Six Leadership Styles – Which One is Yours?

HR leaderUndoubtedly, there are as many leadership styles as there are managers in the world. Still, despite their “uniqueness,” these styles do tend to fall into several broad categories depending on the personal traits and experience of the respective managers. Here are six of the most common ones:

The Authoritarian

While an experienced “authoritarian-style” leader can definitively lead a team with their vision and goal-oriented focus, this style is also often emulated by inexperienced managers who mistake mere authority for true leadership. The authoritarian style works best when the members of the team are themselves experienced and only need to be coaxed in a certain direction. In fact, with this style, the bulk of any business initiative will lie with the subordinates and their own prerogatives. Conversely, a consortium of experts will not appreciate this style of leadership and should be handled in a different manner. Simply put, the authoritarian style of leadership will pass or fail on the particular strengths of the manager and not, regrettably, on the merits of his team.

The Pacesetter

A very interesting – and absolutely self- absorbed – leadership style, the “pacesetter” expects his subordinates to emulate his every move. When it is good, it is very good but it can lead to disaster if the manager loses focus or interest. It works best with an already motivated team but can quickly devolve into a game of “one-upsmanship” where very little gets done as each team member tries to outdo the other in little things – like simply putting in long hours with no actual work being done – and forgets the actual goal of the project. To his discredit, the pacesetter rarely takes criticism from subordinates very seriously and is rudely awakened when the same points are made by his superiors.

The Emoter

Through bonding, the emotive leader aims to create a feeling of camaraderie and a “people first” attitude. Laudable, but highly impractical in a 21st century business environment. In fact, it really only works in companies headed by the founder who must be allowed to follow his desires. This style shies away from true criticism, demotivates a team – as faint praise is always available – and is completely ineffective in times of crisis as the team members are unprepared to “step up” when required by the situation. Avoid this “leadership” style like the plague.

The Democrat

While a very popular style of leadership with both managers and most subordinates, this consensus building technique offers very little in real leadership. Instead, these Milquetoast managers look to their subordinates to validate their business decisions. Unfortunately, this strategy does not work as the “grunts” will generally opt for any decision that lightens their own workload – a decidedly poor formula for success. For sure, this style works when building “buy-in” for a new, company-wide initiative but it is a poor substitute for real leadership on a particular, customer-focused project.

The Coercer

This style of leadership inevitably leads to a comparison with the authoritarian style. While the latter attempts to enforce their will through sheer power, the former tries to invoke a more personable approach. In the end, both styles want the same thing – total subjugation to their wishes – while the authoritarian just issues orders, the coercer will make some attempt to convince his subordinates of the superiority of his decision rather than just issue a series of dictates. A final note, “coercers” often see themselves as “one of the guys” even when in a position of power. It is a delusion and they should be disabused of this notion as soon as possible.

The Coach

While every manager will inevitably institute their own particular leadership style, this is the one that everyone from Warren Buffet to Elon Musk has found to be the most successful. Build your team up, coach and test them with smaller tasks and then trust them to make the really big decisions when you are not around. This process not only makes them better managers in their own right but also frees you up to attend to more important matters. In short, the “coach” develops people at every level of his organization.

So step up, have some confidence in your people and let them shine. After all, how can you be promoted if there is no one to fill your shoes?

To learn more about leadership you may want to check out, The Problem with Leadership and 5 Ways to Demonstrate Leadership in your Business.

* Caspar Milquetoast was a comic strip character created by H. T. Webster for his cartoon series, The Timid Soul. The character’s name is a deliberate misspelling of the name of a bland and fairly inoffensive food, milk toast. Milk toast, light and easy to digest, is an appropriate food for someone with a weak or “nervous” stomach; a very timid, unassertive, spineless person who’s afraid to ask for a raise!

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