KNOW YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE ! (Know When to Flex It)

In many ways, I got lucky.

I discovered my leadership style in my first full-time job.

Having survived high school, I was uncertain about pursuing a University Arts degree.

Long story short, I opted for a teaching career at the ripe old age of 18.

The profession was in short supply, so by age 19, I was on the other side of the desk as a public school teacher 

The credentialing and training bodies of the day were high on the Socratic Method of Education. 

This grounding in thinking things through and asking relevant questions has stood me in good stead in my vocational and entrepreneurial pursuits.

 So, bottom line up front, my affinity has always been that of a coach and teacher.

It all started with a rambunctious and sometimes surly class of pre teens.

To top it all off I had to teach them music. (my specialty at 19)

We had to toss the curriculum, break out the guitar, and learn about music with tunes that they loved.

Decades later, I still love those AHA! moments in others!

The Leadership Styles

Much has been written about the various identifiable leadership styles. 

Personality Assessment tools like Myers Briggs, DiSC, and Birkman represent a burgeoning worldwide industry.

These tools help emerging and well-tenured leaders gain insights into their personal leadership styles. 

Borrowing heavily from one of my favourite writers, Daniel Gloleman, here are six basic identifiable styles. 

Commanding (or Coercive)  Leadership: 

“Do as I say, no questions asked. My way or the highway.”

This style is best suited for fixing problems quickly and effectively; it is most prevalent in military and paramilitary organizations with a top-down chain of command leadership structure. 

 While some organizations still rely on this approach, it can create a climate of fear, and there’s no room for collaboration or voicing opinions.

In my years of construction and project management, I have seen a lot of this style and even employed it myself when needed.

Visionary (or Authoritative) Leadership

Follow me! This is where we’re headed. Now you guys figure it out !”

Visionaries are vital to every organization.

Without a strong vision for a preferred future, things go nowhere.

This style provides a clear direction and goal but allows team members to determine how to achieve it. 

The obvious downside is that this leadership style is prone to being short on details, organizational planning, and how-tos.

The most effective visionary leaders learn other supporting skills, such as planning, mobilizing, and communication.

They’re at their best when they are humble enough to surround themselves with a team of leaders who can backfill their shortcomings.

Democratic (or Participative) Leadership: 

“What do you think? Let’s put it to a vote and decide as a group.”

Widely understood in our democratic society, this style is very unwieldy when it comes to practical application in enterprise.

The 50% plus one vote on controversial or divisive issues leaves 49% disgruntled and perhaps resentful.

As resentment builds up, it increasingly cripples a team’s effectiveness.

Affiliative Leadership:

“Let’s all hold hands before we cross the street. Supporting each other through thick and thin is the key to our success.”

This style is very nurturing. It values input from all team members and encourages collaboration, but it can lead to slower decision-making. 

 There’s a focus on psychological safety and harmony within the team.

Downside results can be a lack of direction and avoidance of constructive feedback. 

Pacesetting Leadership: 

“I set the pace, and I expect everyone to keep up. Excellence is our standard.”

This style sets high standards and leads by example. The brisk, multidirectional pace can be exhausting for team members and colleagues trying to keep up.

While a a lot of things get done, there’s usually a trail of bodies left in the wake (high turnover, burnout, and disillusionment).

Coaching Leadership:

“Let me guide you to unleash your potential. Together, we’ll grow and achieve more than you ever thought possible.”

“This style emphasizes personal leadership development and mentoring of team members.

It involves helping them achieve achieve larger goals and identify strengths and weaknesses.

Highly effective, it’s also very time consuming and challenging to do at scale.

Concluding Thoughts 

The COVID years have impacted just about everything, including our leadership styles. 

Here are some big changes that I’ve observed.

Increased Transparency and Communication: 

With colleagues dispersed and uncertainty prevalent, effective leaders increased the frequency and transparency of communications. 

Being open about the challenges and where things are at helps maintain trust and morale.

Greater Emphasis on Empathy and Emotional Intelligence: 

Leaders today have to demonstrate greater empathy and understanding, acknowledging the stress, uncertainty, and personal challenges their teams face.

This shift has meant we must be more attuned to the mental health and well-being of those around us.

Flexibility and Adaptability:  Our work environments have undergone disruptive changes. 

It’s meant that leaders have to be highly adaptable and flexible in their decision-making and problem-solving approaches.

“Flexing your style” is recognizing when your default style isn’t working and being flexible enough to match your style to the situation. 

Exceptional leaders have learned to adapt and deploy different styles depending on the situation rather than relying on just one. 

It’s about not relying on one best single approach.

Until next time,