In the previous articles in this series I covered Motivation, Finding meaning in your work, and how to encourage innovation in your team. In this final part of the series I want to discuss some different leadership styles you can adopt with your team.
There are many different types of leadership style you can adopt and rarely does one size fit all. Sometimes over the lifetime of a team you will need to adapt your style to fit a certain scenario, or use a specific style with different people on the team, especially if they are persistent under-performers.
Bureaucratic leaders are people that follow rules to the letter, and they ensure their team follow rules and process to the letter of the law. If you are working in an environment where safety both to people and systems is essential then this type of leadership style is needed. If you have a team that does a lot of repetitive and manual work, then this style is also very well suited. If you want your people to be creative and innovative, then this isn’t the best style. You can use a blend though where you slip into bureaucratic leadership if you have a strict deployment or change management process to follow.
Of all the leadership attributes, charisma is perhaps the least understood. At first glance, charisma appears to be an invisible energy or magnetism. There’s no denying its presence, but it’s hard to put a finger on its source. Some people believe charisma is something you are born with and embedded in certain personalities. A charismatic leader is someone who has the ability to inspire enthusiasm, interest, or affection in others by means of personal charm of influence. Charismatic leaders tend to be celebrators and not complainers. They also value the potential in people. They look further than what you can do today and more towards what you can to tomorrow.
This style of leadership lends itself very well to being able to motivate and foster a culture of innovation. Innovation is a very forward looking trait that focuses on creativity and future potential.
A servant leader is someone, regardless of level, who leads simply by meeting the needs of the team. These leaders tend to lead by example; they have high integrity and lead with generosity. Their approach can create a positive corporate culture and it can lead to high morale among team members. This style is also good for motivating and enabling people to be creative and innovative, but it doesn’t lend itself to situations where you may have to make quick decisions or meet very tight deadlines.
This leadership style starts with the idea that team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job. The “transaction” usually involves the organization paying team members in return for their effort and compliance on a short-term task. The leader has a right to “punish” team members if their work doesn’t meet an appropriate standard. Transactional leadership is present in many business leadership situations, and it does offer some benefits. For example, it clarifies everyone’s roles and responsibilities. Because transactional leadership judges team members on performance, people who are ambitious or who are motivated by external rewards – including compensation – often thrive. The downside of this style is that, on its own, it can be chilling and amoral, and it can lead to high staff turnover. It also has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work. As a result, team members can often do little to improve their job satisfaction.
This, in my mind, isn’t a great leadership style for encouraging motivation and innovation. There should be a certain degree of transactional leadership in any style as all staff should realise that they are being paid to do a job, but creative / knowledge workers are better bring treated more fairly and the concept of punishment doesn’t serve well to motivate.
Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their team members, even if their input would be useful. This might be appropriate if you need to make decisions quickly, when there’s no need for team input, and when team agreement isn’t necessary for a successful outcome. However, this style can be demoralizing, and it can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover. This style forms the basis of a more rigid chain of command. When you look at the military, then that is all formed on rank and someone making decisions. It isn’t a style I particularly like as I would rather my team be motivated and creative. You tend to find this style in very large corporations though and less so in smaller companies that has more creative agility.
Democratic leaders will make the final decision, but they always include their team members in the decision making process. Sometimes, no matter what style you use most of the time, you will need to just step in and make a decision, especially if you can’t reach a consensus between your team members.
Democratic leaders encourage creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have high job satisfaction and high productivity. This is not always an effective style to use, though, when you need to make a quick decision.
Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. They provide support with resources and advice if needed, but otherwise they don’t get involved. This autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction, but it can be damaging if team members don’t manage their time well, or if they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or self-motivation to do their work effectively.
You do need to use this one carefully. I have been more able to adopt this style over the past year on certain projects as I have built up a level of trust with my team members. I know given the resources they will get the work completed to a high level and on time. If they need help, then they raise any issues to me straight away. This will then give me time to work on other initiatives. I have found this leads to a higher level of motivation and innovation. It doesn’t work in all situations. Last year I had to run a very large and complex compliance project. Here I slipped into more of a democratic leadership style which frequently had to go more autocratic to get decisions made quickly.
There are many different types of leadership style that you can use as highlighted above and you will most likely not be-able to stick with just one. The important thing here is that you are able to adapt and change style to suit particular situations. I like to stick between Democratic, Servant and Laissez-fair as my main leadership styles. This works well with my current team. If I had a different team given to me, then I would most likely need to adapt my style, but I have a distinct level of trust built up with my current team that I can allow them to be a bit more creative as-long as they get the job done, which they do. The styles I prefer to work in have been very conducive to building a working environment where innovation and creativity is encouraged, and generally I would say my team are well motivated (unless they now tell me otherwise after reading this!!!).