Leadership Theories

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Numerous studies have been conducted on leadership styles and theories, leading to an abundance of information on the topic. This paper will identify leadership styles and theories that the author has experienced in the maintenance field. Given the leadership styles identified, the author has identified one leadership theory that has influenced their leadership style for an ongoing project that they are currently working on. The study of leadership has identified many different styles exhibited by leaders. Leaders may be of predominantly a single style or may demonstrate the use of different styles depending on the environment that they find themselves in. Goleman (2000) has identified six styles which have been summarised below, however the descriptions of each style may be known by other titles according to different authors.

Coercive – ‘Do as I tell you’. Demands that people follow the instructions given to them and leaves no room for their input or initiative. Rules from the top down. Can make people feel devalued and so resentful that they feel no compulsion to help the leader or business. It can however be used in times of crisis, during a turnaround and to deal with problematic employees, however it should ceased to be used when then issue is dealt with.

Authoritative – ‘Come with me’. Authoritative leaders build a vision and inspire people to achieve the vision. Establishes a clear vision and encourages everyone to achieve the vision with true enthusiasm. They motivate people by demonstrating to them how their work fits into the larger vision of the organisation, and generally offers people the freedom to develop their own methods to achieve the stated vision.

Affiliative – ‘People come first’. The Affiliative leader has a caring, nurturing approach building strong emotional bonds with people to develop fierce loyalty among people. They provide the freedom for people to choose the most effective way to do their work. Affiliative leaders offer positive feedback to personnel providing a sense of recognition and reward for work well done which in turn generates motivation and a sense of belonging among personnel.

Democratic – ‘What do you think?’. By listening to other people’s ideas and getting their buy-in, the democratic leader seeks consensus among personnel in how the work is to be done to achieve their goals and in setting the goals. This leadership method can create high morale and flexibility within a workforce due to personnel having a say in what is happening. Leaders can use this method to put off decision making or gain input from personnel to make decisions, however there is a risk that if a consensus cannot be reached on issues, many meetings may soon start to occur where decisions are not made, and more meetings are required. It is also a style not recommended when personnel are not competent or well enough informed to be able to make sound decisions.

Pacesetting – ‘Do as I do, now’. The pace setting leader sets extremely high performance standards and then exemplifies them himself, expecting the others around him to do the same. If used inappropriately, it will negatively affect the work climate by the pacesetter overwhelming employees with their demands for excellence by making them feel as though they cannot be trusted to do their work. Initiative, flexibility and responsibility among personnel will also diminish. This approach however may work well with a group of like minded, competent personnel who have a set goal or project to complete.

Coaching – ‘Try this’. By helping personnel to identify their strengths and weaknesses, the coaching leader helps to determine long term development goals and formulate an action plan to attain those goals. Coaching leaders are prepared to assign challenging tasks to personnel and accept the risk of short term failure if it furthers long term learning. Paradoxically, coaching primarily focuses on personal development rather than...
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