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July - 2011 - issue > Management
Leadership Styles that Deliver Results
Sunil Gupta
AVP-Head: Technology Partnership Business -Tally Solutions Pvt Ltd
Friday, July 1, 2011
In the past couple of years, specialists in the field of management have undergone a remarkable attitudinal change in how they identify and define leadership. They have moved from an extremely classical autocratic approach to innovative, participative leadership styles. Somewhere along the line, it has become evident that not everything old is bad and not everything new is good. Rather, diverse styles are needed for diverse situations and leaders must be aware when to exhibit a particular approach. Having stated upfront that there is no best or ideal leadership style and there are so many leadership styles and theories on it that it more or less seems like a "flavor of the month" type of thing, let’s first get started by introducing the six most distinctive styles of leadership, commonly known and accepted.

6 Classic Leadership Styles

There is no doubt that the climate within an organization is dictated by its leadership style—in the manner in which managers encourage direct reports, collect and utilize information, make decisions, control change initiative, and take care of crisis situations. It has been commonly accepted that there are six basic leadership styles, each of which have unique impact on the working atmosphere of an organization, its overall performance and success. Each style, is drawn from diverse emotional intelligence competencies, works finest in particular situations, and affects organizational climate in numerous ways.
i. Coercive style. This “Do what I say” approach is extremely helpful in a situation that needs rapid turnaround, say a natural calamity, or when functioning with a problematic workforce. But in most circumstances, coercive leadership curtails an organization’s flexibility and dampens employees’ enthusiasm.
ii. Authoritative style. An authoritative leader uses a “Come with me” approach. It is great for carrying out process oriented responsibilities. Manager put forward the overall goal but gives employees the liberty to pick their own ways of achieving it. This style works particularly well when a business is adrift. It is least successful when a leader is functioning with a team of experts who are more knowledgeable than he is.
iii. Affiliative style. The trademark of the affiliative leader is a “People come first” outlook. This style is especially helpful in developing team harmony or increasing morale. But its limited focus on praise can permit poor performance to go uncorrected. Also, affiliative leaders seldom offer guidance, which frequently leaves employees in a sticky situation.

iv. Democratic style. By giving employees a say in decision making, democratic leaders develop organizational flexibility and accountability and help introduce fresh ideas. But occasionally the penalty is never-ending meetings and perplexed employees that feel leaderless.
v. Pacesetting style. A leader who lays down high performance principles and demonstrates them himself has a very encouraging impact on employees who are self-motivated and exceedingly proficient. But the remaining taskforce tends to feel overwhelmed by such a leader’s constant demand for excellence—and begin to dislike his predisposition to take over a situation.
vi. Coaching style. This style centers more around personal development than focusing on important work-related responsibilities. It works fine when workers are previously aware of their weak spots and are inclined towards improving, but not when they are opposed to altering their habits.

Other Leadership Styles

Apart from the six classic leadership styles, there are other leadership styles that are popular in a number of fields, or have been popular in the past.
i. Situational leadership. Here, leaders utilize their leadership skills in numerous methods depending on if the situation calls for task or relationship oriented decisions.
ii. Transactional leadership. This style has you getting tasks accomplished within the recent techniques acknowledged by the industry. This is essentially what you would call a "by the book" management style.
iii. Transformational leadership. The opposite of transactional, transformational leadership deals with propagating change in as many ways as possible.

iv. Strategic leadership. Numerous well established corporations, as well as the armed forces, use this leadership style – basically working to outsmart the rival at each step.

Going through the list of leadership styles you would have undoubtedly concluded that no single style can be held up as the best, and no good leader deploys just one leadership style. Rather, great leaders deploy a combination of styles depending on the scenario and the person or team they are interacting with, not forgetting their expected outcome from that person or team.

Turning the Art of Leadership into Science

We all have a favored or default style of leading, and that is closely linked to our beliefs, values and personality preferences. In addition, the culture of an organization in which the leader operates, tends to reward and praise certain styles, while others are perceived as negative.

However, research indicates that leaders who get the best results do not rely on just one leadership style; they use most of the styles in any given week. The more styles a leader has mastered, the better. In particular, being able to switch amongst four or more leadership styles especially – authoritative, democratic, affiliate, and coaching – as the situation dictates creates the very best organizational climate and business performance. The most appropriate leadership style arises out of the situation, incorporating the characteristics of the followers and the task or challenge at hand. Most effective leaders switch flexibility among the leadership styles according to the people they lead and the work that needs to be done. With practice, leaders can lever the appropriate leadership style to produce powerful results, thus turning the art of leadership into a science.

Growing Your Repertoire

Leadership style is a function of strategic choice rather than personality. Instead of picking the one style that goes with your disposition, managers must ask themselves which style best addresses the demands of a particular situation. Not many leaders, of course, have all leadership styles in their repertory, and an even smaller number can discern when and how to use them. However, the antidote to this situation is fairly simple - the leader can put together a team with members who employ styles he lacks. An alternative approach can be to develop your own style repertoire. To do so, leaders must first recognize which leadership aptitude/competencies: self awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skill - lie beneath the leadership styles that they are missing. They can then work diligently to increase their quotient of them.

Such advice about adding capabilities may seem simplistic—“Go change yourself”—but competencies are completely achievable with practice.

The author is Sr. Vice President, ITC Infotech

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