As a leader, you’ve probably seen a plethora of leadership models being talked about in management literature. You’ve developed your own leadership style, maybe subconsciously, or have had the opportunity to undergo leadership development programs at a highly prestigious institute. Either way, you have your own unique style of leading your team.
Leadership models and styles are a way to make sense of these wide variety of approaches by clubbing them into separate groups of similar characteristics. By doing this, it becomes easier to study the impact of such approaches and also understand the motivation drivers underlying them. From this perspective it becomes an interesting tool to understand our own leadership styles and assess whether we are having the impact we desire or just the opposite.
Leadership approaches range from Lewin’s Leadership Styles framework of the 1930s to the more recent ideas about transformational leadership. There are also many general styles, including servant and transactional leadership. Become aware of such frameworks and styles can help you to refine your approach and to be a more deliberate and effective leader.
So let’s delve deeper into some of the key leadership styles to understand how they affect your team’s performance.
This is a framework developed by psychologist Kurt Lewin in the 1930s, and it became the foundation of many of the approaches that followed afterwards. He argued that there are three major styles of leadership:
Autocratic leaders make decisions on their own without consulting or taking inputs from their team, even when they might be able to come up with good ideas. An autocratic leader believes that they are the most qualified to take decisions and do not value the ideas that come from others. Working with a leader like this can make even the most creative and enthusiastic team member, hesitant about sharing their ideas. This style can be quite demoralizing for the team, and it can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover.
Democratic leaders include team members in the decision-making process by seeking out their ideas but eventually they make the final decisions themselves. This approach of a democratic leader encourages creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have higher job satisfaction and higher productivity.
Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. They tend to provide support in terms of advice or resources if required, but otherwise they let the team function on its own. This autonomy that team members sense under such a leader can lead to high job satisfaction, but only if the team members have the required skills and resources to accomplish the task. If the team lacks motivation or has to deliver under tight deadlines, this approach could lead to a lot of frustration within the team. At it’s extreme, it would even appear that the leader is not interested in the team or the task.
This framework clearly indicates that a less autocratic approach would get better results. However, in times of crisis or when decisions need to be taken quickly, the autocratic approach may appear to be the best route.
The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid which emerged in 1964 uses a simple two-by-two grid to describe five leadership styles on the basis of the leader’s concern for people and concern for tasks.
Authoritarian Leader (high task, low relationship): Leaders who have very high focus on tasks and not so much on their people tend to be hard on their teams. There is little or no allowance for cooperation or collaboration. Such leaders are very strong on schedules; they expect people to do what they are told without question or debate and when something goes wrong, they tend to focus on who is to blame rather than concentrate on exactly what is wrong and how to prevent it. They tend to be intolerant of what they see as dissent, which might just be someone's creativity, so it is difficult for their subordinates to contribute or develop.
Country Club Leader (low task, high relationship): A leader who focuses on relationship with his team rather than tasks uses predominantly reward power to maintain discipline and to encourage the team to accomplish its goals. This makes them almost incapable of being directive and giving difficult feedback to their team, or exercising their legitimate power in any manner. At the core, they fear that using such powers could jeopardize their relationships with their team members.
Impoverished Leader (low task, low relationship): This type of leader uses a "delegate and disappear" management style. Since they are not committed to either task accomplishment or maintenance of relationships, they essentially allow their team to do whatever it wishes and prefer to detach themselves from the team process. This could lead to the team suffering from a series of power struggles.
Team Leader (high task, high relationship): A leader who has a high focus on relationships and tasks leads by positive example and is able to foster a team environment in which all team members can reach higher potential, both as team members and as people. Such leaders encourage the team to reach team goals as effectively as possible, while also working tirelessly to strengthen the bonds among the various members. They normally form and lead some of the most productive teams.
As you can conclude from the above description, the ideal leader would be a team leader who not only has a high focus on the tasks and outcomes but also builds the capabilities of and relationship with their team members.
The leadership frameworks discussed so far are all useful in different situations, however, "transformational leadership " is often considered to be the most effective style to use in business. This leadership model was first published in 1978, and was then further developed in 1985.
