Being a good leader often means knowing what to do and when to do it. A good leader is an adaptive leader. Just like in a combat situation, different circumstances require different tactics. At times everyone knows what to do and the team members outperform themselves. That sort of situation will require a different leadership response than one in which you are dealing with a challenging project, where your team members are confused about what to do next. So, a successful leader needs to know when to give recognition, when to ‘boss people around’, when to direct efforts, or when to step out of the way and observe. That is why great leaders are comfortable changing their leadership style depending on what the goals and what the needs of the team are at that specific moment in time.
David Goldman presented the six leadership styles he found among managers, and how they can affect the future of the organization. When and if you choose to adapt these strategies is your call alone.
The authoritative leader focuses on the end goals. He doesn’t care about how everyone does it, as long as they follow his vision. It’s a style suited for situations where the team has the know-how, but needs a new outlook on things. It’s not suited for teams where the leader has less experience than the other members of the team. It bolsters initiative and enthusiasm.
The pacesetting leader focuses on speed. He expects everyone to know what to do, and he wants things done quickly. It’s great if the team is motivated and has the skill expected, but in the long run it can deter innovation and demotivate the team.
The coaching leader focuses on the people. He wants to make sure everyone reaches their full potential. It’s perfect for assessing your team or for low-paced projects. It can lead to negative reactions if the team doesn’t like change, so be careful.
The affiliative leader focuses on group structure. He focuses on getting people together and giving them a sense of belonging. It’s useful for stressful projects, or with new teams. On its own, it can lead to people feeling that low performance is tolerated, so it needs to be combined with another leadership style.
The coercive leader focuses on hierarchy. The leader expects everyone to do as he tells them to. It’s a style suited for a crisis, or for controlling a conflict or a conflict-causing team member if an amiable solution cannot be found. Used carelessly it can cause distrust, a hostile work environment, and discourage innovation.
The democratic leader focuses on empowerment. The leader will ask for the opinion of teammates, a very useful method for those situations where the leader lacks experience in a matter, or he wants the team to take responsibility and feel responsible for an idea or goal. It should be avoided in a crisis situation when it would just cost you irreplaceable time.
If you want to know why your leadership style is important, read our article – “Why your leadership style matters”