No one is born a great leader – but most people can become one. There are many different types of leadership and leadership styles and we are constantly changing and improving the way in which companies grow and mature. If you’re currently a leader in your industry or are aspiring to be one, it’s important to understand which leadership styles are most effective and how to emphasize and implement the specific strengths you bring to the table.
Highly effective leaders don’t rely on what they know but constantly work to improve who they are and what they do. Like any position, there are certain qualities you should strive for and certain ones that do more harm than good in the long run. For example, fear-mongering, intimidating and mean managers might produce short-term results but lead to unhappy employees and a high turnover rate. By contrast, managers who are patient, understanding and nice tend to have happy and loyal employees. It’s critical to find the right balance.
What a Leader Does
A leader leads. They lead the people and the organization in their charge forward.
Developing the elements that makeup leadership is a lifelong process. The following is a list of fundamentals that should be a part of any personal leadership style.
- The vision thing. The leader can only lead if she has a clear vision of where she is leading the people in her charge. That vision—and the ability to share it in a clear and compelling way—is what draws followers to her, and what inspires them to take action.
- Making change. No leader ever finds themselves in charge of an organization that doesn’t need to change, or one that could not produce greater results than they are currently producing. That means a leader leads to change. That change is what moves an organization from its current state to its future.
- Strategy. A leader has to have some idea of how to compete and how to win. Strategy is the plan to do so. Without a strategy, the vision will not come to life, and you won’t achieve the change.
- Execution. A leader has to ensure execution. Execution is a big deal. You can have the best strategy on Earth and the tactics to achieve them, but without execution, it is all for naught.
- Growing people. Execution isn’t easy. To execute, the leader requires people to change, to grow, to develop personally and professionally (you cannot have the latter without the former). A great leader helps those in their charge become the best version of themselves. The greatest of leaders build leadership factories.
- Teams. Leaders build teams. They bring diverse groups of people together to achieve what would otherwise be impossible. Teams are a force multiplier, creating value far in excess of the individuals.
- Non-negotiable values. A leader creates a culture. They decide what values are non-negotiable, the core beliefs and behaviors that make the organization in their charge what it is. They decide where the organization stands, what it is for, and what it is against. And then the leader protects that culture. These are some of the component parts of leadership. But, the bottom line is that what a leader really does is lead.
7 Most Common Leadership Styles
Leadership is a fluid practice and in order to become a better leader tomorrow, you need to know where you stand today. Here is a breakdown of the most common types of leadership styles at work today and the impact that each one can have on an organization.
Democratic leadership styles can be very effective in the business climate. This type of leader makes decisions based on the input of each team member – making all employees feel valued and included. The leader is making the final call but each employee has an equal say on a project’s direction or the bigger outcome.
This is one of the most effective leadership styles because it allows employees to get comfortable with decision-making and authority that they may put to use in future roles. This is also how executives make decisions in company board meetings.
Autocratic leadership is the opposite of democratic. This is when the leader makes decisions without taking input from anyone who reports to them. Employees are neither considered nor consulted before making a decision, and they follow orders as the leader determines.
This leadership style is highly ineffective because most organizations can’t sustain this kind of environment without losing employees very quickly. Companies are much more successful when they have a more open leadership style that makes use to the intellect and perspective of other team members as well as the leader.
Laissez Faire leadership is the least intrusive form of leading. This means that leaders let team members pretty much do as they please – they have autonomy and authority and can proceed without the leader’s direction.
Some employees thrive under this type of leadership style. They feel trusted to work however they like and don’t feel constrained or micromanaged. However, it can sometimes backfire. Without more direct management, some employees will have a hard time developing more fully. And without keeping this leadership style in check, it’s easy to overlook critical company growth opportunities.
Strategic leaders know how to straddle the line between a company’s ongoing operations and its potential growth opportunities. This leader accepts all things related to the executive interests of a company while also ensuring that current working conditions are stable for employees.
This kind of thinking can be very effective for a company because it supports multiple types of employees at once. But, it also sets leaders up for a dangerous precedent – it’s easy to get overzealous about how many people you can actually fully support at once. If a leader doesn’t maintain focus, the company can easily lose direction and focus.
Transformational leadership is always changing and adapting to the company’s needs. For example, an employee might have a basic set of tasks and goals to stick to every week, but the leader also constantly pushes them to work outside of their comfort zone.
