If you surf internet, you would find good amount of material and theories on leadership style. What I am not sure, whether these are good enough? Some theories are even confusing to people. There is apparently a perception that leadership is a complicated subject and therefore, what comes out from authors are, then, also complicated.
What I have observed is that most people, in current leadership position, either do not pay attention to their style and even if they do, they do not know what they can do to change it, if not effective. Several of them also believe that their style or trait cannot be changed. Some of them take lot of pride in saying “that is my style”, regardless people, whom they are leading, are impressed or distressed from their style.
Let me put together for current and future leaders, what works behind some one’s style and how it can be changed for best results.
Your style emerges from your behavior
Your ideas/thoughts drive your behavior/response, which in turn, drives your style!
In context of leadership, people usually respond to a situation or matter in one of following 3 ways:
- Respond with little or no thoughts, which results into action or emotion or both.
- Respond as per pre-conceived thoughts, which we know as mission or vision or both.
- Respond after thoughts that are governed by experience, which results in being analytical or conventional.
Therefore, your behavior can be classified into 6 patterns:
Under each of above patterns, your behavior falls in a range from (+) to (-), with center point (0) being neutral (not zero). Depending upon your position in this range, your Leadership Style emerges. You can well imagine that your behavior pattern would not be just one but more than one of above. Therefore, you would have several elements in your leadership style; however, by and large you would have 1 main and at least 2 secondary.
How your leadership style is formed
In this pattern of behavior, you like to take definitive action for every event or situation, which you come across.
One of your team leaders comes and pins blame on his/her team members for dis-satisfaction of a customer. The range of your actions could be:
(-) Call all team members; show your utter angst and disgust. Tell them that their careers can get impacted and they would pay a price for their failure.
(0) Ask the team leader to investigate what had gone wrong; send you a note or report for further action.
(+) Call all team members and leader; understand what had gone wrong, you yourself suggest what are the possible remedies and preventive measures, lend your moral support to team and write to the customer, what you are doing to address his issue.
If your behavior follows above tendencies most of the time, then following styles would emerge in you as leader:
(-) action would lead to Aggressive Leader
(0) would mean you are Task Oriented Leader
(+) would make you Dynamic Leader
This is mainly to do with how you react to or treat your people. At times, it could also be your reaction to a situation.
Example 1 –
An employee seeks meeting with you on how her/his supervisor has been unfair in performance assessment.
(-) You avoid meeting the employee citing reasons of your pre-occupation or you meet; but justify supervisor and state how you dislike such kind of complaints.
(0) You meet employee, sympathize with her/him and ask to perform better next time.
(+) Call supervisor first and assess whether issue is with him or employee. If issue is with supervisor, then mentor and coach him how he should handle performance assessments and suggest a way to correct his assessment, after your meeting with employee. Next, call the employee and listen to his/her view points. If employee is right, advice what he/she needs to do to bridge gap in the perception of supervisor of his/her performance. If employee is wrong, then explain what the issue is with his/her performance and how to address same to improve.
Example 2 –
You have one of your very senior manager as blue eyed boy; but an under performer.
(-) You continue lending your support, grow him over other performing managers and vehemently justify your actions.
(0) Considering his seniority and proximity to you, you grow him at the same pace as other performing managers.
(+) Give him time line to improve performance; after which an honorable exit.
Considering above tendencies, following styles would descend in you:
(-) leanings would lead you to be people unfriendly, egoist and playing games at your whims and fancies. You would be an Autocratic Leader.
(0) Your tendency to please all or most and avoid conflicts would drive you to be a Cheer Leader.
It can also turn your leadership style to what is known in French as Laissez Faire Leader i.e. to keep your hand off and give full freedom to the group or direct reports to manage.
(+) You would be people friendly, interested in employees’ development and a good coach. This makes you People Friendly or Coach Leader.
Two important categories of leader emerge; when above 2 patterns of behavior get combined:
Action (-) and Emotion (-) would make a Toxic Leader. Such leader could be very difficult to handle, would be ruthless and generally make employees’ life difficult; but could drive good performance of company.
Action (+) and emotion (+) would make you a Charismatic Leader, who would impact people and be dashing and darling of all!