Leadership and which leadership style to use can be a challenge on a good day. Add in a global pandemic like coronavirus, and deciding on which leadership style will be the most effective can be overwhelming. I believe that there is no one style that’s right for a given leader, rather it’s a breadth of approaches that one makes uniquely their own.
It’s also an interesting topic in advance of the presidential election in the USA as global political leaders often give us lessons in good and bad leadership.
Here are some outlines to help choose which leadership styles to use during the time of Coronavirus.
There are so many different styles of leadership based on a variety of models from many experts. Here’s a short summary of five styles that have stood the test of time. I’ll address five more, less well known and emerging leadership styles, in an upcoming article.
Transformational Leadership – from the 1978 book titled Leadership by American political scientist James MacGregor Burns, this style of leadership is often referred to in change management situations. The leader works side by side with their team to transform the individuals into leaders while working to identify, develop and execute a significant change in an organization. Nelson Mandela has been called a transformational leader.
Situational Leadership – this is more of a model developed by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1982 rather than a style. It’s a 2×2 model about choosing the approach best suited for the recipient depending on how much direction and support they need. For example, when the team member needs little support and direction because they are highly competent and committed you can delegate tasks, they need little instruction and involvement from you. Compared to someone newer, or less competent, needing more coaching instead.
Servant Leadership – this is the opposite of authoritative or autocratic. Researcher Robert K. Greenleaf created the expression in the 70’s. It’s exactly as it says on the tin – serving your followers; the leader focuses on the well-being and growth of their team members, putting the employee’s needs first to develop them to their highest potential. It’s all about empathy, listening, stewardship, persuasion, awareness, communication and development.
Transactional Leadership – this style was first discussed in the late 40’s by Max Weber and is more akin to management rather than leadership and still important to have in your toolbox to use when appropriate. This is about supervision, compliance, use of rewards and punishment and performance. This style might be necessary when handling a performance management issue to ensure clarity, authority, aligned expectations, monitoring and legal compliance if performance does not improve.
Authentic Leadership – coined by Harvard Business School Professor, Bill George, in his 2003 book of the same name. The key is an authentic leader’s self-awareness and interaction with others. It’s the epitome of lead by example or walk your talk. The five main characteristics of an authentic leader according to George are: purpose-led, strong values about the right thing to do, trusting relationships, self-discipline, act on their values and all with passion for what they are trying to achieve. Authentic is not about being and doing whatever you want ‘because that’s just me regardless of the impact on others. I just wanted to say that because I’ve heard people use authenticity as an excuse for negatively impacting others. As a leader you are responsible for your impact.
Consistent Aspects Across Leadership Styles
1. Leadership is necessary in pursuit of something, a goal or objective hence why it’s important for leaders to have a clear vision of what they want to achieve. This vision can be for the results the organisation is pursuing and also for how you want your team to work together. Once you have a clear vision in your mind repeatedly communicate that vision for people to know and follow.
2. Understand team members as individuals. Different people have different motivations for working (money, power, relationship, learning, etc), different preferences (task-oriented vs people-oriented, rationale vs emotional) and react to things differently. Knowing as much as you can about the key individuals you work with helps you be more effective by adjusting your approach to them. More on this below.
3. Breadth of range is important to deal with different people, needs and situations. If there’s a fire in the building you need to be transactional or autocratic and yell “FIRE, GET OUT.” An emergency like that is not a time to be consultative, empowering or visionary. At London Business School we use the expression being yourself with more skill. Knowing different approaches when dealing with people allows you to effectively handle more situations than just ‘one-size-fits-all.’
4. Being self-aware in all ways – your motivators, your tendencies, your impact on others and your triggers (in terms of when you react rather than respond). By knowing how you operate you can self-manage to make conscious choices about your interactions in the moment.
5. Sensing what is going on with someone or with the situation, thereby being able to assess how best to engage them or respond. If you go to an employee to ask them to do a task, sense what’s going on for them. Are they occupied in another task? Have they just had an argument? Are they fully present to you and your inquiry? By sensing what’s going on for them you can adjust how you ask them to do the task. This way you can ensure they hear your request, understand it and align expectations with you.
6. Strive to develop people to be the best versions of themselves. Leaders have followers. Great leaders have followers that they develop into great leaders. Know the strengths and ambitions of someone so you can work together for them to develop themselves to achieve their ambition.
7. Listen, ask questions, seek to understand first. These skills are part of the other 6 things I’ve listed here and important enough to name separately. Develop the skill of deep listening – minimizing your own perspective and view and really hear what’s said and not said to learn their perspective. Ask open, curious questions (often starting with WHAT) to fully understand what the other person is saying, rather than filtering their words through your perspective. This can eliminate assumptions and misunderstandings saving rework and time in the long run.
Your leadership style is often an amalgamation from learning and experience. How you interact with others will determine how well you influence, motivate and inspire others. As the first chapter in my book states ‘IT STARTS WITH YOU’ as you are the one reading this article and you are the only person you can change. Hopefully the ideas above have helped you consider aspects of your own leadership. I’ll share 5 more recent, emerging leadership styles next week.
What aspects of your leadership would be worthwhile to explore?
Book a COMPLIMENTARY coaching session with me here to get support during an unusual time. Many successful (and famous) leaders have professionals to help them perform to the best of their ability – be like them.
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