TAKING CHARGE – DOES IT MATTER? HOW?
Have you recently taken time out to assess your leadership style? How effective is your leadership? How effective would you like it to be? There are different types of leadership. From working with a number of leaders in a variety of sectors, with research and experience, it has become clear that these processes have evolved and have a strong impact on performance. In this article, we will look at the leadership styles that work in corporate and non-corporate spaces, how to assess yourself as a leader and how to grow at any every stage with the type of leadership you have chosen.
There are many ways to lead people as seen from the days of Martin Luther King to Steve Jobs and Barack Obama. As Les Brown notes, “There’s no such thing as a natural born heart surgeon. It’s a skill that must be learned and practiced.” Like heart surgeons, great leaders are not born. They are created through hard work and focused learning. What makes a great leader is not their title or necessarily their personality but their ability to influence those around them. Leadership is about being passionate about what you do, having the courage to make the hard and challenging decisions and following through to make things happen. Good leadership makes room for failure and learning; it makes room for improvements and sustainable partnerships. At the end of the day, I believe the general goal of every leader rightly said in the words of Warren Bennis is that, “Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” A great part of leadership is dependent on the practical skills you possess of the job. But more importantly are the soft traits, and parts of these soft skills include the ability of a leader to be discerning in dicey situations, to understand the motivations of people, to appreciate the effect of perceptions in an organization and to master and skillfully use the art and science of influence. Effective leaders are able to switch and adjust between one or more leadership styles depending on the situation.
According to recent studies, only 21% of companies said that their organization’s leadership practices were very effective. This is a real problem, given that 62% of the most successful companies identify effective leadership as the most important factor in improving an organization’s agility. It is obvious that leadership plays a significant role in the success or failure of any organization. However, there is no single, correct way for leaders to direct their subordinates. Each leader must instead develop a specific leadership style unique to their own personalities and circumstances. (Sales Force)
For any leadership style to work, one must be significantly aware of the workings of their internal make-up and mindset. Usually, what goes on internally reflects externally. I do not believe there is such a thing as the perfect leadership style. By studying your personality, beliefs, strengths and weaknesses, likes, dislikes, temperament and such, one will be able to correctly identify one or two leadership styles they can leverage to effectively lead.
The three most common types of leadership we are all familiar with are the autocratic type, the democratic type and the laissez- faire type.
In autocratic leadership, the leadership is truly a boss. There is very little to no flexibility and the word of the leader is usually final. Policies, guidelines and instructions are met out and received without resistance from the followers. Even though a vast majority of people dislike this type of leadership there are a few advantages with this style. For instance, autocratic leaders can quickly decide upon and implement responses without having to gain the support of the rest of the team. Also, the discrepancies and back and forth arguments before decisions are made are avoided, reducing friction in the team. Unfortunately, this form of leadership restricts the amount of creative input that could possibly come from a team. Aside the resentments that could be brewed in the organization or team, nothing productive really comes out of a ruling based on instilling fear in the people.
In the democratic leadership style, subordinates are involved in making decisions. Unlike autocratic leadership, this headship is centered on subordinates’ contributions. The democratic leader holds final responsibility but he or she is known to delegate authority to other people, who determine work projects.
The most unique feature of this leadership is that, communication is active upward and downward. With respect to statistics, democratic leadership is one of the most preferred leadership, and it entails the following: fairness, competence, creativity, courage, intelligence and honesty (wisetoast.com). Democratic leadership works well for leaders who value flexibility and adaptation. Democracy in leadership is often most effective when a leader is working with highly skilled or experienced workers. It allows the leader to capitalize on their employees’ individual talents and strengths, while also benefiting from the power of the whole. It is best employed in cases where the department or business is looking to implement operational changes or when a leader or manager is attempting to resolve problems either individually or within the group. (Surenda Jakhar) The downside in this method is that decisions may not be made quickly, especially in the case of emergencies. Subordinates may also tend to poorly adapt to stress.
Laissez-faire leaders are best described as ‘hands-off.’ In essence, they exist to assign tasks to their employees, but once the task has been assigned, and the necessary resources have been provided, these leaders simply cease being involved. Therefore, it is up to the employees themselves to decide on the best approach in order to fulfill their responsibilities. Laissez-faire leaders put a great amount of faith in their subordinates, trusting them to remain self-motivated, on-task, and accountable. Laissez-faire leadership allows team members to operate completely free from unnecessary restrictions or inefficient interference from management. This gives skilled and self-motivated employees a chance to reach their fullest potential. Without the firm hand of leadership to keep it on track, a team operating under laissez-faire leadership may quickly drop in productivity. Deadlines may not be reached, crucial steps in the process may be skipped over, and the overall quality of work may suffer due to a lack of guidance.
Although these are the 3 most popular leadership types, I believe leadership should be strategic, visionary and transformational. Leadership is a lot about teaching and coaching your people and creating safe and relaxed spaces for the exchange of cross-cultural ideas. At every stage, the service of your leadership should be adding value to the team. You can do this in several ways no matter the leadership style you want to take up. Leadership skills, like any other set of skills, take time, patience, and practice. In John Maxwell’s book, ‘The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership’, he talks about the law of process and how leaders develop daily and not in a day. What do you do when you are given a leadership position? Are you able to use your position effectively to gain the confidence of people who will allow you to lead them? What is the outcome of your influence? Does your style of leading get things done?
- The Power of “Present”
Being present requires us to utilize every inherent and acquired intelligence quotient we have whether body, emotional, social, moral, etc. to show up in every function and operation. When we as leaders are present, we are able to integrate facts with gut feelings, and intuitively as well as intelligently prepare for situations that need our leadership expertise.
- The Power of ‘People”
As leaders, we need to be in constant connection with our people intelligence to enable us leverage each and everyone’s learnings for collaborative growth. People are the pillars we lean on, they are the voices that speak on our behalf, they are the thoughts that challenge us and they are the strength of our network. No matter the kind of leader you choose to be, always be sure to factor in how your style of leadership is bringing people together to achieve a common outcome.
- The Power of “Place”
In the afore-discussed type of leadership, a particular type of temperament or nature of doing things was assigned to each type of leadership. But as a leader, your place and positioning must be flexible. If the place in which you find yourself requires a tough or stern response, that is exactly what you should go for. If it requires in another instance, a softer approach, you adjust. Your place is a place of flexibility.
The question still remains, does how you take charge of your people, employees or subordinates matter? Do you need to fit the description of a leadership title or go by a style of leading? I believe it is more important to be present as a leader, able to adjust to every bend and curve in situations to make the right call, rather than go strictly by a particular style. Leadership is not simply about what works for you but about what brings your team together to achieve results. Are you ready to lead to get results?
The high performance journey is usually a process that requires commitment to understanding failures, running a post mortem on the failures and fighting to bounce back. “When you have failures in your life, your motivation to bounce back should be for the sake of others rather than yourself.” – Sir Samuel Esson Jonah (OGS)