You can barely move through the business industry press for content pertaining to ‘What makes a successful CEO?’ or ‘Who would be your nightmare boss?’ (David Brent unsurprisingly).
In each article, a plethora of different approaches are consistently declared ‘the best’. Yet there are dozens of leadership styles, each of which vary considerably upon the characteristics of the person doing the job, the nature of the role and confines of the industry sector.
What type of leader are you? Here are a few of the most common styles:
As the name suggests, an enabler is the kind of leader that allows direct reports the freedom to get on with the job, allowing them to take control within a defined framework. Their ethos revolves around fostering a culture of empowered and collaborative participation – where all employees actively work toward shared team and/or company goals.
Strengths: Recognises the impact of their behaviour on those around them, possesses the humility to appreciate they too need to keep learning; trusts and respects others’ abilities, gains trust and respect in return.
Weaknesses: The approach might appear a bit ‘too cosy’ for some, relies on employees being motivated and skilled enough to carry out their roles without micro-management.
This style of leadership was first developed in the late 1970s and employs a high degree of emotional intelligence to motivate the workforce. Transformational leaders typically have integrity, credibility, empathy and are keen to communicate their vision with all staff no matter what level. They also encourage upward feedback, listening to their valued people. Apple’s Steve Jobs was a great example of such a leader.
Strengths: Viewed as inspiring and engaging role models they can elicit greater productivity; tend to head up the sorts of organisations that make the ‘Top Companies To Work For’ lists; can deliver significant business results.
Weaknesses: Chance of developing an ego when the focus is constantly on them; can influence teams to take unwise risks in the pursuit of innovation.
Identified by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, the authoritarian is someone that makes decisions autonomously and communicates expectations to the team without seeking their input. There is a clear delineation between management and direct reports which can sometimes make the leader seem quite an intimidating figure.
Strengths: Ideal when there isn’t time for a lengthy decision-making process or when presiding over low-skilled workers where close supervision is necessary.
Weaknesses: Can appear bossy and inconsiderate; leaves little room for creativity and can lead to high absence and turnover rates.
This is someone that can lead in periods of change, mobilising and motivating employees to address challenges and thrive, according to experts and authors, Heifetz, Grashow and Linksky. Adaptive leaders create the environments conducive to change, making fair decisions and sharing information. While they may experiment, they also build on past processes, knowledge and wisdom, acknowledging the constant need for learning and development.
Strengths: possesses integrity, perspective, credibility and emotional intelligence. Practices what Forbes Magazine terms ‘organisational justice’ – not afraid to make difficult changes in the interests of the business’s survival.
Weaknesses: consultative and emotional style can in rare cases be perceived as weak.
The complete opposite of the authoritarian, this style of leadership is so-called due to the manager’s devotion to their people. The servant leader acts in the interests of their workforce, consulting them on issues, communicating effectively and ensuring that they each have the tools necessary to get the job done. They lead by example and usually promote ethical business practices.
Strengths: Likeable, they can achieve results through their values; emphasises people as the organisation’s most important asset.
Weaknesses: Being ‘nice’ can be viewed as non-competitive in the business world; risks missing out on deals.
Based on the premise of a transaction – wages for labour – this leader operates under the assumption that employees will obey and comply. A commanding style, transactional leadership rates employees on performance and can suit teams of ambitious people that are focused on achieving results, like sales teams, for example.
Strengths: Clearly defines and communicates what is expected of employees in terms of their roles.
Weaknesses: Favours criticism over praise and recognition; tends to be fairly demotivating for the team; can prompt high turnover.
The bureaucrat is a leader that sticks to the rules rigidly. They follow procedures verbatim and expect staff to do the same. This style of leadership can be effective within environments where strict guidelines must be followed, such as when working with dangerous equipment, toxic substances or legal regulations – i.e. to ensure health and safety or adhere to financial legislation.
Strengths: Little room to make a mistake when the rules are being followed; is useful where controlled, routine tasks are performed frequently.
Weaknesses: Lack of flexibility and control can be demoralising; can leave businesses vulnerable when changes occur.
Ultimately, every type of leader has its pros and its cons; the key to success is to get the right leader in the right business environment.