to control disruptive emotions and impulses and the ability to manage yourself and your responsibilities. Are you liable; do you have a constant display of honesty and integrity.
This is the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and overcoming the obstacles. You have the drive to achieve internal standards of excellence. And you show initiative; the willingness to grab the chances and possibilities
This is built up by empathy; the ability to feel the emotions of someone else, to understand their perspective and being actively interested in their thoughts.
Organisational awareness: the ability to read the flows in the organisation, to build decisive networks and to navigate through the politics. Also service-orientation: the ability to recognize and fulfill the needs and wishes of your clients
Here we distinguish visionary leadership: the ability to take responsibility and inspire with a convincing vision. Influence: the ability to handle a series of convincing tactics. Developing others: the natural tendency to help others by feedback and coaching. Communication: the ability to listen and sending clear and well attuned messages. Being the catalyst for change, managing conflicts, establishing connections and teamwork.
Six basic leadership styles
Every style is derived from the various emotional intelligences and they apply best in certain situations. The best leaders don’t only know one style, they are skilled in several styles and have the flexibility to switch between these styles, depending the situation.
Coercive: This style asks for immediate follow up. It is the “do what I say” approach and can be very effective in situations of change, in crisis (disasters), or when you have to work with problematic employees. However, in most situations, this style will inhibit the flexibility of the organisation and dampens the motivation of employees.
Authoritative: this style mobilizes employees to a vision. The authoritative leader uses a “follow me’’ approach. He shows the overall goal, but leaves it to the employees to make their own choices in sources to achieve the results. This style is especially applicable when an organisation is adrift. It is less effective when the leader works with a team of experts that have more experience than himself.
Affiliative: this style creates an emotional bond and harmony. The characteristic of this leader is the attitude of “people first”. This style is very applicable for building teams, harmony or with declining moral. But it’s exclusive focus on appreciation and praise can also cause that bad performance will not be corrected. In addition these leaders seldom give advice, which leaves employees with a dilemma.
Democratic: achieving consensus by working together. This style of leadership doesn’t have such a great impact on the organisation as many think. By giving employees a voice in decision making, democratic leaders build on organisation flexibility, responsibility and they stimulate new ideas. But the price for this is usually endless meetings and confused employees who miss leadership.
Pace-setting: the expectation of self-management and excellence. A leader who sets high performance standards and shows exemplary behaviour, has a very positive impact on employees who are motivated and competent themselves. But other employees can feel overwhelmed by the demand for excellence by such a leader and they can be offended by his tendency for taking over.
Coaching: the development of the employees of the future. This style has a focus on more personal development than on direct work-related tasks. This would be effective when employees are already self-aware of their strengths and weaknesses and what they want to approve, but it isn’t effective when employees are resistant in changing their approach.
Maybe right now you will think the same as I do: “However am I going to learn this? One or maybe two styles I can handle, but all of them….?”
Of course this is a normal reaction. There are two useful solutions: as a leader you build a team with employees who are talented in the other styles and therefore are complementary to your styles. Ore you will develop and learn the other styles!
Of course there are more perspectives on leadership and this article is only one of them. Just look for yourself what is applicable for you or can be for you. When you are more aware of yourself and how you act, you might get some new insights!
Until next time
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