Leadership – the must-have skill in most job listings. Everyone talks and writes about it, but what many get wrong is that they mistake ‘management’ for leadership. They also don’t realize that leadership is not one big one-size-fits-all concept but there are many different leadership styles.
What is leadership?
It’s difficult to define what leadership is. This Forbes article has a nice list of what leadership is NOT. For example, it’s NOT about your position in the organization, it’s NOT about having a domineering personality, and most importantly, it’s NOT management. This quote from John Quincy Adams sums it up pretty nicely: "If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader." Leadership always has to do with reaching a goal and leadership styles differ from one another in the process of how to reach that goal, i.e. how leaders motivate their team to work towards a common goal.
Leadership Style Guide
Here is quick guide on 5 different leadership styles, in terms of how decisions are made, and their advantages and disadvantages:
An authoritative leader is very issue-focused and makes decisions without consulting with others. This style works best for projects or situations in which it makes no difference whether you include others in the decision or not, as the result stays the same. Of course, it’s also the best fit for situations in which you have to make a quick decision. The downside of this leadership style is that it can cause discontent in team members, because they feel left out of the decision. It can also obstruct creativity, because if only one person makes decisions and doesn’t include anybody else, a lot of creative and innovative ideas and solutions are lost.
Participative leaders still have the final say, but include their team members in the decision-making process. This method enjoys much wider acceptance because the team is much more involved in deciding the next steps. This also means that they are more open to changes and are much less likely to resist it. This leadership method often leads to more productivity and higher job satisfaction. However, it’s not always easy to find a consensus as opinions of team members can vary greatly. So this method is not suitable if you want to make a quick decision.
A servant leader is someone who leads by accommodating their team and helping them grow. They act as an example to the team, and have high integrity and empathy. Servant leadership facilitates a positive team culture as it makes team members feel encouraged and valued. The disadvantage of this style is that it is not suitable if your project has tight deadlines or if you have to make quick decisions.
The transformational leader is often seen as the most effective one, because their goal is to achieve the best and inspire the same in their team. They are not afraid of change, they actually strive towards continuous improvement through change and work closely together with team members to identify processes and aspects they can improve. Transformational leaders are often very charismatic and know how to motivate the team to increase their morale and engagement. The downside, however, is that a transformational leader often doesn’t focus enough on the details and because of their focus on their vision, they are also at risk of losing sight of reality.
The situational leadership style is focused on the relationship between leaders and their team. It’s a framework that helps you decide on your course of action by analyzing each situation based on how much guidance you should give the team and how much emotional support you should give them. There are 4 styles of situational leadership: Telling, Selling, Participating, and Delegating. The advantage of this method is that it offers you a lot of flexibility and allows you to adapt your leadership style depending on the group you are addressing, and depending on the respective situation. But this is also a disadvantage, as too much flexibility can also cause uncertainty and confusion.
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