The primary focus of this post is to look at the different leadership styles that are commonly used in the workplace. Before we do that, I first want to talk about the importance of adapting styles. If you take a look at any of the people in your organization, you can generally pick out a technique for how that person works. For example, you might think Jeff is a fast coder who can get bugs fixed and out the door quickly, or Sara is excellent at writing unit tests for complex code. And Linda is a very fair leader who is accepting of people’s mistakes and helps them improve.
Everyone has a default or dominant working style no matter what it is you do for a living. While having a default mode of working is useful as it gives you something to focus on, being able to adapt is very important if you end up in a scenario or situation in which you are not familiar. This is especially true for leaders, both young or experienced. The success of a leader depends on eliciting the willing collaboration of other people towards achieving a common goal. A leader may have a default style, but it is essential for them to be able to adapt or adjust that style to meet the demands of the moment. In a modern workplace, no two days will ever be the same.
Some days may be great and everything goes according to plan. Other days may be challenging and require you as a leader to read the situation and adapt to a different style to resolve the situation. This may mean encouraging more open collaboration with teams. This could also mean that you need to take a firmer stance and tell someone what needs to be done. It’s this dynamic nature of these situations that can make leadership so challenging. Choosing a default style is fine most of the time, but to excel as a great leader, you’ll need to understand the other styles that exist and build up experience in when to use them. Relationships with your team may be just professional and pleasant for the workplace, but what you strive for is a relationship of trust where you can be confident that a team member will follow you, even through the tough times, and there will be plenty of those.
As you build up relationships of trust, you and your team will start to learn and understand how each other reacts when under pressure. They will learn how you deal with conflict, stress, or success. Your leadership style will also affect your place with team members. We say that people learn from mistakes, which means that as a leader, you might be more willing to let staff members take more time on their work. The extra time you allow might mean that can safely make mistakes and grow, but when deadlines loom, as a leader, you’re under pressure to deliver, and you may have to adapt your style to encourage your staff to deliver quicker and be more accurate.
What I’m alluding to here is that effective leadership is hard, very hard. It can feel like pushing a boulder up a hill sometimes. It is easy for new leaders and managers to be lulled into a false sense of security when they read about leadership use cases, as lots of the time, they’re only told about successful leadership examples, how someone has led a large team to success, which has changed the fortunes of an organization. In these cases, it is easy for a new leader to read these examples and think, I can do that, how hard can it be? What new leaders are frequently not told about are the cases where things can go wrong, and the leader is put into a challenging situation with teams and the company where the leader will need to gain experience in adapting their leadership style to fit that situation. It is this scenario that we’re going to explore in this post.
Understanding the different styles available and looking at examples where you might use them. What we can’t do is give a precise cookbook, on when to use a particular style in a given situation. The style you use might could be affected by the corporate culture and even the culture of the country that your organization is based in. What I want you to do in this post is to think about your own scenario, maybe even situations that have occurred in your company and think, how would I have reacted in that situation? It doesn’t need to be a situation you’ve been in yourself, but it could be something you’ve observed in other people.