Right Style at the Right Time

What is your Leadership Style?

Have you wondered what your leadership style is? How many of you have taken a test to determine your leadership style? How many of you have never done that?

On the internet, with the right keywords, you can find many different tests and quizzes to find out what your leadership style is. I did a couple of them, including the quiz provided to us in the Leadership modules of the Toastmasters International curriculum where I scored highest in Democratic and Affiliative leadership styles. This seems to ring true with me, as I often value what other minds might think and I want to collaborate with every member of my team. However, I have learnt that it may not be the right approach to always be democratic.

The Different Lists of Leadership Style

Before I explain why, let me first touch on the fact that there are many different lists and categorizations of leadership styles. What list will you see yourself categorized in? It depends on where you go and what quiz you take.

However, I found that an early study performed in 1939 and used as an authoritative text in the U.S. Army (circa. 1973) categorizes leaders into just three: the Autocratic leader, the Participative leader and the Free-rein or Laissez-faire leader. As you can see from the very simple diagram below, the Autocratic leader assumes all of the decision-making power, while the Free-rein leader delegates all of the decision-making power to the other team members, followers or employees.

You may think the free-rein leader is lazy, but an effective free-rein leader can delegate all power to the team as the team is able to perform well without the leader’s presence. Similarly, an autocratic leader could be viewed as a dictator like Hitler, but an effective autocratic leader can move a team forward quickly through emergencies and critical situations. We will see later how that is helpful.

What is interesting to note here is that the Participative leader, whom we may also see as Democratic, Affiliative, Coaching, etc., involves all their followers and employees in the decision making process, and value their followers’ input as much as they value their own.

Applying the Right Style at the Right Time

While you may find that you are dominant in a particular leadership style, you should be aware that the style that you must apply would not only depend on your preference or character, but also on the situation. Every situation is unique, and there are several factors or forces that may come into play in each situation.

For example, if there’s very little available time to democratically discuss options with your team members, you may need to switch to an autocratic style to quickly make decisions and get your team moving to tackle the urgent situation. Such style is often used by leaders of emergency response teams deployed in areas hit by natural disasters, or in military groups deployed in a war zone.

In another example, if your team members are already well-versed on how to accomplish certain tasks and how to make effective decisions to accomplish those tasks, you may give them free-rein over those areas. This frees you up to use your time and energy to make more critical decisions for your team.

The Leadership Continuum

The three categories have been further expanded to a Continuum of Leadership Behavior to better describe how a team and its leader may start out, and then further grow. A very new team with fresh or inexperienced following members may start out at the extreme left side, where all decisions are made by the leader, and the team simply follows the directives.

As the team grows and matures, they would start shifting towards the right side, where the other team members would take up an increasing share of the decision-making responsibility from the leader. At the far right, the team becomes fully autonomous, where all team members are fully trained and equipped to make all the decisions necessary to perform their tasks or complete their project. At this juncture, the leader may merely oversee the team, or even step out of the team to create more teams for other project ventures.

What is your Dominant Leadership Style?

So, do you want to find out what your dominant leadership style is? You can, with a short questionnaire. Simply scan this QR Code or visit the link below, then answer the 30 questions. You will be told what your dominant leadership style is, and given some additional information about it.

Now that you know what your dominant leadership style is, also remember to apply the Right Style at the Right Time. And remember:

Don’t aim high to be a catatonic leader. Aim well to be a dynamic leader.

References

Clark, Donald. “Leadership Styles.” Leadership Styles, Big Dog, Little Dog; Knowledge Jump, 17 Aug. 2015, http://www.nwlink.com/~donclark/leader/leadstl.html.

Written by Arun