The changing scenarios in an organization call for a leader to don different hats at varied junctures. At times they need to be a friend. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a coach, someone to point in the right direction, and on occasion, to be stern and uncompromising. The most effective leaders should be able to shift among these styles, with a calculated analysis of the situation at hand, the end goal and team needs.
Leadership research has been around for many decades. Analysis and study of leaders in various organizations have primarily divided the styles of leadership into -
An autocratic leader takes decisions on his own without the input of others. He possesses total authority and imposes his will on employees. This leadership style is best suited if employees require close supervision and is beneficial in cases where rules and standards must be followed to the tee. Autocratic leadership also allows for rapid decision-making and decisive actions. It is, however, not the best fit when the leader is working with a team of experts or creative employees.
A participative or democratic leader values the input of team members and peers, but reserve ultimate decision-making rights for themselves. This kind of leadership boosts employee morale because they feel valued and appreciated. By utilizing their input you stand to gain a wider perspective and learn new things. It makes employees open to changes within the organization. This style meets challenges when quick decisions are called for.
This type of leadership works on the belief that punishment and reward motivate people. The leader sets goals and controls the reward, while the employee earns their reward by meeting the goal. The manager can review results and correct employees when they fail to meet goals. Employees receive rewards, such as bonuses, when they accomplish targets. It can also serve as a great motivational tool though it is often criticized for disregarding emotions and social values.
A laissez-faire leader is a hands-off leader and let things take their course with minimal interference. This approach is characterized mainly by delegation. Highly experienced and self-motivated workers requiring little supervision can work well under this leadership style. Creative employees also thrive under laissez-faire leadership. But, this style of leadership can lead to missed deadlines, poor production, lack of control and increasing costs.
The visionary leader inspires. They unify their employees to work toward a common vision or goal. This style is most appropriate when an organization needs a new direction. Visionary leadership inspires loyalty to both the leader and to the goal. The visionary, however, focused on the big picture may not be able to guide their employees through the actual minutiae of daily work.
This is a leader who works to create bonds among the team members. He/She is one who cares about the wellbeing of the employee. There will be very little conflict on a team run by an affiliative leader, members will feel valued and appreciated, and there will be a sense of camaraderie in the workplace. This type of leader should be considered if an organization needs a boost of harmony among the team members.
Leadership is an instrumental factor in an organization’s failure or success. However, there is no single leadership practice or approach that can be considered perfect. Each style has its own cons and pros. Great leaders adapt by blending different styles to drive their teams and organizations forward. Strong leaders emerge when they are able to identify the most effective style for a particular point in time by analyzing the context, the team and the strategic goals of the organization.