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Are you Flexible with your Leadership Style? 12/2/2011

By: Stephen Sestina

Leadership, what is it? According to dictionary.com Lead-er-ship (n) is the position or function of a leader, a person who guides or directs a group, the ability to lead, an act or instance of leading, guidance, direction.

Dwight Eisenhower, our 34th President of the United States and Supreme Allied Commander (Europe) during WWII, stated, "Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.

Leadership style is very important to an organization and to a person in a management position leading a group of employees. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What type of leadership style defines you?
  • What type of leadership style defines your organization?
  • What type of leadership style motivates your employees?

The following are a few examples of leadership styles used in the workforce. Take a few minutes and read over them carefully. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leaders have an “absolute power” over their employees. Under autocratic leadership, employees have little chance to make their own suggestions to benefit the organization. This is the “my way or the highway” style of leadership.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders work by a solid and consistent set of rules (“by the book”). Rules are followed religiously to ensure that the staff follows procedures with precision. If the leader does not have solution that is covered by a policy or procedure they will refer the problem to the next level of management above him/her.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leaders thrive in an enthusiastic environment. However, a charismatic leader often believes more in themselves than in the ability of the team they lead and could potentially become their own worst enemy.

Charismatic leaders believe that if they do not actively participate in a project that it will fall apart without their input. To the employee under the direction of a charismatic leader, success is directly related to the presence of the leader. This means that by being a charismatic leader, one is dealt great responsibility and the need to provide long-term commitments to the completion of long-term goals.

Democratic Leadership (Participative Leadership)

A democratic leader believes that answers can be found from a combination of their leadership abilities and the input from the team they lead. Democratic leaders value opinions of others as a means of gaining knowledge when making informed decisions. By allowing members of their team to actively participate, democratic leaders foster an environment where their subordinates feel a sense of ownership. Although democratic leaders encourage team participation it is ultimately up to them, as a leader, to make a final decision. Democratic leadership is the most commonly used style of leadership.

Laissez-faire Leadership (Delegative Leadership)

The English translation means “Leave it be”. A Laissez-faire leader believes in autonomy of their team members. By allowing team members to work on their own, Laissez-faire management can be effective only if the leader monitors the achievement of goals and communicates these achievements frequently back to the team. This type of leadership is effective with an experienced and competent team but can also be the result of the loss of control and sense of authority on behalf of the leader.

Flexibility in Leadership Styles

After reading about the different styles of leadership you may be saying to yourself that you use more than one of these every day. You may say that different leaders within your organization adopt different leadership styles than you do. The real world truth of the matter is that this is perfectly acceptable. In fact, different situations call for a certain level of flexibility and it is this flexibility in your leadership style that makes the difference between a “leader” and an exceptional leader.

If you are a manager who normally uses the Democratic style of leadership and you are placed in a position where you have a group of new hires or new employees in your department who will be performing an inventory count for the first time, you may now find it necessary to use the Bureaucratic leadership style. This is because there are very specific rules or counting procedures that have to be used in your inventory control process.

Know Your Team to Determine the Proper Style

It is important for a supervisor or manager to understand his work team or group, their makeup, personalities, wants and needs. Once a leader knows and understands their work team or employees; he or she will then know which leadership style is best to implement to get the job or task at hand completed in the most effective and efficient manner.

Using Flexibility to Achieve Goals and Objectives

Throughout the course of your normal daily activities you may find yourself using several different leadership styles. Therefore, understanding your workforce and adjusting your leadership style to them as well as the task at hand makes you a more effective leader. A supervisor or manager who fails to realize when to switch focus to the most appropriate leadership style on a situational basis may be missing on opportunities to move towards reaching goals and objectives. The more you understand how powerful this flexibility is relative to your ability to lead your employees towards your goals and objectives, the closer you will be to unleashing your potential as an excellent and effective leader.

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