Leadership Styles: Choosing the Right Fit

“Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.” – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Great leaders are those who know how to persuade others to take action towards specified goals. However, the style of leadership may vary considerably from one leader to another. It depends a lot on the values and ideas of a leader as well as on the goals and strategies of an organization. As a leader, you may need to change your leadership style as per the requirements of the situation. The first step to this end is to know about the different leadership styles. In this article, we will explore some of the major leadership styles as well as noting some of the best circumstances in which to implement them.

The Major Types of Leadership Styles

The famous psychologist Kurt Lewin conducted a survey in 1939 that helped him identify the major leadership styles. According to his observations, there are three major leadership styles – authoritarian, participative and delegative. The best way to go about them is to use different styles in different situations instead of sticking to a particular style. Let’s take a closer look at the three important leadership styles.

  1. Autocratic or authoritarian – In this leadership style, leaders are provided with the maximum power of decision making. Team members are not allowed or not encouraged to provide feedback on any decision of the management. Autocratic leaders usually provide clear instructions on how a task should be performed. They also set a strict deadline for accomplishing a task. They don’t like to give explanations or discuss any change with employees. On the contrary, they want the staff to obey the orders mechanically. They also set rules to punish or reward employees, based on individual performance.

This leadership style is best applied in emergency situations. You can also consider adopting this style when input from the team members is not essential for the success of a project.

  1. Participative or democratic – In this style, a leader allows his employees to take part in the company’s decision making process. Democratic leaders seek ideas from team members and implement them as and when the opportunity arises. They also inform and discuss any change with the employees prior to implementing decisions. This leadership style helps to bring out creative inputs from employees. It can be quite effective for a team comprising of knowledgeable and experienced team members. You can use this style when you need to:
    • encourage team spirit
    • get creative input from employees
    • change existing company policy

However, at times, when the ideas and perspectives of the employees are quite contradictory, it may be difficult to operate in this style of leadership. For best results, the final decision making authority should stay with the leader.

  1. Delegative or Laissez-faire – This leadership style allows maximum flexibility and freedom to the employees. You can use this style only when the team members are highly educated, competent and motivated. Laissez-faire leaders allow the employees to take decisions and perform tasks the way they want to. They don’t interfere or supervise the activities of team members. If used in the right situation, this leadership style can be quite effective. However, this style may not be appropriate in the following situations:
    • When the employees are not experienced enough to tackle the assigned tasks single-handedly
    • When they require regular feedback from the manager

Moreover, as the leader requires minimum involvement in this system, it can cause a lack of connection between the leader and the employees but can create a greater sense of drive and motivation if used correctly and an employees actions are not only directly linked to the organizations success but their own.

So, now that you know about different types of leadership styles, you should choose a style after considering your priorities and limitations. In some cases, you may need to use more than one style simultaneously.


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