Leadership Styles in Management
There are a number of various leadership styles in management that are relied upon by today’s corporations. When we think of leadership styles, we generally think of the big 4. That is, the most popular styles of leadership being autocratic, democratic, bureaucratic, and laissez-faire. In most management scenarios you will not generally find leaders who strictly follow one style to the letter but actually show leadership traits and qualities from more than one of these categories mixed in various degrees based on their own skills, background and personality. So leadership styles in management are not quite as simple as just categorizing the different popular leadership styles according to traditional leadership theories.
Leadership Styles In Management Rely On A Combination Of Leadership Influences
Leadership styles for management applications will typically pull various points and attitudes from the following general leadership style categories:
- Autocratic leadership – Think dictatorship. The Autocratic leadership style is leadership that is centered on the concept of complete control. In this type of leadership, those in power exert full control over those below them. Historically, we have seen societies where governments led with complete control in this manner. In today’s corporate world, this would not work in its pure form. As far as leadership styles in management are concerned, no employer or manager will have this kind of power over workers. The nature of employment is too voluntary.
- Democratic leadership – Like in modern democratic societies, this form of leadership allows some direction or control to fall back to the “people”. When we think democracy, we think “voting” and that is one of the concepts that makes this form of leadership more acceptable and common in the modern workplace. With this leadership style, the team is encouraged to provide feedback or direction in the decision making processes to some degree. Of course some kind of singular point of direction must be maintained in order to resolve differing views or conflict. Leaders in this scenario are still expected to make the final call based on their skill in evaluating the possible options.
- Bureaucratic leadership – Another popular leadership style in management, bureaucratic leadership is generally used in specific scenarios where direction is focused on processes themselves rather than the entire organization. In this style, leaders and workers are given very precise guidelines or rules to follow. All work will be done according to those rules and there will be little room for deviation. While a company will rarely have a leadership structure that relies completely on these “by-the-book” practices, you will see this quite often implemented in departments where safety is a concern. In these cases, certain activities or processes will have very strict procedures that must be adhered to exactly.
- Laissez-Faire – Laissez-faire, French for “let do” or basically “leave it alone” is concept wherein the leadership will take a much more laid back and hands-off approach to direction of efforts. We often see this on a more micro level in contractor relationships. For instance, with contracting you would hire the expertise that you seek and generally step back and let them utilize their skill set in their own way to accomplish the desired end result. This is not a common leadership style in management as applied to entire corporations or scenarios where employees are concerned. Typically, in modern corporations, some control is always sought in order to ensure that processes adhere to various boundaries.
While leadership styles in management will draw from the general concepts above, they by no means need to fall into one category or the other. As mentioned above, we usually find a mixture of not only these concepts but other leadership concepts as well.
In management we also need to consider first, the specific needs of the organization in question and the people involved. Worry less about what style you will adopt and focus instead on more generalized and adaptable management concepts. Leadership is not about your needs or your style of leading. It is about the needs of the organization and the approach that works best for your people. Leadership is about leading others in the most effective way possible to accomplish the specific goals established by the needs of the organization. For this reason, leadership styles in management must remain flexible.
When you are able to embrace the idea that leadership in management needs to flex or yield to fit the appropriate scenario you can draw from many different leadership concepts. In addition to the traditional categories about, there are also many more defined concepts of leadership that better apply to management situations. Following are some more modern leadership styles for management in today’s organizations:
Coaching Style – Coaching describes an approach in which the more experienced person, usually a member of leadership, will engage in one-on-one counseling with an individual in order to better and more fully illustrate exactly what is expected. The coach will teach the employee how to do something that he or she does not already know how to do. This has been utilized as a remedy for employees who are lacking in skills but it is more widely embraced as a means to help develop the skills of someone who has shown interest in developing their skill for promotion or other advancement.
The Pacesetter – The general idea with the pace setter approach is that leadership will set the example or pace and others will be expected to follow suit and maintain the same level of productivity and quality. This style is usually utilized by someone who is particularly skilled in an area and who wants followers to rise to that established skill level. This approach can sometimes be unrealistic but when used with effective incentives and proper teaching, it can be very effective and productive. When employing this method, it is important to remember that not everyone has the same skills or the same pace and that there is the potential for employees to become alienated as a result. As long as a reasonable variance is accounted for and accepted, it can work.
Innovative Style – This style of leadership is common when new direction or influence is needed. The company will bring in leadership with an innovative approach to leadership. With this, the focus will be finding new and better ways of doing old things or even developing whole new processes or goals altogether. This is generally adopted when current processes are failing in some way or the organization is seeking to grow in new areas. These are the “idea men” that provide the new goal and direction but generally do not sort the details of how to implement them. This is a high level approach with less involvement in the details or the micro level.
Team Leading – Team leading embraces the importance of team work, and creates an environment where most of the responsibility is passed down to the team level. There will be team leaders who accept a little more responsibility than others but who still report to and are directed by managers that stay heavily involved in monitoring the progress or success of those teams. This fosters positive morale because people stay involved but it also allows the team to share responsibility for both successes and failures which can lead to a lack of accountability and even difficulty for exceptional performers to rise above more mediocre ones.
Commanding Style – The leadership style in today’s management structures is less common in pure form much like the old Authoritarian style that it mimics. It has its place but generally has so many drawbacks and negative side effects that it only works well in certain special scenarios. We see this style in small doses where critical issues must be addressed quickly and precisely. We also see it used almost exclusively in the military. The military is a rare situation in which employees or enlistees are contractually bound to serve in whatever way is deemed appropriate. They do not have the luxury of refusal nor can they quit their job and simply go find another. Because of those to key elements, the style works amazingly well. Although the environment breeds a mentality of tolerance and mental toughness, the tiresome criticism and lack of praise or reward can become problematic even in the military. In common management scenarios, this approach simply fails every time when applied broadly.
As you can undoubtedly deduce from all of this, leadership styles in management are wide in variance and are dependent on many variable factors. It will depend on the needs of the company, the abilities of the leaders and the mentality of the workers. Choosing the “right” approach will depend on testing and learning what works best for your team, organization or corporation.