Dan McCarthy writes a great blog over at Great Leadership; we don’t always agree, but I always learn something from reading him.
He recently wrote one with which I disagree, but I see the same topic over and over, so I thought I’d offer up my two cents on the it.
The post lists “styles of leadership” and the types of people on whom they work best; generally these lists refer to how managers, i.e., bosses, handle their people.
In short, there are four styles of situational leadership
- Directing Leaders define the roles and tasks of the ‘follower’, and supervise them closely.
- Coaching Leaders still define roles and tasks, but seeks ideas and suggestions from the follower.
- Supporting Leaders pass day-to-day decisions, such as task allocation and processes, to the follower.
- Delegating Leaders are still involved in decisions and problem-solving, but control is with the follower.
and six styles categorized by emotional intelligence competencies
- Coercive: This “Do what I say” style demands immediate compliance.
- Authoritative: This style mobilizes people toward a vision.
- Affiliative: This “people-first” style engenders the creation of emotional bonds and team harmony.
- Democratic: This style builds consensus through participation.
- Pacesetting: This style expects excellence and self-direction.
- Coaching: This style focuses on personal development.
I’m sure you’ve seen this discussed before. Wayne Liew’s question sums up the problem I have with the whole idea of “leadership styles.”
He asked, “In your opinion, is it possible for someone to have all the leadership styles that you have listed above? I know it’s hard but if it is possible, would you recommend someone to focus more on perfecting one of the styles or to branch out?”
As Shakespeare said, “There’s the rub.”
It’s not just that different people require different approaches, but that what Joe needs changes not only based on the situation and subject, but also on where Joe’s head is at that moment.
And the ability to assess all that is what separates those who do from those who try.
Whether you call them leaders, managers, leadagers or something else, the real brilliance isn’t in what their style is it’s in the instant, unconscious ability to evaluate each of their people and proceed in the way that works best at that moment.
My final problem with these labels is that the only time they can be applied is after the fact.
At least I’ve never met a manager who thinks along the lines of “I need to talk to Joe about the widget in his design and I think that my best approach would be affiliative, with a hint of authoritative and a fall back position of democratic, but leaning towards coaching.”
In the long run, I find that people use the styles that are most synergistic with their MAP (mindset, attitude, philosophy™). Of course it’s possible stretch to styles that aren’t comfortable, but to do so requires stretching/changing your MAP or else you risk sounding like a fake.
What about you? What’s your take on leadership styles?
Image credit: scx.hu