How to Select and Refine the Ideal Leadership Style

How to Select and Refine the Ideal Leadership Style

As it is crucial to productivity, morale, and a positive company culture, effective leadership can make or break a business. To be successful and drive the team forward, leaders need to adapt their style to changing situations. For some, switching between techniques can be a difficult task to master. Not every aspect of great leadership needs to be instinctive, but some key skills are fundamental to anyone in a senior position. Primarily, they need to be excellent communicators. This enables them to act as a mentor to their team, delegate tasks when it’s appropriate to do so, and inspire the workforce to strive for excellence. Once the team and their leader form a bond, they are more likely to respect the company and its mission.

Establishing a style of leadership

At the beginning of their leadership career, people often take on a style that reflects their personal and professional background, as well as their personality. It’s not necessarily a bad idea, because understanding the method that works best for them is part of being a leader. Nevertheless, when things start going wrong, or the team is not responding positively, knowing when to switch styles is important. To keep the company and the team moving in the right direction, you might need to nurture a more flexible style that utilizes a range of techniques and lets you adjust to new conditions quickly.

What are the main styles of leadership?

There are seven core styles of leadership, and each can be modified to become part of your toolkit. The best leaders can shift from one style to the next as they manage different situations and types of people. Here’s a look at the different styles and what makes them effective.

1. Mentoring leaders

Mentors see their employees as pools of raw talent waiting for direction. Like a coach in sports, they strive to provide the information and guidance required for people to make full use of their abilities, both independently and as part of a team. They often use feedback to connect with their staff, spotting and cultivating the strengths a person already has. When it comes to weaknesses, they provide goals that a person can consider as they improve their performance. Mentoring leaders often believe that challenging people brings out the best in them.

A leader can take this approach in various sectors, including human resources, finance, and medical settings. If you are already a qualified nurse and hope to become a nurse leader, a Master of Science in Nursing could be the springboard you need. At Rockhurst University, the syllabus is taught completely online, so you can graduate with all the skills you need to excel, at a pace that works for you. The focus remains on the workplace, but mentors are also dedicated to ensuring people reach their potential and realize their individual goals. These leaders take the time to notice every employee, so their style benefits a team that is open to change and new ideas. The challenge for mentors is to remain focused on the big picture.

2. Laissez-faire leaders

Teams who receive minimal input from their boss are being managed by a delegative leader. More often referred to as laissez-faire leaders, they are the opposite of a micromanager and won’t flood a team with directions when a new project is launched. Instead, employees are expected to find solutions using their own initiative. The leadership that is provided consists of setting out expectations and outlining the parameters in place. However, laissez-faire leaders remain accessible and are around to talk over any issue that arises. They also keep an eye on how a team is performing and are ready to deliver constructive feedback as required.

In design, education, and social media environments, where most employees can work independently, this style of leadership flourishes. It’s also ideal in companies where people work on projects individually. A relaxed style can lead to inefficiency if clear expectations are not established at an early stage. Furthermore, if team members tend to clash, closer management is required to prevent a fall in morale.    

3. Pacesetter leaders

Pacesetters try to get their team over the finish line as fast as possible; they tend to get their hands dirty with everyone else and lead from the front. Although there is usually a lot of energy in the room, their expectations remain high. This style is adapted to meeting deadlines and boosting results regularly, they may also be involved in refining a new service or product. When pacesetters are coupled with a team of highly motivated people, the pressurized environment they create can be dynamic. In manufacturing or production, these leaders ensure important targets don’t go unmet.

Many employees thrive in such an exhilarating workplace. They get a sense of satisfaction as each objective is met and like to know they’ve made a difference at the end of the day. This must be monitored carefully, however, to avoid people feeling exhausted and burnt out. People who prefer individual feedback and a relaxed pace will not perform at their best for a pacesetter. As a result, repeated mistakes can become an issue for some members of staff.

4. Transformative leaders

Sometimes referred to as visionaries, transformative leaders dedicate themselves to the big picture and the organization’s key principles. They create a set of objectives to show where the company is headed and what will happen from that point. With a constant focus on the future, transformative leaders can inspire a workforce by laying out ambitious plans. Part of this style is empowerment. They work hard to encourage others to excel, bringing them out of their comfort zone, setting up professional development opportunities, and taking on board their input when it comes to achieving objectives.

Visionaries shine in two main types of organizations, ones that have been adrift and directionless for a while and ones which want to maintain a fast pace. They can minimize disruption during mergers and restructuring drives, as well as other types of risky transformation. As they race to the finish, visionaries can miss important details that affect daily operations. This can lead to them neglecting any current issues, including their employee’s individual preferences and needs.

5. Authoritarian leaders

Also referred to as autocratic, this style of leadership involves having a distinct idea of what the end goal is and how it is to be achieved. The guidelines they establish are expected to be stuck with and there are set expectations for how and when jobs are finished. As a result, authoritarian leaders require a team to accept their directions swiftly and without question. They are not always superior-acting people, but they are keenly focused on getting the result they want through the actions they believe will work. At best, they might consult with a small number of people on their plans.

It might not sound conducive to a happy working environment, but there are situations in which this style excels. Primarily, this is where the same, consistent, and reliable results are important every day. In some industries, such as the military and construction, autocratic leaders give their team a lot of guidance because rules need to be followed and there is little time to chat. However, in different environments, it can lead to employees developing a lack of confidence or trust in their leader. When people don’t feel listened to and their input is ignored, they can also lack motivation and commitment. Moreover, innovation potential can be overlooked by a leader who neglects their team.

