What makes a good boss – someone “adept” at giving instructions and oversees each step of work processes, or a person who leads their entire team to the top while ensuring a healthy work environment?
With numerous leadership styles in practice, it can be difficult to accurately define just what makes a good leader. However, understanding what type of leader you are can help improve your approach to managing and bettering your team, work processes, and overall working environment.
The Fundamentals of a Leader
A commendable leader is someone who motivates and guides their team to success while maintaining a stable environment that promotes teamwork, discipline, creativity, and punctuality.
These leaders are usually proficient in communication and time management. They are able to effectively convey information and ideas, and can rally their team members to achieve shared goals and maintain discipline while allowing space for creativity and innovation to flourish.
A leader of tomorrow must also be dynamic – they are open to new ideas, and have a good understanding of shifting trends in business and employee priorities. In short, the days of “my way or the highway” leadership are gone.
Recognise Your Leadership Style?
People tend to invoke a leadership style that most closely reflects their own personality. However, a true leader knows the importance of examining whether the methods that feel most “natural” to them are actually effective for the team, and the need to blend several leadership approaches to get the best and most sustainable results.
An autocratic leader is an individual who sets a clear vision for their team. They establish specific guidelines and briefs that dictate how and what team members are expected to execute.
Traditionally, leaders who embrace this approach expect their team members to accept their instructions with little to no resistance. This may seem outdated today, but there are times when an autocratic approach is the best way to get certain tasks done swiftly. An autocratic approach should not be your sole method, but may prove useful when a situation calls for “tough” action.
This approach is most effective in a consistent and predictable environment, as well as in highly regulated industries, such as healthcare and engineering. It requires team members to have confidence in you as their leader – and trust is not built overnight. A leader needs to foster that relationship, and this can take time.
An autocratic leadership may lead to employee dissatisfaction, and this could result in people leaving an organisation. It also has the risk of stifling creativity, making for a team that is less productive and progressive. In a survey of 14,033 people by Leadership IQ, only 21% of employees see the benefits of autocratic leadership, and just about 11% really want a leader to tell them exactly how to perform their work.1
If you want to establish an environment where creativity and talent can flourish, the coaching approach would be the right style for you. Coaching leaders guide their employees by helping them develop their unique skills and talents, focusing on individuals’ abilities and driving home the importance of teamwork.
This approach is perhaps the most useful in fostering long-term relationships between employer and employee, and its nurturing nature has the potential to boost employee retention rates.
Among the positives that come with this approach to leadership are the promotion of individual skills development and a higher team morale. But there are drawbacks, too, including a longer time spent on helping each employee properly develop their talents, and potential failures in product delivery as team members may not be entirely certain about their roles.
These drawbacks can be mitigated with good hiring practices and a solid organisational structure to ensure employees adhere to deadlines and understand their job scope and responsibilities well.
Also known as laissez-faire leadership, delegative leadership is an approach that employs minimal guidance, meaning employees are encouraged to solve problems on their own with minimal supervision. A good delegative leader would still define clear guidelines and expectations before instructing their team to “take over”.
Delegative leadership is most effective when team members are highly skilled and have adequate work experience. This approach generally empowers employees and gives them the opportunity to fully utilise their skills. It works best in the creative industry, as creative workers tend to favour freedom of expression and bouncing ideas among team members. In this kind of work environment, innovation and breakthrough are well-positioned to thrive.
Delegative leadership also means that you, as the leader, have more time to attend to your own tasks with better focus and precision, as you trust your team members to execute their responsibilities without much hand-holding.
A progressive approach to leading that prioritises the well-being of employees, affiliative leadership encourages leaders to pay close attention to team members’ professional and emotional needs.
Ultimately, an affiliative leader seeks to foster a working environment that is predicated on harmony and inclusivity. Common positive outcomes that can be expected from this type of leadership are a high level of morale and loyalty, as well as the quick resolution of issues.
Affiliative leaders, however, may encounter slower productivity and growth within the company due to a lack of criticism and open dialogue. With this in mind, it’s important to maintain a two-way feedback channel and ensure the focus on shared objectives does not waver.
Transformational leaders are committed to the organisation’s vision and mission – they tend to prioritise the bigger picture. This “future-driven” approach is often used to set guidelines and expectations for employees.
A transformational leader is most effective in a fast-growing organisation or one in need of course correction, such as start-ups. This approach is also incredibly useful during corporate restructuring exercises, mergers, and acquisitions.
A study has found that team members demonstrated a 78.1% increase in performance when their leaders exhibit a transformational leadership style, and separate research showed that three out of four employees agree that transformational leaders are effective in supporting their work-life balance.2
Become a Great Leader Today
Being a leader who is valued by their team members, peers, and upper management requires more than just a blended approach to organisational management – you must also be willing to self-evaluate, upskill, and promote a work culture that balances performance, sustainability, and happiness.
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