The Six Leadership Styles in Practice – How and When to Use Them

Leaders are the people that have the central role and responsibility to lead a group of people or an organization. Everyone possesses certain leadership skills within. However, for some people, those leadership skills are more obvious. Although, people argue that leaders are born and not made, this is only true to a certain extent. Leadership skills, like any transferable skills, can be sharpened and taught. That is why, in today’s blog we are talking about the 6 leadership styles and how you can apply them in practice. Yes, you need to change your “leadership hat” in different situations, especially if you are leading a team. So, when and how should you use the 6 leadership styles? Let’s take a look. 

The Visionary Leader: Visionary leaders are energetic, inspiring and empathetic. They are able to create a momentum towards a shared vision or goal, and many times they are the ones that set the vision. The key skill that a visionary leader possesses is that they encourage their team members to be autonomous and proactive. In order to have a successful implementation of this leadership style you must make sure that you clearly and fully explain the vision or goal, to the smallest detail if needed. This way you will ensure that your team members understand what they are working towards. Also, if you want to make sure your team remembers the goal and is excited to work on it, you need to include them in setting the goal. How? Ask questions, encourage discussions, and make them decide what part of the goal they will all individually work on. But, make sure you are not overdoing it because it might get overbearing for your team. Use this style only occasionally (we recommend setting goals at the beginning of each quarter).

The Coaching Leader: The Coaching leadership style helps people develop their skill sets and reach their personal goals. Of course, this is beneficial for the organization as well because they will become more satisfied and strengthen their skillset, which they will then use in their daily work life too. How to implement this style in practice? We recommend using a (relatively new) management style called – Management by Objective (MBO). This involves a regular and structured communication process with your team members (eg. 15-30 minutes conversation every two weeks) where you and your employee work jointly to set their working performance objectives and then jointly review results. This way the employee can identify themselves in what areas they need to improve and can also ask for help from you on how to do this. 

The Affiliative Leader: This leadership style promotes harmony within the team, and emphasizes emotional connections. It connects people by encouraging inclusion and resolving conflict. You should use this style when you feel a disconnect between team members, which is especially important in a remote work context. You need to make time for employees to bond together. You can find some ideas from this Pinterest Pin we did. 

The Democratic Leader: The democratic leader’s focus is on collaboration. These leaders seek input from their collaborators, listen to them and then build consensus. However, you should be careful with implementing this leadership style. Usually this style is used with more experienced and well informed staff. However, this style can also be used in combination with the coaching leadership style for inexperienced staff as well. How to implement it? Make sure everyone gets a say in a discussion, take note of everyone’s ideas and build consensus. This way you will also be able to promote diverse solutions.

The Pacesetting Leader: This style focuses on performance and achieving goals. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence from their team members, and they will often be “hands-on” to make sure that objectives are met. This can be a successful style in special situations that require a quick response. Because this can be overbearing and stressful for many employees, these leaders usually balance it with strong recognitions of their employees. However, this style cannot persist for long periods of time because you will exhaust your employees, which is why you should implement it only for short-term goals. To be successful in implementing it you need to clearly communicate that this is a temporary measure, be clear about timelines, share results and finally, recognize employee’s effort.

The Commanding Leader: this is the autocratic approach – orders, (often unspoken) threat of disciplinary action, and tight control. Although this style is to be avoided, in certain situations it might be necessary. For instance, in times of great crisis. However, we recommend that you adopt these few alternatives when using this style: after you order what each team (or team-member) should do, make sure that you inspire them as well and explain why this is a vulnerable situation and encourage them to collaborate with each other. Also, instead of micro-managing your team, create a safe space for 1-on-1 conversations. Lastly, you should focus on the strengths and potential of your team’s skills, instead of their weaknesses.

Takeaway

Effective leadership can be taught and even corrected, when needed. Although, each individual has their unique leadership traits, leaders of businesses and teams need to be able to shift between different styles in order to navigate the certain situation the business is in at the moment. Lastly, you should remember that although you can combine different leadership styles at a given moment, you need to be 100% sure that you are using each style correctly. If you are just going from one to the next and then back to the previous, you might create confusion and uncertainty for your employees and this will lead the business to nowhere. 

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