Transformational leaders have integrity and high emotional intelligence. They motivate people with a shared vision of the future, and they communicate well. They're also typically self-aware, authentic, empathetic, and humble.
Transformational leaders inspire their team members because they expect the best from everyone, and they hold themselves accountable for their actions. They set clear goals, and they have good conflict-resolution skills. This leads to high levels of productivity and engagement.
So, what is your predominant style of leadership?
These are some questions for you to ponder.
To summarize, leadership is not a "one size fits all" thing. Often, as a leader you need to adapt or flex your style to fit the situation. A good understanding of what impact each of these styles have on your team members and their performance is a way to be more intentional in your approach and flexible as required by the situation.
To understand more about your leadership style, you could explore some leadership assessments along with a coaching session. Assessments around emotional intelligence can provide you with a lot of insights about your self-awareness and relationship management. If you want to explore this further, feel free to schedule a consultation with me.
2020 is coming to an end and what a year it’s been! The global pandemic has really challenged us in so many ways and it’s been hard for many of us to feel in control as the crisis just drags on. Our businesses have taken a hit but we know that there are many around us who have been hit even harder.
It’s natural then for many business leaders to feel guilty about the hard decisions they’ve had to take in terms of layoffs, closures and disruptions in service. A client of mine had to let go of a senior employee in the US and he knew this meant that the employee had to go back to his home country and his entire life would get disrupted. He was also worried that the employee would no longer have health cover to take care of the special needs of his child. A friend who is the CHRO of a large organisation was distraught when a young employee passed away due to COVID and he felt he couldn’t do anything to save her.
Guilt is an unsettling emotion to deal with. But it’s also a sign that you’re a conscientious leader. While there are many things that are out of your control, one way of dealing with this guilt when it hits you is to re-evaluate and improve the way you approach your employees and company, and demonstrate compassionate leadership in difficult circumstances.
Here are 5 ways in which you can do this:
If you have a small team, it’s possible for you to do so yourself. If you have a large employees base, put together small cross-functional teams to spread out and listen to the wider group. This will help you plan your initiatives better.
When you have no choice but to implement furloughs, reduced hours, or pay cuts, don’t delegate sharing the news to HR - it feels demoralizing, disrespectful, and lacks empathy. If you are responsible for the decision, it is you who should be sharing it. This sends a clear message to not just the people who are impacted but also the others around them and support the morale of the team.
If some of your decisions have gone wrong and negatively affected others, take remedial action as soon as you know or can and do it as publicly as possible. Acknowledge your mistake and then communicate new developments frequently and consistently. Decisions can go either r way based on the limited information that we operate on – you are not expected to be right all the time. But how you own up and make amends is what your team and customers are looking at.
Try and see what benefits can be retained even when someone goes on a furlough or pay cut. Help the ones who’ve been laid off to find new jobs. Provide career transition support wherever possible.
People respond to that. They connect with you and they trust you when you’re being the best version of you. Talk about how you balance your own personal and work commitments. Talk about your own challenges and encourage sharing of tips and resources for managing workload, scheduling and so on. You don’t have to have a stoic mask all the time. Let people know that you also struggle sometimes and that’s okay. That’s being human.
So, to sum it up, it’s understandable if you as a leader are struggling with guilty feelings as you see the disruptions and struggles that the Covid-19 crisis is causing your employees and colleagues, sometimes specifically as a result of your own actions. But if you reframe your feelings of guilt as an opportunity to consciously and thoughtfully make the best decisions possible, communicate clearly, and behave with compassion and concern for both your employees and yourself, then you can help steer their teams and organizations toward better times.
If you want to talk about this, just click on Request Consultation and pick a convenient time for discussion or send me a WhatsApp message using the button above.
Many times, when I bring up coaching with business leaders and owners, they react by saying that I’m doing well. I don’t think I need a coach.
To my mind, there are two possible reasons for this reaction – one, they are not aware about what real coaching is and its benefits, and two, they are not ready to have a hard look at themselves and see what’s not working. They may be afraid of what they might uncover and are happier just coasting along till they are forced to confront these issues.
