From Mahatma Gandhi to Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders. Fortunately, businesspeople and psychologists have developed useful and simple ways to describe the main styles of leadership, and these can help aspiring leaders understand which styles they should use. So, whether you manage a team at work, captain a sports team, or lead a major corporation, which approach is best? Consciously, or subconsciously, you'll probably use some of the leadership styles in this article at some point. Understanding these styles and their impact can help you develop your own, personal leadership style – and help you become a more effective leader. With this in mind, there are many different frameworks that have shaped our current understanding of leadership, and many of these have their place, just as long as they're used appropriately. This article looks at some of the most common frameworks, and then looks at popular styles of leadership. Leadership Theories
Researchers have developed a number of leadership theories over the years. These fall into four main groups: 1. Behavioral theories – What does a good leader do?
Behavioral theories focus on how leaders behave. Do they dictate what needs to be done and expect cooperation? Or do they involve the team in decisions to encourage acceptance and support? In the 1930s, Kurt Lewin developed a leadership framework based on a leader's decision-making behavior. Lewin argued that there are three types of leaders: a. Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their teams. This is considered appropriate when decisions genuinely need to be taken quickly, when there's no need for input, and when team agreement isn't necessary for a successful outcome. b. Democratic leaders allow the team to provide input before making a decision, although the degree of input can vary from leader to leader. This type of style is important when team agreement matters, but it can be quite difficult to manage when there are lots of different perspectives and ideas. c. Laissez-faire leaders don't interfere; they allow people within the team to make many of the decisions. This works well when the team is highly capable and motivated, and when it doesn't need close monitoring or supervision. However, this style can arise because the leader is lazy or distracted, and, here, this approach can fail. Similar to Lewin's model, the Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid helps you decide how best to lead, depending on your concern for people versus your concern for production. The model describes five different leadership styles: impoverished, country club, team leader, produce or perish, or middle of the road. The descriptions of these will help you understand your own leadership habits and adapt them to meet your team's needs. Clearly, then, how leaders behave impacts on their effectiveness. Researchers have realized, though, that many of these leadership behaviors are appropriate at different times. So, the best leaders are those who can use many different behavioral styles and use the right style for each situation. 2. Contingency theories – How does the situation influence good leadership? The realization that there isn't one correct type of leader led to theories that the best leadership style is contingent on, or depends on, the situation. These theories try to predict which leadership style is best in which circumstance. When a decision is needed fast, which style is preferred? When the leader needs the full support of the team, is there a better way to lead? Should a leader be more people oriented or task oriented? These are all examples of questions that contingency leadership theories try to address. A popular contingency-based framework is the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Theory, which links leadership style with the maturity of individual members of the leader's team. 3. Trait theories – What type of person makes a good...
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