Earlier this week I had an impassioned plea from a newly promoted Team Leader to simplify ‘Leadership Choices’.  On receiving her good news she had hurriedly disinterred her books on management and leadership to brush up her skills – and promptly had a panic attack.

“There are so many of them …” she wailed down the phone “and between Quiet Leadership, Paternalistic, Charismatic and the Servant Leader where do I start?”

I can see her problem, the shelves marked ‘leadership theories’ are stacked with books designed to improve and inform – and she hadn’t touched on Affiliative or Pacesetting yet!  It really can be confusing, especially if she does one of the many ‘What style of leader are you’ questionnaires – as they probably will give her something entirely different.

While it is true that we all have a natural way in which we lead, it is more often a ‘type’ rather than a ‘style’.  The type indicates the sort of Leadership we naturally assume, while the style is indicative of the way we assume it.

Let me explain.  The type of Leadership you may need to adopt is indicated by your answer to one simple question; which is:

“In these circumstances, in this time frame and with this team and resources – how much input am I going to allow my team into the decision making process?

Now there is only three possible answers to that question – and it will be either:

            1.         None
            2,         Some, or
            3.         All.

So if you have decided that you will allow none, then you will be deciding what is to be done, who is going to do it and even how it should be done.  You have chosen to be an Authoritation Type of Leader.

Yes!  I know; there’s a bit of a stigma hanging over the head of this type of leader; but before you sling it out the window consider this.  In times of crisis our team will look to us for decisive leadership.  They will expect control and command and will respect the leader for taking immediate action to overcome a threat to safety or security.

Just think of the leadership of – say a fire warden when there is a drill.  There is very little ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ and probably a great deal of ‘now come on, get a move on’

Indeed when we have a new team member move in, one who doesn’t know the job or the work sequence, we will adopt the Authoritarian  type of leadership, allbeit with a more coaching style.  We tell them what to do and expect them to do it – hallmarks of authoritarian leaders.

So don’t dismiss this type of leadership; it has its place; and if you have answered ‘None’ to the leadership question because of the unique circumstances of this situation then it is the only type of Leadership possible.

What if you answered ‘Some’? – then you will adopt an Inclusive type of Leadership; where the input of the team is important and valued.  This type is also known as ‘Democratic’ or ‘Participative’ but it means that we are going to seek for consensus because teams will indentify far more with practices designed by themselves for outcomes agreed on.

The workplace is not often thrown into the sort of situations that demand a far more decisive and authoritarian leadership; and so this is the more usual type for the day to day activities.  And beneath its banner we can find an array of styles that can be used in the search for inclusive decision making and consensus.

Finally, if you decided that your team is so experienced and qualified to handle this task without you breathing down their neck – you can give a great big smile of relief and adopt the Laissez Faire type of Leadership. Here just giving your team the task, the resources and the time frame may be all you need.  Perhaps a gentle watching brief  – more for your benefit than theirs – will be all you need.

It takes a really experienced team coupled with a strong leader who knows how to truly delegate and can do so – to make this one work; which is probably why the most obvious choice for us in reality is either Authoritarian or Inclusive.

When I explained this to my new team leader, she seemed doubtful. She had just finished reading her latest leadership tome extolling the virtues of Transactional and Transformational Leadership styles.

“Where” she asked “do they fit into those three categories?”

While all of these styles of leadership have their own unique qualities, at their core they still address the one question I posed earlier.  It is in the different way chosen to carry out that leadership type that they differ.

Take Transactional Leadership for instance.  The secret to this style of leadership is in the name.  To transact is to DO something – so Transactional leadership is about doing the job of a leader; and the assumptions that these actions are based on.

Assumptions such as people are really motivated to improved performance by reward; and against substandard performance by punishment or penalty.  It proposes that best work practices are an outcome of a strong chain of command and when a worker signs on, they cede authority to their superiors and therefore, do what they are told. Simply put Transactional Leadership is an extension of the ‘Trait’ theory.

If these are the base assumptions then Transactional Leadership fits neatly into the Authoritarian Type of Leadership. It gets the job done, and is always goal orientated.

Transformational Leadership is far more relationship based, and is an outcome of the ‘Behavioural theories’ in which the leader transforms the team and is, in turn, himself transformed.

Here the assumptions are more about what the leader IS, and how his behaviour and standards can motivate his team to improve performance.  The association with a leader of high moral character, who makes ethical choices and encourages group participation is believed to develop a real emotional connection with  the leader and the task.

So a transformational leader is often charismatic, with a strong focus on the individuals in the team, seeking to include them in all decision making. Hence, it is obvious that Transformational Leadership is a style associated with the Inclusive type of Leader.

My telephone connection sighed with relief when she understood this. 

“I get it” she said, “it really depends on the circumstances then, doesn’t it? So I can change my type of leadership whenever it is necessary, and all I need to do is to assess the situation and the circumstances and choose one of three options”

She then told me with great authority that she had decided on her leadership style – and it was going to be Leadership By Circumstances! I thought that was a wise choice, and as I put the phone down I thought of another simple style that has gone out of fashion, and one she had clearly demonstrated – it was Leadership by Common Sense – now, whatever happened to that one?
Michele @ Trischel
PS – we are off to Melbourne this morning, via Sydney; so blogging will be light I am afraid.  But don’t forget to click on the very blue button and vote for us while we are away. Voting begins on the 16th April 2011

Michele and Trish 

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This