I always make an effort to explain what real coaching is and how it’s different from having a mentor or guide or just reading self-help books. I also make it a point to share that coaching is not about solving problems. It is about unblocking the realisation of your potential. You can do and achieve much more than what you are doing currently just by getting out of your own way. A coach helps you get out of your own way and go after those big hairy audacious goals.
Ask yourself this
Having a coach is not a sign of weakness – it’s a sign of ambition, it’s a sign of hunger for bigger impact, it’s a sign of courage to work on oneself.
Go ahead, tell me you don’t need a coach…
Click on the Request Consultation button above for a discovery call.
To be truly listened to is an amazing experience, partly because it is so rare! When another person is totally with you – leaning in, interested in every word, eager to empathize – you feel seen and understood. When people feel that they are really being listened to, they open up more as they feel safe and secure and the trust between the parties grows.
Unfortunately, most people do not listen at a very deep level as they are preoccupied with the challenges of their fast-paced life. As a result, most conversations tend to skim on the surface.
The absence of real listening is especially prevalent at work. Under pressure to get the job done, we listen for the minimum of what we need to know so that we can move on to the next fire that needs fighting. So, what’s the consequence of this? Everyone is talking, no on is listening. As a result, employee engagement has become a serious issue in organisations today.
This is becoming a bigger problem in this COVID scenario as employees are dispersed and the conversations are very transactional and brief. Leaders seem to have become busier and more distracted in recent times.
How often are you as a leader distracted in a conversation or a meeting with your team? How often are you as a leader not psychologically present when you are virtually with your team? How often do you cancel, interrupt or shorten meetings with your people in favour of some other stakeholder, priority or task? How often do you make your people wait, ask, or even hope for your leadership? Ironically, now more than ever, leaders need to be deeply and continuously connected with their teams.
What your team needs right now is authentic and unequivocal leadership presence. So, turn off the noise in your head. Turn off the noise from your technology. Focus your mind and your time on the people you lead and they, in turn, will follow and support your leadership efforts.
Now, more than ever, it’s important to take the time to connect, to show that you care about your employees as people. Listening deeply will also help you understand what their challenges and expectations, and gives you a chance to share what your intentions and goals in a way that everyone can be aligned.
Listening is a skill that you can gain from training and practice. And who better to learn if from than coaches. Effective coaches tend to be gifted listeners and they hone their listening skills to reach a high level of proficiency. This enables us coaches to reach the inner recesses of your mind and help you get those deep insights.
In the book, Co-Active Coaching, Henry and Karen Kimsey-House explain the three levels of listening and how the art of listening can be cultivated.
Level 1 listening is an interaction where the primary focus of you as the listener is on your own thoughts, opinions, judgments, and feelings. You relate the words you hear to your own experiences or needs. For example, if we are buying a car, we will be listening at Level 1 to the salesperson to see how the car features will fit our needs and budget.
Level 2 listening takes the communication one step further. It involves paying attention to the tone of voice, body language and facial expressions. As you filter out your internal chatter and distractions from the environment, you are able to tune in to the meaning of the words, choose a way to respond, and assess the effect of the response on the speaker.
Level 3 listening brings an entirely new state of awareness to the conversation. It involves doing everything at Level 2, plus using your intuition and being open to receiving more information in any form that it presents itself. If you get a hunch, for example, while listening to someone, you could bring it up without being attached to it. Without insisting on being right, observe the effect it has on the speaker and be aware of where the conversation goes next.
For instance, you may say: “I understand that you are happy with the results, but I have a feeling that you have something else on your mind.” The response may be, “No, not really,” or “Yes, actually, I wanted to tell you about this issue that came up with our project.” It is irrelevant if you are right or wrong; what is important is the effect on the conversation.
So, there you have it – why it is important for you as a leader to hone your listening skills and how you can enhance your depth of listening. The art of listening takes time to develop, but it can be practiced daily. It builds trust and understanding and contributes significantly to your effectiveness as a leader.
If you want to discuss further, just schedule a complimentary consultation by clicking this link above.
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