5 Leadership Styles – Which Best Suits You?
All ethical styles of leadership have a place in organizational life, including benevolent dictatorships.
High school football coaches and symphony conductors often require obedience with little discussion.
I ask audiences to think of a famous leader from history. On the count of three, I ask them to shout out that leader’s dominant quality. After the shout out, I ask, “Did anyone near you shout out the same quality?” Typically, no one hears the same quality they shouted out.
We press people into preferred leadership styles, yet there’s vast diversity in the leaders we admire.
The main issue of leadership style is organizational fit and situation. Winston Churchill succeeded, in large part, because he fit the situation he led through.
- Take charge and tell people what to do.
- Fit well in hierarchical organizations.
- Work best when roles are highly defined.
- Thrive when their expertise meets crisis or pressing challenges.
- Seek input and suggestions.
- Try to satisfy all parties.
- Make many decisions by consensus.
- Work well when time allows for their process to work.
- Fit well when teams are highly competent.
- Work best when purpose is clear, understood, and fully embraced by all participants.
- Create environments where talented people work together to produce clear results.
- Believe the action is in the interaction.
- Tend to guide the process, but not get personally involved in delivering results.
- Expect compliance.
- Work best when the future depends on word-pictures and dreams.
- Possess traits that inspire others to commit and follow.
- Require a team of skilled managers to scale and execute the vision.
- Tend to dominate interactions.
- Work best in transparent organizations.
- Share control, usually.
- Share responsibility.
- Have mutual accountability.
Note: Leadership style is impacted by one’s view and relationship with power.
Which leadership style most suits you? Why?
A Review of Five Leadership Models (Stewards)
Leadership Approach and Model. (University of Minnesota)
I appreciate your list of five types and the settings in which each is effective. Culture fit and the type of challenge that is being faced matter a lot. Thanks, Dan!
Thanks Ken. Yes, we tend to be suited for certain situations. Plus, we adapt ourselves.
In re “Other,” Don’t forget an all encompassing, “Rogue.”
I love Jefferson, yet can’t label it it “Democrat Republican,” as he tried to do. Enigmatic, to the end, as Adams lamented as they each passed on, yet “Jefferson lives.”
“I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.”
Sometimes it’s more about the rock of character than the fashion of style.
Thanks Rurbane. It seems like the best style reflects character. Anything else is fake.
The best measure of any style is elegance, accomplishing the most with the least, a beautiful deception – in any case.
The overarching reality is that style is ephemeral – any leader is only successful by adapting their current style to the current environment/culture; the style is not inherent in the character of the leader. To trust in a leader’s “style” is to be betrayed by the leader’s inherent character. To trust in a leader’s character is to trust in a consistency of results through the leader’s adaptations to their relationship with power.
Churchill’s imperial character (successful under existential duress of Nazi totalitarianism) was resoundingly rejected by populist post-fascist socialism, even as he was prophetically warning of the reality of the Iron Curtain. Successful, or not?
Jefferson’s unilateral Louisiana Purchase (doubling the territory of the US and trebling the size of federal(ist) control of government) from a weakened Napoleon was, in his own words, “(Thomas) Paine’s unsane idea,” and inherently “unconstitutional.” Yet he heeded uber-Constitutionalist Madison to shut the f’up and just do it, with Monroe’s rationalization of Manifest Destiny (control of New Orleans immediately, but the continent eventually). Successful, or not?
As leaders, I mean.
Style, or substance?
An interesting and thought-provoking post!
As part of Senior Management Staff, I followed a Conductor Style of Leadership. This has worked well with good involvement of all and got the desired results. The key to success was primarily dependent on communication the expected things from individuals for the assigned tasks. Creating a cohesive environment and tacking on the progressive checks became my responsibility as a skillful conductor. It is always beneficial to remain open to accept newer ideas, push creativity, win the trust of people with a required human touch and get their commitment with clarity of goals.
While on the other side, I have seen CEOs working with a Charismatic Style sharing their vision, investing in the right areas of future growth ahead of time, creating and building teams of deliverables and a never-satisfied approach to drag the complacency in the staff.
Dan, I always enjoy your posts. Good one today. Knowing your natural leadership style is important. You also need to understand what’s needed in your particular org and what’s needed by the individuals on your teams. Situational leadership is important. The ability to flex between leadership styles to meet the needs of your employees, your team, and your org during any given moment is the mark of a mature, thoughtful leader. I see too many one size fits all leadership styles and also try to remind myself to be more aware when my natural style is incongruent with the person or project I’m leading.
As a coach, parent, teacher and manager/leader, I use three basic styles–directing, discussing and delegating. Each style is appropriate in certain situations depending on the person’s knowledge, skills, task experience etc. Each situation is somewhat unique. You need to decide what style will help and motivate the person to succeed.
Here is the video and slides I use to teach these three management/leadership styles.
I posted the wrong YouTube video. It should have been—Management Styles-Paul Thornton
Sorry about that!
I suspect I mostly operate in the Partner sphere. One of the best leaders I’ve ever worked with was a Charismatic Coach, or at least at fluid ability to draw upon those two types of leaders. I think being able to lean into a few styles is a worthy goal, and one that few can attain.
I recently saw the movie, “Harriet,” which is about the life and times of Harriet Tubman who helped enslaved black people from the south escape to freedom.
The leader that I will discuss is Harriet Tubman. Harriet Tubman’s diverse leadership style is a combination of conductor/commander/servant/charismatic. Harriet Tubman was a “conductor” on the Underground Railroad. As a conductor, she was fighting against an institution and system that declared black people as “property,” instead of American Citizens.
Harriet Tubman was a woman and leader before her time. She felt passionate about being free and felt that no man should own another man. She risked her very own freedom countless times to return to the south and lead other blacks to freedom. This displays her “servant” style of leadership.
Harriet Tubman displayed “commander” qualities because she carried a gun/rifle and threatened to shoot anyone who tried to run back to the slave plantation. She couldn’t afford to have any slave catchers pick up her trail and jeopardize her strategies. Harriet also worked with the military during the Civil War and successfully led a “secret mission” for Northern Union Forces.
As a leader, Harriet Tubman was “charismatic.” She was a deeply spiritual woman and was connected to God. She was guided by spirit and was moved by faith. She had lucid dreams, premonitions and visions and many times she could foresee what would occur. Harriet was illiterate, yet she always arrived safely with the people she led. Since Harriet was deeply spiritual in nature, she must’ve known how to read the position of the stars. No doubt, she could spot the Great Bear, Big Dipper, North Star, the celestial and heavenly bodies was a Godsend as she traveled the path to freedom.
At some point in Harriet Tubman’s life, she must’ve awakened to the realization that she was on a journey. She was walking a path that had been destined for her life ages-upon-ages ago.
Or as the ancients would declare:
“As It IS Written.”
I know I’ve lived each of these, but currently I’m in the role of a partner. I have to work with several external entities to start a project and ultimately accomplish it. This requires meeting with stakeholders of all types for feedback, data collection, and evaluation. This allows me the freedom of nothing being the point person on a project. I don’t mind sharing the lead and supporting those with better ideas. At the end, we all add value and join in the success of a completed task.