The right leadership style is a critical tool in your ability to drive growth within your business.
But more importantly, to create a strong sense of purpose within your culture. Like anything you are not necessarily born a leader, but it is something that can be learned and is essential in businesses of any size.
There is no right or wrong in the style you use (unless you are abusive and unfair, then you are possibly not quite doing it right!), but you do need to be an authentic leader. Also bear in mind your leadership style will evolve as the business grows and develops.
There will be times that you are forced into personal growth situations where your leadership will take a turn, you might become more confident, stop being a pushover and become stronger, or more nurturing because your staff needs have changed. The goal of being a great leader is to work on yourself as much as those that you lead.
The list below is not definitive but are the most common leadership styles you will experience. Which one do you currently align most authentically with?
Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but critically they include team members in the decision-making process this means team members are often highly engaged in projects and decisions and their opinions valued.
The goal of democratic leadership is to create an environment where there is safety in team members exploring their roles and having the freedom to do so. This also allows them to develop their own leadership pathway with the support of a key decision maker by their side.
The culture of innovation also grows as the team will feel comfortable in challenging the leadership and that you can trust their reasons why.
Autocratic leadership is an extreme form of transactional leadership that leaves little room for team member growth even if they have a lot of value to share.
While autocratic leadership is efficient in some business models it also drives weakness within the business through a lack of loyalty to a core purpose resulting in high staff turnover.
This leadership style may work in transactional and mechanical formats but will leave your workforce unfulfilled. The short term efficiencies will quickly turn into long term costs.
The main benefit of laissez-faire leadership is that giving team members so much autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction and increased productivity. From the French phrase that means “leave it be,” it is a style that works for leaders that leave staff to be autonomous and drive their own outcomes.
There may be instances where it can be seen as a lack of leadership rather than a deliberate strategy. This is where less experienced members of the team will flounder and potentially put more risk into the business.
As long as performance is managed it can be a powerful and insightful style for self-starters, but those who need direction might struggle.
This is a participatory style and tends to encourage good teamwork and creative collaboration that puts people and their needs at the centre of their style. This is the opposite of task-oriented leadership.
People-oriented leaders aim to treat everyone on the team equally to allow trust and respect to flourish. They make themselves available whenever team members need help or advice, sometimes at the detriment of their own needs.
The benefit of this leadership style is that people-oriented leaders create teams that everyone wants to be part of and a culture that drives natural and purposeful success. Team members are often willing to take risks, because they know that the leader will provide support if they need it.
Transformational leaders are inspiring because they expect and drive the best from everyone on their team as well as themselves understanding their potential to achieve.
To support a transformational leader it is often best to pair them with a transactional leader that can focus on the detail, a project manager or department head. This allows for growth and innovation while not getting stuck in the weeds.
It’s also important to use other leadership styles when necessary – this will depend on the people you’re leading, the type of business and the situation that you’re in. Almost daily.
Transactional leadership is really a type of management, not a true leadership style, because the focus is on short-term tasks. And can almost be directly linked to a fixed mindset that does not move beyond the task at hand.
The “transaction” usually involves the organisation paying team members in return for their effort and compliance. This can be seen in situations where ego plays a part and control is important to them. While it will drive high gains in performance for some it may stop them from being ‘creative’ and stepping outside their role.
This leadership style may work well in a sales environment but lack traction in the creative industries where a more fluid growth pathway might be more suited
What impact does your leadership style have on your business?
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