MATCHING LEADERSHIP TO A SITUATION
Choosing the Right Style for the Situation
From Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs, there can seem to be as many ways to lead people as there are leaders. Fortunately, businesspeople and psychologists have developed useful, simple ways to describe the main styles of leadership. By understanding these styles and their impact, you can develop your own approach to leadership and become a more effective leader and school head as well. We'll look at common leadership styles in this article, and we'll explore situations where these styles may be effective with your people.
(Note: The leadership styles in this article are based on several core leadership frameworks.)
Adapting Your Approach to Leadership
Leadership is not "one size fits all" thing; often, you must adapt your style to fit a situation or a specific group. This is why it's useful to gain a thorough understanding of other leadership styles; after all, the more approaches you're familiar with, the more tools you'll be able to use to lead effectively.
Let's take a deeper look at some of the leadership styles that you can use.
1. Transactional Leadership
This leadership style starts with the idea that team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job. The "transaction" usually involves the organization paying team members in return for their effort and compliance. The leader has a right to "punish" team members if their work doesn't meet an appropriate standard.
Although this might sound controlling and paternalistic, transactional leadership offers some benefits. For one, this leadership style clarifies everyone's roles and responsibilities. Another benefit is that, because transactional leadership judges team members on performance, people who are ambitious or who are motivated by external rewards – including compensation – often thrive.
The downside of this leadership style is that team members can do little to improve their job satisfaction. It can feel stifling, and it can lead to high staff turnover.
Transactional leadership is really a type of management, not a true leadership style, because the focus is on short-term tasks. It has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work. However, it can be effective in other situations. 2. Autocratic Leadership
Autocratic leadership is an extreme form of transactional leadership, where leaders have complete power over their people. Staff and team members have little opportunity to make suggestions, even if these would be in the team's or the organization's best interest. The benefit of autocratic leadership is that it's incredibly efficient. Decisions are made quickly, and work gets done.
The downside is that most people resent being treated this way. Therefore, autocratic leadership often leads to high levels of absenteeism and high staff turnover. However, the style can be effective for some routine and unskilled jobs: in these situations, the advantages of control may outweigh the disadvantages.
Autocratic leadership is often best used in crises, when decisions must be made quickly and without dissent. For instance, the military often uses an autocratic leadership style; top commanders are responsible for quickly making complex decisions, which allows troops to focus their attention and energy on performing their allotted tasks and missions.
3. Bureaucratic Leadership
Bureaucratic leaders work "by the book." They follow rules rigorously, and ensure that their people follow procedures precisely.
This is an appropriate leadership style for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances, or at dangerous heights) or where large sums of money are involved. Bureaucratic leadership is also useful in organizations where employees do routine tasks (as in manufacturing).
The downside of this leadership style is that it's...
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