There is no right way to lead. Any good leader knows that there are moments when leadership styles need to be flexible based on situations, personalities, and goals. But when choosing which leadership style is the best fit for you at a given moment, it’s useful to know what your options are, as well as the pros and cons that come with each unique model. In this month’s TREND, we’re covering the basics of the five most utilised leadership styles; Laissez-Faire, Autocratic, Participative, Transactional, and Transformative – which we unpack in more detail in this month’s GUIDE.
Laissez-Faire Leadership is a style of leadership where leaders deliberately choose to have a hands-off approach, aimed at enabling the followers to make decisions and solve problems on their own. Laissez-Faire Leadership is also often accompanied by very little guidance from leaders, making it a distinctive approach from Transformative Leadership (which, while using a similar “back foot” approach, always combines transparent mentorship and guidance). Under a Laissez-Faire Leadership model, followers are given complete authority to make decisions, under the requirement that the leader will take all responsibility for their actions. This has some serious benefits and pitfalls. For example, if somebody makes an unfortunate decision, as expected, the leader then takes the brunt of the repercussions, however harmful, that the employee’s mistake has made. However, if an employee makes an intelligent decision, suddenly all credit for their work becomes the responsibility of the leader, often leading to unfair recognition and disputes within teams. A Laissez-Faire Leadership approach requires all employees to be self-motivated. As this is often not the case, studies have shown the Laissez-Faire model to be the least productive.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we find Autocratic Leadership, a leadership model characterised by giving full control to the leader, with very little input required from their support. This is often considered a very classical approach to leadership (you might like to think of it as the Joffrey Game of Thrones approach!) Autocratic leaders pilot their dominion with very little input or advice needed from others. Often this leads to total authoritarian control, which can result in highly structured, rigid reforms. Autocratic leadership can be beneficial when decisions need to be made quickly. If one person is calling the shots, no questions asked, then it’s no wonder that there is little time for discussion. However, Autocratic Leadership can also mean that the person in charge quashes ideas and solutions that are both creative and innovative. Employees are shown to have a much higher work satisfaction rate if they feel like their input is received and valued. If speaking up is discouraged continuously, it becomes difficult for companies to evolve, meaning that ideas tend to stagnate, employees become dissatisfied, and gradually the business can become strained.
The Participative Leadership model (also sometimes known as Democratic Leadership) allows all group members to have their voices heard and give informed and intelligent insights into all decision making. In a Participative Leadership model, all members are given the freedom to contribute, meaning that productivity remains high, and members are always engaged and satisfied that they are valued. Participative leadership is unique in that, although all group members are encouraged to make decisions, the final decision is left up to the leader. Democratic leaders typically: help employees evaluate their performance, recognise and promote achievement, and allow employees to establish clear and realistic goals. Of course, there are times that the Participative Leadership model is not going to be the best fit. These include; moments under a lot of time pressure (if things are already tight, trying to hear from everyone is not going to be the most effective use of your time), employee safety is a critical concern, and staff are not yet confident to voice their own opinions.
Transactional leadership is all about give and take. Transactional Leaders manage by maintaining organisation, supervision, and group performance through a reward and penalty scheme. This form of leadership derives its success from a transparent chain of command. For employees working under a Transactional Leadership model, there is always a sense of transparency between how the link between their performance and their success within the business. Transactional leadership is often used within goal-orientated systems, like sporting teams, as it can seriously help to improve the performances of team members. However, when all motivation is about receiving reward, supporters can begin to feel motivated by the wrong reasons, and or push themselves to complete tasks that are out of their ability or not suitable for their current competency – think about the consequences of an athlete pushing themselves to reach a particular goal, despite injury or fatigue. Research has shown that Transactional Leadership tends to be most successful when problems are simple and clearly defined. It is also useful in times of crisis when employees can benefit from clearly assigned tasks and structure.
Transformational leadership is all about inspiring and encouraging positive change. You can read all about the ins and outs of Transformative Leadership in detail in this month’s GUIDE article, but here is a quick recap! This is a leadership model that enables every member of your team to succeed. It is often regarded as the single most effective style of leadership because it is most easily adaptable to your team’s unique needs. The transformational leadership model is one that encourages leaders to demonstrate authentic, strong leadership, inspiring employees to follow suit. The ‘change’ or ‘transform’ part of this model then, is not just related to systems (whether social or institutional) but also on an individual level. There are four core components of Transformational Leadership. These are; Individualised Consideration, Intellectual Stimulation, Inspirational Motivation, and Idealised Influence.
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