6. Facilitative leaders

Leaders who tend to put their team first, in terms of their professional and emotional needs, are known as affiliative or facilitative. By paying attention to how the team is feeling, they can create a sense of coherence and calm in the workplace. In turn, this can nurture the collaborative element of work. Employees are generally given more say when it comes to decision-making, but even a facilitative leader will add their thoughts to the process. Using a blend of attentiveness and praise, they build up the confidence of every employee, but also establish a sense of balance in the entire team.

When morale is low, an affiliative leader can get everyone pulling in the same direction and tackle areas of conflict. In the retail industry or offices which often experience hectic periods and may be short-staffed, they can help employees take a rational approach to the situation. When people are happy and feel they are being supported at work, they are more likely to stay. Therefore, workplaces that include this type of leadership can have high retention rates. However, these leaders must balance the welfare of individuals with the needs of the team as a unit. People who underperform can go unnoticed and this can harm productivity, especially if a leader tries to keep their feedback purely positive.

7. Participative Leaders

Leaders who take a democratic approach to managing their team or department are known as participative. When it comes to dealing with change or making a big decision, they value teamwork overall. After they describe the problem and ask for suggestions, a participative leader will decide what is to be done with help from the entire team. As a general rule, they prefer to keep a dialogue open and promote group involvement. When the outcome is known, everyone feels they have had the opportunity to provide input. Nevertheless, it is always the leader who makes the final decision.

In education and some areas of manufacturing where conclusions are reached over time, democratic leadership can help an organization figure out the best way forward. Where a goal needs to be reached using a creative approach, rather than just hard work, they are most effective. Giving each employee an equal voice is great for morale, but it can draw out the decision-making process unnecessarily. Moreover, a lot depends on the dynamic of the team. In some instances, debate can be a productive tool, in others debate is impeded by individuals or how the entire team reacts to each other.

Why does every leader have a unique style?

With the right leadership strategy, a person can appear more confident than they feel, but a poor style can mask superior skills in minutes. People who are hoping to take on an executive position can nurture their personal style in several ways. A good starting point is making the distinction between personality and leadership style. By a certain age, most have us have developed a fixed set of traits and that is who we are — our authentic personality. Style is more about the things you do and the times you choose to do them. Whereas your personality cannot be easily changed, your leadership style can be learned. The process might be tough, but all leaders have had to work on their style in the early days. Here’s a look at how it can be done successfully.

Interpret feedback correctly 

Leaders are more accustomed to handing out feedback than receiving it, but by listening to others, they can become better at what they do. In order to nurture a workplace culture that values communication, new leaders should not just be open to feedback but able to decode its obscure meanings. People are often uncomfortable with giving feedback to their employer or superior, so making a point of requesting it is important. Leaders who are willing to read between the lines will learn what they are doing right and what is not working as far as their team is concerned.

Choosing how you use it

Once the results are in, it’s up to you to choose how and if the suggestions are implemented. Making changes can show people you are listening and you value their ideas, which in turn can make for a more productive environment. For people who are just starting out, feedback is a cost-effective and accessible way of gaining insight into your performance. Leaders who want to improve can do so by talking to those around them regularly.

Practice introspection 

Leaders often face similar challenges day after day, those who excel have learned to focus on what is important. Leaders who have not yet mastered the art of maintaining a balanced approach, have often failed to consider their personal feelings. When there is no effort in terms of planning for the future or prioritizing their workload, a leader can find themselves lurching from one drama to another. Once they take time to look inward, thinking about what is motivating them and what they hope to achieve, their self-awareness can flourish. By retaining a sense of self-awareness, you’ll find it simpler to establish relationships with co-workers, manage your emotions and remain a competent leader.

Understanding what drives you and your team

Whether it’s done through journaling or simply by setting aside time for contemplation, learning more about your principles can give you a clearer outlook. From here you can develop more plans for the future and try to envision how you want things to be. Scheduling time for introspection is something all leaders need to do, both in the early stages of their career and as they become more experienced. Knowing your intentions makes them simpler to convey, so you can get the best out of others and support your organization.

Have empathy for others 

With a little patience and a sincere interest in the well-being of your team, empathy is a skill that can be honed. As your responsiveness grows and develops, you’ll understand more about where people are coming from and what their motivations are. Not all leaders take on their first role with sympathy for their workforce and a compassionate approach to their problems, although those who do certainly have the advantage. However, even when you’re in the role, there are things you can do to improve your empathy levels.

Spend time with the team 

The most straightforward way of becoming a more considerate leader is to regularly roll up your sleeves and join in with what your team are doing. By taking part in the day-to-day grind, you’ll meet everyone face to face and gain a deeper knowledge of what they do for the company. From here, you will be better placed to appreciate their point of view and the effort they make. Eventually, you’ll emerge as a genuine leader who listens to the team, but you’ll also gain a more comprehensive knowledge of the business.

Your leadership style can be refined

A person’s leadership style can make or break their career and their reputation, as well as their company’s fortunes. However, these different styles of leading people can certainly be enhanced and tweaked over time. When someone sets out to improve their leadership, they might choose to try out traits from a range of styles and in doing so, develop a more blended version of their own. If they stick with it, their hard work can have an immediate impact on people’s willingness to trust, follow and believe them.