As a Project and Program Manager for over 20 years, I have been asked many times which “Leadership Style” is best. There is a perception among young leaders that if they embrace one specific style that they will become more successful.
The answer to the question is a response that is seen by some as a riddle and others as an enigma……”It Depends”.
In other words, there is no one specific leadership style that is best. Leadership styles are not something that you can put on and take off like a coat when it gets cold outside. You need to have a core blend and balance of 3-5 leadership styles that you recognize can be used at different times and under different situations that fit. You will need to be able to move or flow from one to another creating a personal leadership palate.
Leadership styles are embedded into what you say, what you do, and finally what you think. The most effective leaders are able to move within their leadership styles in a manner that is consistent and authentic with the styles they embrace. People want their leaders to be predictable in their behaviors and actions. They also want those actions to be based on values and morals that align with the purpose, mission and vision of the organization.
By authentic we want our leaders to be “real”, not fake and that they live those same beliefs and values that help build their organizations and help movement forward in a positive direction. The following 5 different but uniquely positive leadership styles can be used to help you create that forward movement:
- Transformational Leadership
- People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership
- Servant Leadership
- Situational Leadership
- Leaderful Leadership
Transformational Leadership – enhances the motivation, morale, and performance of followers through a variety of mechanisms. These include connecting the follower’s sense of identity and self to the project and the collective identity of their organization. Being a role model for followers inspires them and makes them interested. It challenges followers to take greater ownership in their work, and understad the strengths and weaknesses of followers. The leader can align followers with tasks that enhance their performance. The transforming approach creates significant change in the life of people and organizations. It redesigns perceptions, values, and changes expectations and aspirations of employees.
People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership – consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality. This has also been called shared leadership. With the complexity and ambiguity of tasks that teams often experience, it is becoming more apparent that a single leader is unlikely to have all of the skills and traits to effectively perform the necessary leadership functions. Thus, shared leadership is becoming increasingly popular in teams, as multiple team members emerge as leaders, especially when they have the skills/knowledge/expertise that the team needs. Also encompasses Democratic and Participative Leadership Styles.
Servant Leadership – is both a leadership philosophy and set of leadership practices. Traditional leadership generally involves the accumulation and exercise of power by one at the “top of the pyramid.” By comparison, the servant-leader shares power, puts the needs of others first and helps people develop and perform as highly as possible. The servant leadership approach goes beyond employee-related behavior and calls for a rethinking of the hierarchical relationship between a leader and their subordinates. This does not mean that the ideal of a participative style in any situation is to be enforced, but that the focus of leadership responsibilities is the promotion of performance and satisfaction of employees.
Situational Leadership – a leadership theory first introduced as “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership”. During the mid-1970s, “Life Cycle Theory of Leadership” was renamed “Situational Leadership theory”. The fundamental underpinning of the situational leadership theory is that there is no single “best” style of leadership. Effective leadership is task-relevant, and the most successful leaders are those that adapt their leadership style to the maturity (“the capacity to set high but attainable goals, willingness and ability to take responsibility for the task, and relevant education and/or experience of an individual or a group for the task”) of the individual or group they are attempting to lead or influence. Effective leadership varies, not only with the person or group that is being influenced, but it also depends on the task, job or function that needs to be accomplished.
Leaderful Leadership – As described in a Leaderful Leadership organization there are tenants to 4-C’s that assert a contrast to the familiar traditional leadership model, which tends to identify a single leader with heroic imagery. These Leaders are:
- Concurrent – stipulates that there can be more than one leader operating at the same time in an organization, so leaders willingly and naturally share power with others.
- Collective – the entity is not solely dependent on one individual to mobilize action or make decisions on behalf of others.
- Collaborative – advocate a point of view that can contribute to the common good of the organization, but are equally sensitive to the views & feelings of others.
- Compassionate – demonstrating compassion, one extends unadulterated commitment to preserving the dignity of others.
So now that we have a good clear understanding of 5 unique Leadership Styles….what is the difference between a style and a Leadership trait..?
The difference between leadership styles and traits is subtle, but important. Leadership style refers to the methods used to manage a group of individuals. In addition, leadership style refers to the methods and theories used to solve problems and make decisions. In contrast, leadership traits describe the characteristics and personality traits that are common among leaders or those in a position of authority. Typically, leadership traits encompass physical, emotional, social and intellectual characteristics.
Leadership traits represent the individual characteristics that go into creating a specific leadership style. They can represent positive characteristics such as self-confidence, ambition and high energy, commonly found among leaders representing a wide variety of leadership styles. Other positive leadership traits include the ability to communicate effectively, motivate others and multitask. These traits allow leaders to formulate a leadership style that will move their teams or departments toward accomplishing their organizational goals and initiatives.
The characteristics of leadership or traits that are the most ineffective in helping move your organization forward are micro-managing, criticism, pitting one person against another in a negative competition and demanding that people go faster without a clear understanding of the impacts.
So you can see that helping your organization move forward in a positive direction requires a set of leadership styles that embraces positive leadership traits. And, that “one size does not fit all”.….in other words….you need to review your values and listen to your impact on others. Leaders that help move organizations move forward in a positive direction are responsible, accountable and help clarify the thinking of others. These leadership styles allow leaders to listen, communicate and empower others by removing roadblocks that prevent an organization from moving forward.