What kind of leader are you?

A couple of weeks ago, we talked on the blog about the only leadership models you need in order to operate effectively in business. Following on from this, we now take a look at what makes a good leader, focusing here in the first of two posts on the importance of leadership styles.

You’ve got your vision, your passion, and your strategy and plan. So why is it that despite displaying appropriate leadership competencies, you sometimes fail? In practice, there is one factor that distinguishes success and failure in leadership: the leader’s flexibility of style.

Do you pride yourself on involving and engaging your team members in the work you delegate? Do you make huge efforts to include them, give them room to contribute, use their own initiative? And do you sometimes despair when, despite your best efforts, people still resist ownership, come to you for permission, or bring you problems rather than solutions?

There is a very widely held opinion that ‘participative’ or ‘delegative’ leadership is in some way ‘better’ than ‘command and control’. You can hear it in the terminology: it’s almost as if one is more fashionable or politically correct than the other!

In our leadership development work at Leaders Lab, we quite often meet leaders who resist ‘hands-on’ management of their people, yet complain that they don’t know why people don’t take initiative in their jobs.

Why does this happen?

The usual assumption is that there is something wrong with the individuals and their motivation, or maybe with the circumstances surrounding them – the ‘culture’ of the organisation. This may or may not be so in any given organisation. But it is more likely that your leadership style is causing the very problem you are complaining about!

The truth of the matter is that no one style of leadership is right for every person or every situation. It’s no more appropriate to pride yourself on your unvarying commitment to one style of leadership, than it would be to pride yourself on only ever using your forehand in tennis, or only one iron in golf!

What are the leadership styles?

There’s a continuum from ‘command and control’ through to delegation:

Telling Selling Supporting Delegating

Telling is traditional ‘command and control’. The leader tells people what to do and monitors their work closely before telling them what to do next.

In Selling, you explain the whole task and engage the person in the need to do it, before giving them the jobs they need to do. Ownership of the job still remains with you as leader.

In Supporting people, you include them in ownership of the job and invite their participation in designing and planning solutions.

When Delegating, you give away the whole job to someone, only retaining ultimate accountability for its completion.

Read the second part of the series on Sunday, in which we discuss how to choose which leadership style, and when.