What is your style?


…Leading the right way

“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader” – John Quincy Adams

Today, more than ever before, leadership is needed to bring and inspire change. The onus lies on you to identify if you belong to the group that watches while things happen, those that make change happen or those that do not have the slightest idea of what is going on. Whatever your choice is, remember there are consequences. Too much is happening around us to just sit still and not be a part of the evolution.

Organisations and businesses start all the time – from small to medium scale and multinationals. However, the US Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS) confirms that about 20 percent of businesses that start fail in their first year. Among many factors that contribute to the failure of these businesses is their leadership.

Popular leadership expert and bestselling author John C. Maxwell posits that everything rises and falls on leadership.

For the purpose of this article, leadership will be defined as the ability to elicit extraordinary performance from ordinary people.

People are more excited about whom they are working with than the organisation they work for, and acknowledging this will put your leadership in perspective so it’s more directed to the right areas to focus on for growth.

No matter your leadership style, what’s worth noting is the kind of people you are leading and the business’s current situation. When it comes to effective leadership, identifying your forte and downfalls and honing them to your advantage is what will make a difference in your organisation.

For instance, Aliko Dangote uses the transformational leadership style to achieve maximum results. He works through his team by aligning them with the vision and empowering them with the right strategies to meet their goals. The transformational leader believes in building his followers to become leaders too. Dangote is seen to be one that gives morale and motivation to his team to be able to delegate appropriately for higher performance. This has worked for him, as we can obviously attest to the excellence of his conglomerate which is now recognised globally.

Business leaders across the world often adapt to different leadership styles depending on the phase their organisations are going through. Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, was at one point seen as an autocratic leader. He would present his ideas to his team and expect that they follow through as he had laid them out. Down the line, it became clear that he thought it was the best style to go with as Microsoft was in its early stages and the vision had to play out just like he had envisioned. There is now more room for innovation and creativity among employees with sturdy growth of the business.

Let’s take a dive to explore some of these leadership styles. While we do this, we have to establish that a leadership style refers to the characteristics and behaviour of a leader – given that they have to relate with their followers to provide direction for work to be done. It ultimately shows how a leader behaves when he is leading. This in no way suggests that the style a leader adapts is how they are. It is only the means they assume to reach their targets.

Democratic/Participative Leadership Style

The crux of this leadership style is the inclusive nature of it, whereby team members are actively involved in the decision-making process. Typically, the leader will have the last say at the end of the process even though he sought the views of others. Evidently, team members feel engaged and motivated to contribute more to achievement of the common goal. Considering that this style is quite time-consuming, it is not very effective in times when the business needs to make a quick decision.

Autocratic Leadership Style

The dominating method of approach here is an individual taking the lead and having the most say in all matters. Followers under this style of leadership have to heed the instructions and ensure they adhere to the rules provided to meet their goals. This leadership style is basically a ‘one-man show’, and has proven to work in circumstances where the leader is the most knowledgeable on the team. Nonetheless, a downside to the autocratic leadership style is that it has a way of stifling the birth of fresh ideas and creativity.

Servant Leadership Style

A servant leader leads with a heart of a servant. Such leaders are of the view that employees and customers must have their needs met first. This approach capitalises on the personal growth and coaching of its employees to someday have autonomy as leaders themselves. Consequently, employees under this leadership are provided with the needed resources for excelling in their roles and are given challenging tasks by way of grooming them. It however becomes dicey when leaders have to be patient for every member on the team to be aligned in terms of the vision.

Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Laissez-faire is a ‘hands-off’ leadership style. In French, the phrase translates as “let it be”. As you may have assumed correctly by now, this type of leadership is more of a free range for employees to explore what works for them. Operating this way gives your team more freedom and control over their job. Employees under this leadership style make their own choices and do not necessarily receive scripted guidance from their leader. This allows them to explore different ways of doing things and getting the job done.

For instance, an employee could decide to push for a virtual meeting with a client instead of an in-person one, provided they believe the end results will benefit the organisation. Because of the high level of freedom in the laissez-faire approach, it works better with a team that is self-driven and highly disciplined; not all businesses can use this. This by far is easily seen as the direct opposite of the autocratic leadership style.

Task-oriented Leadership Style

Leaders characterised by this style just want to get the job done. Thus, the plan of action is rolled out and team members are required to follow through to meet targets. The leader will monitor and track the progress of each member to ensure that the right things are done. A task-oriented leader will go as far as putting structures in place to track the productivity of employees.

For example, setting specific lunch-times and a log-in system for their staff to clock in every day at work. Even though leaders with this style are able to efficiently manage their time and meet deadlines, team members may be unsatisfied with their job because of a restriction on flexibility.

Relationship Leadership Style

The relationship leadership style has its primary focus on helping team members and meeting their needs. This is achieved by rendering support to each member and providing a flexible work environment to accommodate their changing lifestyles. It is more people-oriented, unlike the task-oriented leadership style. Hence, there are team-building sessions to foster great working relationships and a reward system that highlights the efforts of star employees. Usually, a hybrid of the task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership traits work like magic in achieving organisational goals.

There is no cast-in-stone approach to leadership that works. Remember that your situation is unique to you and your organisation. More importantly, be willing and ready to vary your style to churn out the best.

Start expanding your leadership skills today by being open to trying new ways of leading. You can begin by:

  • identifying what your primary style is
  • stating clearly the next phase your business is headed for
  • acknowledge the advantages and downsides of each leadership style, and finally
  • knowing each member of your team and what style they best respond to.

As they say, variety is the spice of life!

“The most important thing one has to realise is that a leader at the top is made responsible for the success or failure of the entire firm.” – John C. Maxwell

>>>the writer is a Certified Professional Trainer (CPT) by the International Association for People & Performance Development (IAPPD) and a publishing consultant assisting busy executives to write and publish bestselling books. He has served as Head of Protocol at a diplomatic mission, Corporate Affairs Officer at a French multinational agribusiness, and as Events & Media Correspondent for a digital ad agency. He can be reached via [email protected]

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