What’s your leadership style? Are you a Steve Jobs or a Gandhi? Creative or rigid? Direct or collaborative?
There’s no definitive right way to lead. Different groups and different situations require different tactics. Effective leadership considers goals of your organization, your individual strengths and the requirements of your team.
It’s important to understand your own style as it’s been said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave managers. As a leader, once you have a handle on that, you can start thinking about how to leverage your strengths and address your weaknesses to achieve greater results.
Here are five leadership types:
Autocratic Leadership: “It’s my way or the highway.”
“If an actor comes to me and wants to discuss his character, I say, ‘It’s in the script.’ If he says, ‘But what’s my motivation?’ I say, ‘Your salary.’” – Director Alfred Hitchcock
An autocratic leadership style is centered around the boss where decisions are made unilaterally and work environments are highly structured and very rigid. This type of leadership works best in situations where control is vital and there is little margin for error. When leadership is lacking or deadlines are looming, having someone providing a clear vision, assigning responsibilities and creating timelines is beneficial.
The disadvantage is that the nature of an autocratic style can invite abuse by leaders. It can hurt morale, stifle communication and creativity and encourage high turnover.
Democratic Leadership: “What do you think?”
“I ask everyone’s opinion when they don’t speak up. And then when they have an opinion, I’ll ask others to talk about it.” — IBM CEO Ginni Rometty
Democratic leadership is where decision-making is shared. It emphasizes collaboration and the free flow of ideas. Its most unique feature is that communication is active upward and downward. Statistics show that this type of leadership leads to lower absenteeism, higher employee engagement and increased productivity.
On the flip side, organizations that incorporate the democratic style still need strong leaders who know how to avoid the pitfalls. For example, too many voices in the discussion slows down the decision-making process. It’s also not effective in a crisis when immediate decisions need to be made.
Transformational Leadership: “Follow me.”
“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” – Sixth US President John Quincy Adams
Transformational leaders lead by inspiring. Through the passion and articulation of their vision, they are able to inspire employees to work towards common goals. This type of leader doesn’t ask to be followed; people follow them because they believe in the mission. Employees are motivated to perform better and maximize their potential.
But transformational leaders often assume that, because they believe in a common mission, employees agree with all their ideas. That is not always true. The passion of a leader also can dim as it trickles down the power structure depending on such real-world issues as salary and hours required in the office.
Transactional Leadership: “Do this and you can have that.”
“There are only two stimulants to one’s best efforts: the fear of punishment and the hope of reward.” – Civil War General John Moulder Wilson
Transactional leaders motivate followers through a system of rewards and punishments. They are generally results-focused. A transactional leader defines roles and responsibilities for each employee and sets up a structure that has clear incentives for achievements, such as bonuses or promotions, and penalties for poor performance. In some work environments, especially large work environments, transactional leadership is the only way to get things done and its emphasis on structure can be very beneficial.
Transactional leadership does curtail creativity since goals and objectives are already set. There is also no enduring purpose that the leader and employee share.
Laissez-Faire Leadership: “I’ll leave it to you.”
“Surround yourself with the best people you can find, delegate authority, and don’t interfere.” – 40th US President Ronald Reagan
Laissez-faire leadership is where leaders are hands-off and allow group members to make the decisions. Projects are assigned and results are submitted on time. It works where group members are highly skilled and motivated, such as the advertising and design fields. Because team members get to exercise a great deal of freedom free from micromanaging, they often feel more inspired and creative.
Though with employees that are lacking in the necessary knowledge, motivation or time management skills, this can be a disaster. Lack of a boss’s involvement can also be interpreted as lack of interest.
By identifying and examining your own style, you can hone your skills and become a better leader.