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Which Leadership Style Is Right for You?

Nearly all employees will take on leadership roles at various points in their careers. Even the most junior employees may be tasked with leading teams or directing meetings. Although one’s approach to leadership can substantially affect the success of a project or team, no single approach always works best. Good leaders know to adjust their approach to meet the needs of their co-workers or subordinates and the demands of the work being done.

If you are seeking to hone your leadership skills, La Salle University’s online Master of Business Administration (MBA) – Management Specialization program offers a comprehensive curriculum that prepares students for managerial roles.

Leadership Styles to Consider

Listed below are six leadership styles that can work well under the right circumstances.

  1. Democratic leadership. This style invites participation and a wide range of perspectives. It can be especially effective when one needs to find creative solutions. The democratic leader solves problems by actively listening and recognizing that no one person has all the answers. To be effective, though, democratic leadership must go beyond lip service. Buy-in can only occur when workers know their ideas are truly taken into consideration.

This approach may not be ideal when decisions need to be made quickly. But democratic leadership can be a great motivator for less-experienced workers who are not used to having their views considered. Democratic leadership also promotes innovation and collaboration, recognizing that the people doing the work often know more than the leader does about the best approach to take.

  1. Laissez-faire leadership. Taking a hands-off approach to leadership goes against what many MBA graduates learn in business school. Indeed, clocking out as employees continue working can be seen as more of a form of anti-leadership. Yet, laissez-faire leadership often has more to do with highly intentional task delegation and fostering trusting relationships than it does with wholly giving up the reins. Subtle forms of laissez-faire policies can be highly effective in certain circumstances. Examples of this may include promoting autonomy and allowing flextime or the freedom to work remotely. If employees meet deadlines and provide high-quality results, the thinking goes, rigid work structures are not needed.

When deadlines are looming or employees are new to the job, this easygoing approach may not produce the desired results. When workers are well-trained and highly motivated, however, empowering employees with laissez-faire leadership can keep them engaged and encourage them to find their own solutions.

  1. Coaching leadership. As in sports, the aim of a coach-style leader is individual and group performance and growth. Leaders who follow this approach identify strengths and weaknesses of team members and help them grow and improve their performance through constructive feedback, collaboration, encouragement and other forms of (generally positive) motivation.

Everyone can benefit from the occasional pep talk. Teamwork is an important component in any productive workplace, but focusing too much on group performance can cause leaders to lose sight of the individual needs of their workers. The merits of coaching leadership have made the approach popular among managers in recent years.

  1. Transactional leadership. These leaders rely heavily on monitoring performance, both to manage by exception and to provide contingent rewards. When managing by exception, leaders monitor employee performance to identify problem areas, stepping in to help when needed. That assistance can take different forms, such as advice, clearer goals, more resources or better training.

Employees who can perform well then receive rewards for their work. Such contingent rewards are not necessarily monetary. For instance, strong performance might be rewarded with more interesting work assignments, more challenge, better schedules or simply compliments or a chance to work more independently.

Transactional leadership can be a useful tool for any leader. The approach is a central component of traditional performance management. Yet transactional leadership largely concerns extrinsic motivation, doing little to support and instill intrinsic motivation in employees. Thus, transactional leadership may not be the best driver for innovation and authentic employee engagement.

  1. Transformational leadership. In this style, leaders don’t settle for simply getting people to do their assigned work. Rather they seek to inspire others to go “above and beyond” and to continuously develop and grow. These leaders tend to be effective at communicating big ideas, often by appealing to the values and ideals that their followers hold dear.

The best transformational leaders are inspirational, challenge others to think harder and be creative, and lead by personal example. Businesses undergoing growth or significant change can especially benefit from the characteristics of these visionary leaders. For jobs that rely on repetition or daily regimens, this leadership style may be less effective.

  1. Autocratic leadership. This authoritarian style of leadership is a top-down approach, wherein the leader makes the decisions and sets expectations while subordinates follow, abiding by those decisions and striving to meet expectations. Autocratic leadership often centers around obedience and rules with motivation based in discipline and control.

Autocratic leadership does not promote — and generally limits or stifles — the innovation, creativity and collaboration that drive success in today’s companies. Further, autocratic leadership can detract from the employee experience, engagement and loyalty, often leading to poor morale, low retention and high turnover. Yet autocratic leadership can be effective in times of crisis and necessary change, when decisions need to be made quickly and expectations must be clear, resolute and followed.

Explore Leadership Styles Through La Salle’s Online MBA, Management Specialization

As noted earlier, a single leadership style will not be appropriate for every situation. With today’s hybrid work models, rapidly advancing technologies, constant change and data-driven business environments, leaders must select and effectively use myriad leadership styles to suit the complexities of a given situation or challenge.

This calls for agile, adaptive leadership practices. La Salle University’s MBA in Management studies cover a wide range of leadership styles, topics, issues and perspectives so graduates can learn and apply theories effectively in the workplace. The online MBA – Management Specialization degree program includes faculty-taught courses that cover management, human resources, leadership theory, decision-making and other leadership-related topics.

Learn more about La Salle University’s online MBA – Management Specialization program.

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