This type of leadership is super popular with growth-minded companies today. It is highly motivating for employees who prefer a dynamic and challenging work environment. However, transformational leaders can also risk losing sight of where their employees are at individually. It requires thorough coaching to help guide employees in their new and changing responsibilities.
Transactional leaders reward employees for their work. An example would be a sales team that gets a scheduled bonus for making their numbers every quarter. This type of leadership is a great way to help establish roles and responsibilities for specific employees and give them the incentive to succeed. However, many companies find that it can encourage bare-minimum work if employees make too direct of a connection between their investment of time and how much they get paid.
Bureaucratic leaders, unlike autocratic leaders, listen and consider input from employees but don’t adapt well to change or consider input that conflicts with company policy. This type of leadership is not as controlling as autocratic, but it still greatly limits the freedom in how much employees can contribute, advance, etc. This is not a great style for innovation and definitely won’t help companies who have ambitious goals and are after quick growth.
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The 4 Bits of Intelligence of Effective Leadership Styles
, a developmental psychologist, made an important observation about human intelligence. That observation was that one’s cognitive abilities provide a view of only one type of intelligence, a general intelligence. Gardner posits a theory that is now well accepted, that there are additional types of intelligence, like musical intelligence, kinesthetic intelligence, intrapersonal intelligence, interpersonal intelligence.
- Cognitive: Leadership requires that one be able to assess the current state, envision a better future state, and to determine the strategy, tactics, and actions for bringing that future state into being. This work requires that one be intelligent enough to be able to do each of these things in an environment of accelerating, constant, and disruptive change with limited resources.
- Intrapersonal: This is the Ancient Greek admonition: “Know thyself.” The ability to understand one’s own feelings, thoughts, and motivations is a recognized form of intelligence. When a leader knows themselves, they know who they are, their strengths, their deficiencies, and what areas that they may need help. This intelligence is a large part of what allows the leader to develop and utilize the next intelligence.
- Interpersonal: The effectiveness of a leader is limited by their ability to lead the people in their charge. This requires a higher than average intelligence when it comes to people. This intelligence is what allows the leader to understand others, to interact with them in ways that cause them to grow, inspiring them to act, and recognizing their feelings. This is the ability to take multiple perspectives, especially 2nd person, 3rd person, and likely even greater numbers.
- Moral: Hitler was high enough on the cognitive line. He was also intelligent enough when it came to interpersonal skills. Certainly, we can guess that he was lacking as it pertains to intrapersonal intelligence. But when it comes to moral intelligence, he is one of four or five people in modern times vying for the lowest possible score. Every leader needs a list of non-negotiables, and much of that list will be values. Determining what those values are and building a culture around them requires moral intelligence.
Of all the human capacities, leadership is surely one of the most demanding. It is also one that requires the development of multiple lines of intelligence that make one an effective leader. You may believe that there is more intelligence necessary to lead, but you are unlikely to be able to subtract from these without also reducing the effectiveness of the leader.
Be a Model Leader
No matter what your leadership style is, you should always remember that employees often do as you do, not as they’re told. That’s why it’s important to make sure your actions are in line with your words and directives so that employees can model their work after you. Beware of falling into these potential traps:
You say that your salespeople should block off time
for their most important tasks, like nurturing their dream clients, prospecting, and following up. You want the members of your team to do the things that make a difference and produce results. Are you blocking time for coaching
your sales team, the most important activity and the one that generates the highest return on effort?
You tell your sales team to get out from behind their email and get in front of clients, to go where the action is and make a difference. You tell them not to waste time with the browser
and their twelve open tabs. However, you dole out this direction from behind your CRM’s dashboard. Staring at the score never helped anyone win a game. How often do you see a coach with his back to the field of play?
You want your salespeople to study so they’ll have the business acumen
to create value for their prospects and clients, as well as distinguish themselves in a crowded field of “me too” competitors. You want them to read, to educate themselves, to do their homework. Are you better and more widely read than your sales team? Do you have the business acumen to be a peer when you are sitting in front of their clients? Or might you fail the test you ask your team to pass?
Your people will follow your lead. They’re more likely to do what you do than what you say
, especially when your words and your actions are in conflict. If you want your people to follow you, you have to lead them. That means you have to embody the values you want them to hold, and demonstrate the actions you want them to take.
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