Leadership Styles: Being the type of leader your team needs you to be.

Swatches of paint chips

Defining leadership styles are like a lot of other things, where it's pretty common to hear people say there are as many different as there are people. It’s a cliche we all love.

Well, the truth is, leadership is the same way. Everyone is unique, and there is no universal set of standards for everyone.

What we do have is a gradient scale that identifies how people react to different leadership roles. People have different skills and tools, and depending on which is their specialty, that determines what type of leadership style they naturally fall into.

What defines a leadership style?

One way to define a leadership style is the way we handle a few categories:

  • How you deal with personnel: How you address your human capital, from directing their work to dealing with problems and conflict will shape your leadership style.
  • How you manage the workflow: How you manage what gets done, and how much oversight they will be. Do you expect people to get it done, or do you make sure it’s happening yourself?
  • How you view your role: Do you see yourself as a caretaker of the environment, or the ultimate decision maker and director of traffic?

Your perspective on leadership boils down to two broad categories: the micro-manager and the macro-manager. The micro-manager will supervise and approve every detail, keeping a heavy hand in the overall progress of the project. The macro-manager keeps track of goals and big-picture timelines while relying on his team to make all the smaller decisions.

The handling of the flow of ideas also distinguishes leaders. Some serve to enable the decision making skills of their teams. Others bring in a predefined philosophy and seek compliance and consent from the group.

You may hear one style and think to yourself “that sounds perfect.” It probably is for your skill or environment. But that’s not to say there is a perfect leadership style; only the ones that might fit best.

The Two Broad Categories of Leadership Styles (More or Less):

Task-oriented leaders are excellent at managing the nuts and bolts in their area of expertise. Their ability to get things done translates into valuable resources for the team –provided they leverage those resources with good communication and interaction.

People-oriented leaders are the charmers and visionaries. They get keep the human and emotional side of the team going strong. There real value comes in making the group produce better results than would come from the sum of its parts alone.

Example leadership styles:

These are some broad sketches of leadership style. You may find sometimes people follow a combination of these, or even cross styles. That’s OK –as long as their methods fit the work environment, personalities and goals of everyone involved.

Task-Oriented Leaders:

    The Hands-Off Leader doesn’t see the need to provide feedback, continuous input, or scrutiny to their team. Usually there is a good reason for this: they tend to work with highly-experienced and functional groups. If the group doesn’t fit this mold, there will be problems.
    The Bureaucrat knows the rules of the institution and has the team abide by them. When there are rigid policies and guidelines in place, the Bureaucrat makes sure that they are maintained and used to the best of their ability. This style can be effective when there is little margin for error, but stifling in a changing or evolving environment.

    The Autocrat manages the direction of all goals and work, with little to no input from the team. They have all the power to make decisions, and they use it. They don’t worry about input, and do not leave room for subordinates to sub-manage. This is a style most often used when a great deal of scrutiny is necessary to have a successful end product, but can be untenable in less clear-cut situations.

People-Oriented Leaders:

    The Trainer works to develop the team members to make them more efficient and stronger at their jobs. This leader focuses on the increasing skills and success of his team to make success more likely. They can foster a strong community feeling.
    The Cheerleader/Coach takes an indirect approach, motivating and encouraging the team toward success. They have magnetic personalities and boatloads of charisma. The Cheerleader/Coach tries to make people comfortable in their roles, but if they leave, the team might end up in shambles.

    The Democratic Leader is a facilitator who encourages discussion and the free-flow of ideas. The team expresses their ideas on the best course of action, the leader studies the options and then chooses based on the input. This style offers the group a strong sense of place and carefully measure decisions, but can be slow to respond.

Learn about Autocratic Leadership here

Learn about Democratic Leadership here

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