Go along to a job interview and chances are you will be asked what style of leader are you. While on the face of it this might seem like a perfectly reasonable question, in some ways it is impossible to give a definitive answer.
In many ways the style of leadership that you adopt depends very much on the situation and context. Without doubt we all have a style of leadership that we might have a preference for. Even then we are unlikely to be able to use that all of the time.
So what are the most common leadership styles? In broad terms they can be categorised as follows:
Telling and selling
So when might each of these styles be appropriate?
This style generally works well in time of real crisis or emergency when you need something to happen quickly. In a hospital setting this might be when there is some sort of major incident. The upside of this style is that things happen and a result is achieved quickly. On the other hand if you use this on a day to day basis you will quickly lose the support of others.
Telling and selling
This style generally works well when just carrying on in the same way as at present is not a feasible option long term. Something has to change but it does not require instant change. There will be a need to get buy-in and support to get any sort of forward movement. The danger with using this style too often is that you might be seen as someone who over dramatises things.
This is often the favoured style of the majority of people. You seek views, get ideas and perhaps make a collective decision on the way forward. Clearly one of the benefits of this style is that you take people with you. On the other hand it is time consuming and at the end of the day there are still going to be those who are unhappy with the outcome.
Empowering is a word that is often used a lot and sometimes used out of context. The reality is that you can only empower highly skilled and highly competent people. When you use an empowering style you essentially define what you want to happen and leave it to others to work out the detail around getting the result you want. The upside is that it sends a real message to people that you trust them. People also like to have autonomy and freedom and this style gives them that.
Sometimes you need to gain some momentum on an issue or problem and this is where a pacesetting style might be beneficial. Again what you need to be alert to is exhausting people if you are using this style on a regular basis.
This style works well when you have less experienced staff who you are looking to grow and develop or perhaps re-build confidence of a team whose performance has dipped. The obvious benefit is that you are highly supportive. At the same time it requires a significant investment of time and effort.
The truth is that the leadership style you adopt will be very dependent on the situation or context. As a leader you need to assess and consider what is likely to yield the best response in any given situation.
Duncan Brodie of Goals and Achievements helps organisations and individuals to develop their leadership capability. Learn more here.