Archana Law elaborates on diverse leadership styles

What does it mean to be a leader? Is it simply to guide those who look up to you or something deeper and more intuitive? Generally, every manager, employer, director and supervisor who is responsible for maintaining company directives, as well as guiding employees they work with to higher levels of productivity and proficiency, is a leader. If you’re in such a position, how do you manage those with whom you work? Which of the many leadership styles do you employ in your daily work routine?

 WRONG STYLE Research undertaken by Gallup has found that organisations choose the wrong leader a whopping 82 percent of the time and get it wrong eight out of 10 times. It’s easy to assume that those wrong choices weren’t suitable to be in leadership positions. But a four year study conducted by Leadership IQ found that more often, it’s the leader’s style that’s not suitable to a particular culture. Different projects, teams, tasks and businesses need diverse leadership styles. The bottom line is that the wrong leadership style demotivates employees, undermines productivity and trains people to disengage or leave.

RIGHT STYLE So how do you know which style is called for and successfully adopt the right one? The purpose here is to delve into the components of different styles and highlight how one can learn to use them advantageously. Different leadership styles must be explored to select the approach that fits who you are, and the talents and abilities you bring to the table.

Let’s explore different leadership styles while keeping in mind that no one style is necessarily better. It’s also important to note that these styles can be interchanged with one another depending on the circumstances. A truly effective leader will be able to select the style that best suits the situation.

AUTOCRATIC Like Sauron in The Lord of the Rings, this style is characterised by a top-down approach. Usually, the leader dictates orders and has high expectations of his or her employees. Not expecting feedback from the staff, the leader makes the decisions and delivers performance based rewards or punishment with little remorse. The primary objective of this leadership style is to obtain the immediate compliance of employees or subordinates. Control is very important for this leadership style, discipline is valued and conflicts or differences of opinion are avoided.

A major drawback is that this style doesn’t promote any learning, reduces employee morale (particularly of experienced members of staff), and ultimately erodes productivity and performance.

AUTHORITATIVE Like Prof. Dolores Umbridge of Harry Potter fame, an authoritative leader rules not so much with an iron fist as a paper one on a wave of forms, rules and regulations. Believing in procedures and compliance, and doing things by the book, such leaders set a vision with a long-term direction and concrete plan. Employees generally feel valued, satisfied and confident as they go about their tasks. This style works best where the leader enjoys credibility and commands respect from employees.

PARTICIPATIVE Termed the ‘democratic style’ of leading, leaders like Simba in The Lion King encourage the active participation of all employees. When people are seen as more important than their functions, harmonious relationships abound in the workplace – and employees are highly engaged and motivated.

Such leaders listen to advice, keep stakeholders informed of decisions and gather information from the wider team, even affording credit to the team during moments of pride. This style works best when used with other leadership styles – it may be used as a balance against the autocratic style.

PACESETTER Like Jack Welch, a pacesetter leader focusses on targets and the speed with which they’re being achieved. Such a leader typically completes tasks to a high degree of excellence, and has great expectations of quality and efficiency.

Often, this puts too much pressure on employees – particularly if they lack the skills, competence and expertise required. It can be stressful for all concerned.

COACHING A coaching leader is highly focussed on the professional development of employees – usually with a hands-on approach to developing and encouraging new skill sets in subordinates.

Like John Hammond in Jurassic Park, the experienced leader motivates with good interpersonal understanding, and provides opportunities for professional growth and development in a supportive environment.

The downside is that this is time-consuming, requires patience and takes long to deliver significant results.

All these styles work well in specific situations; and often, a mix of various styles works best across different teams and tasks.