An organisation has a number of leaders across levels and it is the leaders who lead the way and either make it happen, allow it to happen or prevent it from happening. Good leadership can positively impact the success of an organisation and build a passionate workforce that can make the impossible possible. On the other hand, bad leadership can result in high attrition, employee dissatisfaction and hence, low levels of productivity for the team or the organisation at large.
Leadership style is amongst the top conversation drivers across office corridors, for years. All of us would have worked with those inspiring leaders who pushed us beyond our limits and helped us deliver the best, and also crossed paths with those forgettable bosses who acted like crazy control freaks.
Over the years, the leadership definition has changed quite a lot, with new leaders taking over. The Alpha leader is no longer the preferred option for organisations. Instead, a more evolved and engaged leader who can keep the team motivated and excited about the overall objective of the business is the one who is valued. A number of factors have driven this change in leadership style – rise of globalisation, a Millennial workforce, and technology driven businesses, to name a few.
Interestingly, there is no right leadership style. Leadership style is not something that can be taught at business schools. It has to do with one’s personality, his/her experiences and how one grows as a professional. Some leaders have a democratic leadership style and let people speak their mind. Some leaders are approachable and encourage innovation, while there are others who believe in keeping all the control and creating innumerable processes for the team members to follow. There are leaders who trust their team members and believe that they are professionals, while there is another lot of leaders who do not trust anyone and believe in micromanaging.
Leaders can be of many kinds. Understanding the common leadership styles can help to identify one’s strengths and weaknesses and also in turn, become a better leader. Here is a set of classic leadership styles that exist!
Style 1: Autocratic or authoritarian leader
This is the conventional leadership style where the leader calls all the shots, without consulting with the team members. The leader is the center of all the power and decision-making. He directs his team and assigns responsibilities. The team is only expected to follow decisions taken by the leader. The leadership style of autocrats can vary in degree. The hard-boiled autocrat is the most rigid one and generally survives by using the force of fear and punishment in directing his subordinates.
This leadership style is not a very successful one. An autocratic leader is generally rigid and comes across as rude, negative and self-centered. Autocratic leaders do not communicate enough and only share limited information with the team members. The team is not in the know-how of the scenario at hand or the business importance of the project they are working on and hence, generally feels out of place and demoralised. Such leaders have little control on their moods and reactions and tend to lose their cool if their team members even try to do something without taking their permission or share a point of view contrary to the one proposed by the leader. Control is what keeps such leaders going and they don’t want to let go of this control for anything.
This leadership style generally results in low productivity, micromanagement and limited team bonding. Also, it does not resonate with the Millennials and the GenZ who prefer to share their views, are independent and do not like to be controlled.
Style 2: Democratic of participative leadership
This style is more in sync with the times and works well across a range of organisations, including emerging ones. A democratic leader decentralises authority. He encourages his team members to share their views on important matters. He encourages collaborative planning and decision- making. Every team member is made to feel important under such a leader. This leadership style requires the leader to be creative, considerate and competent. It works well with an organisation where majority of workforce is skilled and experienced. Also, it works well with the new age employees (Millennials and GenZ).
The advantages of this are aplenty. The team members feel connected to the bigger vision of the team and the business, they feel important and more enthusiastic to put in their best foot forward. The morale of the team is generally high and there is better team connect, better productivity and lower attrition rates.
The downside is that this may slow down the decision making process. Also, at times, the inexperienced team members might not be comfortable with this model.
Style 3: Transformational Leader
A transformational leadership style is considered to be one of the highly impactful ones. A transformational leader not only expects the best from his team, but also does not shy away from working hard to be the best in whatever he does. A transformational leader constantly pushes his team members outside their comfort zones and encourages them to explore newer challenges. He need not be physically present to lead the team but can motivate the employees to perform.
Transformational leaders are the most influential lot and are higher respected. They can nurture and groom future leaders. They empower their team in order to achieve the best results. They are strong personalities who value people more than position. They tend to build well-knit and cohesive teams, even in a distributed setup.
Tansformational leaders are the best fit for fast growing companies as the teams perform very well under such leadership. They have strategic vision and intellectual stimulation to initiate change, not only in their own personality or way of working but also in others. The tricky part is that they don’t settle for the usual and the ordinary. They set high and challenging goals for the team and are strive to achieve exceptional results.
Steve Jobs is regarded as an iconic transformational leader. He worked hard and always encouraged his employees to think bigger and think differently. He also inspired them to innovate and create the best-in-class products.
Style 4: Laissez-Faire Leadership
The French term “laissez faire” literally translates to “let them do”. These types of leaders avoid power and responsibility. They are the non-interfering kinds who pass on the responsibility of decision making to their team members and do not take much initiative in administration. They do not give much direction and let the team deliver on its own.
Such leaders allow team members to work at their own pace and provide flexibility. They work well with self-motivated and skilled workforce that is motivated to succeed and do their jobs well.
This leadership style will not work well if the team or organisation has employees with no or very less experience and hence, need constant supervision and directions to complete their jobs. This leadership style can limit the development of such employees and may also lead to lack of unity and cohesion in a team.
Style 5: Bureaucratic leader
This kind of leader goes by the book. The leadership style revolves around following company policies or past practices. The leader may encourage team members to share feedback but will reject it if it is not in sync with the company rules.
Such leaders do well in traditional, larger and older companies. These leaders follow the existing processes and do not believe in reinventing the wheel. They tend to shut down innovation. This leadership style does not work for ambitious, fast growing, new age companies.
Style 6: Charismatic leadership
A charismatic leader is the one who has the power to influence and inspire people. Such leaders are smooth talkers, confident, passionate and self-motivated. Their strong self- image and aura can help attract the best of talent and partners. They can do wonders in raising the brand’s image in the external world. These leaders are energetic, full of passion and believe in keeping their team motivated. They are also great orators and storytellers.
The challenge with this leadership style is that such leaders can become so synonymous with the brand that if they leave, it can have a huge impact. Also, such leaders tend to be more focused about their own brand than the team at large.
To sum it up
Leadership is an important facet of running a team or an organisation. Different types of leadership work well with different organisations or work environments. While a bureaucratic leader would do well in a traditional organisation, a transformational leader fits in well in a growth focused young organisation.
The way a leader manages people and motivates them to deliver results goes a long way in impacting the overall output and the health of the organisation. While each one of us has a distinct key leadership style, the most successful leaders and managers tend to use a mix of different leadership styles. They pick the best characteristics from various leadership types with the objective of ensuring high quality output, in line with the business requirements.
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