5 Leadership Styles You Need to Know About
While there is no magical combination of characteristics that makes a leader successful, flexing your approach and using the right one for your own situation can be all you need to score
If you think you don't need leadership skills because you're not in a leadership role, you're sorely mistaken. A leader is more than a person with a title: a leader is someone who inspires and influences others, motivates them and emulates positive behaviour, no matter if they're a production worker or a CEO.
Stephen Covey once said, "Most people think of leadership as a position and therefore don't see themselves as leaders." But developing your leadership skills can help you progress in every dimension of your life - so don't wait until you get the sign on the door before you start!
Everyone wants to know the recipe for successful leadership. The truth is that there is no magical combination of characteristics that makes a leader successful, and different characteristics matter in different circumstances. This doesn't mean, however, that you can't learn to be an effective leader. By understanding the various approaches to leadership, you can flex your approach and use the right one for your own situation.
There are about as many leadership styles - years of research and experience on the subject have thrown up a whole troupe of them - as there are leaders. That's because leadership is a complex business.
Let's start with finding out more about your current take on leadership by looking at the characteristics of the five most common styles: autocratic, bureaucratic, charismatic, democratic, and laissez-faire.
Autocratic leaders have complete power over employees and employees can't make suggestions.
Pros: Autocratic leaders are in control and the employees have no doubts about who is in charge.
Cons: Most people resent this kind of leadership and it can lead to high ?absenteeism and turnover.
Rules and established procedures are the golden rule in bureaucratic leadership. Everything is done 'by the book'.
Pros: Bureaucratic leadership can be useful when work procedures are necessary for safety, when safety risks are prevalent or when there are large sums of money involved. The bureaucratic style can be useful when the work involves very routine tasks.
Cons: The bureaucratic style isn't good for teams and is an obstacle to creativity, flexibility and innovation. Bureaucratic leaders may not have expertise or real qualifications. They may have gained their position because they conform to, and uphold, rules. This can breed resentment among the ranks.
Charismatic leaders are well liked and lead by sheer force of their charm and personality.
Pros: Charismatic leaders can inspire enthusiasm and energy in their employees. They can excite workers and gain commitment and motivation from them.
Cons: Charismatic leaders may not spearhead change because they are often more focused on themselves than what would benefit the organisation as a whole. They also believe in themselves more than their teams and may take untenable risks. When success is linked to a leader specifically, the organisation can falter badly if that leader leaves.
Democratic leaders include employees in decision-making, even if they make the final decision themselves.
Pros: Democratic leadership can encourage creativity and help develop employee skills. Workers are more engaged, productive and satisfied. They feel empowered and internally motivated. Decisions are usually good ones and this process is great for teams. The democratic style is useful when quality matters more than efficiency.
Cons: The democratic style isn't useful when efficiency and speed are important. Getting everyone's opinion isn't useful during a crisis. If some team members don't have expertise or knowledge, their input may not help generate good decisions.
Laissez-faire means 'leave it be'. Laissez-faire leaders allow people to work on their own and set their own deadlines. They provide advice and resources as needed but they're mostly hands-off.
Pros: Laissez-faire leadership can work when performances are monitored and feedback cycles occur regularly. They can also work when employees are experienced, skilled and motivated. This autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction and productivity.
Cons: Laissez-faire leadership won't work if employees don't have knowledge, motivation or skills or if they don't manage their time well.
In reality, leaders can exhibit several different styles at once to help lead their businesses or organisations to success. They may also adopt different leadership styles depending on who they are working with. If you feel your leadership skills spread across two or more styles, then this suggests you're already flexing your style to suit the circumstances. If you have one very pronounced style, then you'll need to be more adaptable depending on the situation.
(Founder of Wealth Dynamics Unlimited, Oksana Tashakova is a personal branding expert and entrepreneurial educator.)