Are You Applying the Right Leadership Style for the Task at Hand?

Are You Applying the Right Leadership Style for the Task at Hand?

Effective leadership is creating an environment where people want to apply themselves purposefully to a cause. Mastering your effective leadership style consists of the combination of two ideas:

  1. Understanding your behavioral style (how you tend to naturally come across to others) and;
  2. Understanding the application needed for the situation at hand.

Behavioral Style Leadership

The type of behavioral style that you radiate depends largely on your personality and can be divided into four different types of leadership:

  • If you have a direct and results based personality style you will tend to strive to get things done. Great for driving results; be cautious of over-kill and being seen as unwilling to listen to others.
  • If you have a conciliatory personality you will tend to be more democratic in style, giving many people a voice; striving for consensus; be aware of the risk of being seen as indecisive..
  • If you have a penchant for accuracy and detail you will often have a zero defections approach, where you ensure small details are covered; watch out for over-analyzing and having time management issues.
  • If you are persuasive in your approach, you will likely create enthusiasm for a job to be done but watch out for ‘too many ideas all at the same time’; this can create chaotic problems if not handled properly.

To be an effective leader one must be adaptable to different leadership styles, even though each leader has a preferred style. One style may be effective in a given situation while another may not. A leader will occasionally need to shift out of his or her preferred leadership mode to match the needs of the situation.

Situational Leadership

Having an effective leadership style based on the need at hand can occur in the following four ways:

  1. Directive: This style works best where there is chaos, crisis or danger and decisions need to be made and executed swiftly. Here the leader assumes full power and gives firm directives in the following areas:
    • Goal setting
    • Defining problems
    • Deciding on solutions
    • Giving instructions
    • Supervising
    • Evaluating
  2. Supportive: This style is desirable where the leader wants workers to assume high responsibility for company outcomes. There must be a significant level of harmony in the work culture for this style to work well. Here the leader gives much more power to the workers. Decisions are made as follows
    • Goal setting: Leader and employees do this together
    • Problem solving: Done together with leader and employees
    • Leader defines how jobs get done
    • Leader supports if necessary
    • Leader guides employees in decision making
    • Leader evaluates with the employee
  3. Coaching: This style works best when the leader wants to develop workers for increased responsibility. It is a blend between the directive and the supportive style. Decision-making is as follows:
    • Leader sets goals and identifies problems
    • Leader develops plan to solve problems and then gets employee feedback
    • Leader makes final decision and then explains it to employees.
    • Leader affirms the good work of employees
    • Leader evaluates the work
  4. Empowering: This style works well when the leader can inspire others to ‘buy’ their vision fully and pass this vision along to employees who are highly motivated to carry the vision out. Decision-making goes as follows:
    • Leader identifies problems with employees
    • Goal setting is a joint effort between leader and workers
    • Plans are developed together
    • Employees decide who does what
    • Leader monitors employees from a distance
    • Employees evaluate their own work
    • Employees assume credit for the work that they do

The leadership style that we assume will depend on the culture of the company we are serving. One style is not inherently better than another. Finding the appropriate match between work culture and one’s preferred leadership style makes for an optimal corporate exchange between leader and follower. Having the discernment to know the exact combination at any given time is the reason why not all people can be leaders. Effective leadership styles are the key strategies to creating workplace success.

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