True, lasting change for a company requires solid leadership to see it through. Team members will be attached to their old routines and habits, that they may be reluctant to change, even when it may seem positive. The only real antidote is to nominate leaders who will garner widespread buy-in, and hold the right people accountable.
In 2020, every company is being affected by change in one way or another. Whether it’s stalled supply chains or closed shops, leaders will need to hone their skills and empower their teams if they hope to make it out— and continue to flourish. In this post, we’ll cover the different styles of leadership, as well as their effectiveness during periods of great change.
Types of Leadership
No two leaders are the same— while that may not come as a surprise, it is useful to learn precisely how leaders can differ in their strategy and approach. Below are just a few examples of the most common leadership styles.
As the name suggests, democratic leadership is rooted in the concept of democracy, the idea that the power of authority is derived from the consent of the people being governed. When applied to a company, democratic leadership usually results in a more equal and collaborative team, one that approaches solutions using a utilitarian approach (doing things for the greater good).
On the other hand, democratic leadership can quickly devolve into a popularity contest when it comes to certain issues. Important problems, such as which products to focus on, may ultimately come down to a majority rule despite opposition from expert voices on the team.
On the opposite spectrum from a democratic leadership is autocratic leadership. Instead of putting things to a vote or asking for feedback from the team, autocratic leaders make decisions on their own and hand them out as orders. You can find this kind of leadership common in military or sports, where commanders expect their assignments to be followed exactly. In the business world, the autocratic approach generally leads to overworked teams, resentment towards leadership, and a toxic work environment.
Laissez-faire is French for “let it be”. In this style of leadership, leaders don’t play an active role in the governance or direction of teams. Instead, they sit back and let them do the work, only occasionally dropping in to see how things are going. In some cases, this may be a nightmare, and chaos can quickly erupt out of a disorganized team. But in other situations, the team’s freedom can potentially result in more creative outcomes and more profitable returns. One such example is Warren Buffet, one of the richest investors in the world. Buffet researches each one of his investments, but when it comes to the day-to-day operations of each company, he leaves that to the more-than-capable managers he has in charge. In turn, his managers feel more confident and empowered to make decisions without interference from up top.
You may have heard of the term “agent of change” used to describe certain executives in the past, and that is not a term you can throw around lightly. Changing an entire enterprise or organization requires visionary leadership, those who are willing to upend the natural order of things to implement true innovation. This is no simple feat— it requires bringing together disparate parts of a company, from engineers to marketing to finance. But these types of leaders can quickly rise up their ranks and become sought-after figures within their industry.
When you hop into an Uber or Lyft, you pay the driver, and the driver takes you somewhere. That is an example of a transaction: a service or product for a price. Unfortunately, some people have adopted that mentality into their own leadership style. Rather than look for the best solution, these leaders will do things by the book, ordering their team to do things “because they have to.” As one can imagine, this type of leadership will only build animosity between leadership and the team.
In team sports, a coach is a person who you learn most from, who can see the big picture of the play and provide direct, personal guidance on how to improve performance. In business, these “coach” leaders are invaluable. Not only do they see each person’s blind spots, the strategy as a whole, but they also take a hands-on approach to building your career, taking a genuine interest in your struggles and accomplishments. The results speak for themselves: in one survey, 51 percent of respondents from organizations with strong coaching cultures reported revenue above that of their industry peer group.
Effects of Leadership
Positive effects of leadership
– Increased well-being of employees – Great leaders motivate, inspire, and win. Team members can sense an effective leader from an ineffective leader, and when they are lead by the former type, there is a greater drive towards accomplishment.
– A greater sense of solidarity – Creating cohesive teams is one of the greatest strengths (and challenges) of a leader. They must bring together diverse people and unite them under a common mission.
– Empowers team members to become leaders – Leadership is often passed down and taught, subconsciously. Those that are fortunate to work under great leaders tend to develop leadership skills themselves and go on to empower others.
Negative effects of leadership
– A decrease in employee input – this tends to be most closely associated with autocratic and transactional leadership, but the wrong type of leaders can make some people feel as if their contributions are worthless. This eventually stifles overall creativity and productivity.
– A decrease in team morale – It’s not just the individual that feels burned out, but the team as a whole. When one domino collapses, it doesn’t take long for the others to fall. Overall this can impair creative collaboration, and some leaders will find only the minimum effort from teams that have burned out.
Ideal behaviors of leaders
Inspirational leaders understand the challenges ahead of them. But instead of panicking, like so many newer leaders, they stop to assess the situation, and develop a plan of action. They may not be stronger, faster, or smarter than others, but they are willing to take risks where it counts and can motivate others to join them in the cause.
Leaders are the voice of change. They see bottlenecks, inefficiencies, and problems that others may overlook or feel powerless to change. Instead of standing by, the best leaders are moved to action, inspired to spark the change they desire. It’s not uncommon to see world leaders, business executives, cultural figures and other leaders be the symbol for hope and change.
Leaders provide guidance, without micromanaging. With a single-minded vision, they point people in the right direction, whether it is a new process of doing business, or a new vertical product line worth exploring. They don’t focus on the small details: like how people finish their work or which process they use. They care about the overall direction.
Finally, and most importantly, leaders hold accountable those that are in charge. Without someone holding others accountable, nobody would feel any motivation to get anything done, and easily let slip a series of bad mistakes. This part is also the hardest for many leaders, as it involves tough conversations that no one wants to have. But in the end, holding people accountable is essential to completing the grand visions that leaders have.
Common mistakes to avoid
Regardless of the leadership style, all leaders are susceptible to the same pitfalls and mistakes as everyone else. Below are just a few of the most common mistakes:
– Low leadership involvement – Think back to the concept of laissez-faire leadership. While it may work for established figures, it won’t always work at a startup or a growing business. Leaders need to be involved in the right departments: such as operations, marketing, and other functions that greatly affect the entire organization.
– Lack of resources – The best leaders in the world will struggle with limited resource pools. Some will say “do more with less”, but that adage simply doesn’t apply in leadership. A helpful supply, whether it is raw materials, land, or labor, will always help leaders with more options in their strategies.
– Inconsistent leadership style – Ever had a leader that was democratic one second and autocratic the next? Changing between various styles will only confuse the team, and ultimately remove any power or authority a leader may have.
– Changing focus and priorities too much – Once a priority has been set, it should remain set. The more it is changed, the more time and money is wasted. Hold discussions early on about what the team should focus on, and then develop tactics around that goal.
– No employee recognition – Leaders would be nowhere without their teams. Every once in a while it helps to show appreciation for the team members as well, giving them a platform to show off their accomplishments. Doing so will go a long way in building morale and pride within the group, and that can be infectious across the organization.
Leadership remains an indispensable part of an organization’s journey through change. Without solid leaders today, change can run a company’s resources dry, burnout a capable team, or lead the organization astray from its original purpose. Leaders are the shepherds by which a company can achieve its true goals. And leadership styles determine how effective a person can be in attaining that end.