By Tracey Maurer
What kind of leader are you? Do you follow the classic definition of a leader: someone who aims to influence and motivate employees to meet organizational goals and effectiveness?
If you’re doing your job, then this definition might sound familiar. But let’s get more specific. Do you have a particular leadership style that you usually use?
Most leaders generally adhere to one or two preferred styles of leadership with which they feel comfortable. But the challenge is that great leaders have multiple leadership styles in their toolkit, and they are adept at diagnosing situations and using the right leadership styles at the right times, according to David Jones, associate professor of management at the University of Vermont.
Jones identifies five styles drawn from theory and research on leadership that he thinks are important for all leaders to have in their toolkit:
- Directive: You’re no dictator, but you’re very clear in establishing performance objectives for your team. You’re adept at providing structure and skilled at clarifying employees’ perceptions of their roles. When needed – and this isn’t always a bad thing because some situations might require it – you tend toward micro-managing.
- Supportive: If you’re approachable and empathetic, then you’re probably a supportive leader. You show concern for employees, and you treat them with dignity and respect. Your employees, in turn, feel valued and cared for. In times of change, they trust you to help them manage uncertainty.
- Participative: If you’re someone who works hard for buy-in by soliciting employee input, then you’re most definitely a participative leader. You encourage employee involvement in decision-making and, more importantly, ensure they know that their views will be – and have been – considered. Depending on the situation, you consult directly with employees; other times, you delegate your authority to employees who engage in the decision-making.
- Achievement-Oriented: If you always think you and your team can do better, and you push everyone to reach higher, then you clearly are achievement-oriented. You like to set “stretch” goals, and you encourage continuous improvement. You also empower employees and give them autonomy, assuming they’ll do their personal and team best. You constantly show confidence in the ability of individual employees and teams.
- Transformational: Most leaders aspire to be transformational. If you are, you lead through vision. You have your eye on the future, and you model and communicate your forward-thinking commitment. You are an inspiration to employees, and they follow you because they believe in the common goals that you’ve shared and articulated.
Even if you identify with just one or two styles, you can learn from – and apply – other styles, Jones says. For every situation – whether it’s communicating with an employee about poor job performance, inspiring a highly experienced team to achieve or guiding your organization through times of change and uncertainty – there are particular leadership styles and corresponding tools you can use to accomplish your objectives.
Tracey Maurer is a Senior Program Developer and Director of New Business Development for the UVM Center for Leadership and Innovation.