Editor's note: This article was excerpted fromLeadership Made Easy, which identifies 15 essential leadership skills and teaches you how to develop and use them.
An important point of this introduction to leadership styles is that effective leaders can be true to their own nature and not have to assume radically different personae when in a leadership position. A person's mannerisms and personality typically don't have to change when assuming a leadership role. This doesn't mean that great leaders don't make some changes in their leadership presence and style, especially when changes are needed. These changes occur primarily after self-study, evaluation sessions with superiors or subordinates, or on-the-job experience. Develop your own leadership style, therefore, based upon your own set of beliefs and personality traits, as well as what you learn from studying leadership.
Theories of Leadership
There are scores of leadership theories, models and studies available for you to examine, if you choose. Although developed primarily in the 20th century by scholars, leadership ideas have existed at least since A.D. 100. Thanks to these great men and women, the curious have been able to analyze leaders on the basis of personality, situations, interaction with others, psychology, politics, humanism and perception, to name a few factors. In addition to the theories, there are countless leadership surveys, tests and aptitude indicators that are available to determine a leader's style and interests.
What can you do when faced with this complexity of leadership information? Most leaders don't study the many theories of leadership in detail. Some general knowledge is helpful, however, to know what the relevant major issues are so that you can use that knowledge in your specific situation. These issues will be explained in this article. Then you can choose to study in more detail those areas that are of most interest to you.
To help prepare you for your leadership role, we'll briefly examine five leadership orientations. Since every leader has a distinct style made up of combinations of these orientations, it's impossible to accurately predict your style without a thorough analysis. As with most leaders, you'll tend to use different styles when faced with different situations. Each orientation presents two extremes between which leaders have to determine the right balance for themselves, based upon their personality and specific leadership challenges. For example, there are effective leaders who have high orientation scores in both relationship and task; others score high in relationship and low in task. By understanding the following five leadership orientations, you'll be better able to understand the framework within which most leaders operate.
- Democracy or autocracy
- Participation or direction
- Relationship or task
- Consideration or initiation
- Action or inaction
Democracy or Autocracy Orientation
These two orientations are the first classification because they encompass attributes of the other four orientations. It makes sense that leaders tend to lean naturally toward one or the other because followers will do either one of two things. They will do what they're asked to do, thus requiring the supervision of a teaching and facilitating type of democratic leader, or they'll do what they're made to do, which requires a more punishing and coercing autocrat.
There's no conclusive proof as to which type of orientation is more effective at getting bottom-line results. One may be more effective in different organizations or situations than the other. A person's style of leadership, however, does affect employee job satisfaction, although the effects vary among employees. A higher degree of satisfaction in an organization will encourage loyalty, teamwork and sharing of the leader's goals; each of these can lead to higher levels of personal and organizational productivity.
Democratic leaders focus on their followers because they feel the welfare of their team is of great importance. They tend to be easily approachable, relationship-oriented and considerate of others' feelings. They prefer to lead their teammates by collaboration and empowerment. They're convinced that tasks will be better accomplished if they consider their subordinates' needs. These teammates tend to have high job satisfaction.
Autocrats primarily are concerned with tasks for which they're responsible. They believe the key is to focus less on subordinates and their needs and more on the work-related issues. In doing so, they use their position to prescribe solutions and direct others to comply. This type of leader usually has more subordinates with low levels of job satisfaction than does the democratic leader.