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Leadership Styles - Practice Effective Leadership

Aug 17, 2007
There is much that is written about leadership; like books on leadership styles, techniques and also biographies of leaders that have inspired people to action. While this is true, there is the everyday leadership and a slightly different outlook to leadership as well. Here are a few of them.

1. There Are Different Kinds of Leaders

Among leaders are formal and informal leaders. Formal leaders are elected to their positions like congressmen, senators and office bearers of clubs. Informal leaders on the other hand are those we look up to because of their experience and wisdom. This could be your parents, grandparents or elders in your community. Informal leaders can also be those that are respected because of their expertise and contributions in certain fields such as Albert Einstein in Theoretical Physics and Leonardo de Vinci in Arts. Whether formal or informal, these leaders practice certain styles. This could be

a. Lewin's 3 basic leadership styles

- autocratic or authoritative: the leader takes decisions without consulting with others

- democratic or participative: the leader involves the people in the decision-making

- laissez-faire or delegative: the leader's involvement in decision-making is minimized

b. Likert's 4 leadership styles

- exploitative authoritative: the leader has a low concern for people and uses such methods as threats and other fear-based methods to achieve conformance

- benevolent authoritative: the leader adds concern for people to an authoritative position

- consultative: the leader makes genuine efforts to listen carefully to ideas, but major decisions are still largely centrally made

- participative: the leader makes maximum use of participative methods, engaging people lower down the organization in decision-making

c. Goleman's 6 emotional leadership styles

- visionary: the leader inspires, believes in own vision, is empathetic, and explains how and why people's efforts contribute to the 'dream'

- coaching: the leader listens, helps people identify their own strengths and weaknesses, counsels, encourages, and delegates

- affiliative: the leader promotes harmony, is nice, empathetic, boosts moral, and solves conflicts

- democratic: the leader is a superb listener, team worker, collaborator, and influencer

- pacesetting: the leader has a strong drive to achieve, has high standards, initiative, but low on empathy and collaboration, impatient, micromanages and is numbers-driven

- commanding: is commanding, threatening, has tight control, monitors studiously, creates dissonance, contaminates everyone's mood, and drives away talent

2. Leadership Skills Can Be Developed

For some people, leadership seems to be most natural, that it makes you wonder if it is a quality that they are born with. Even if this may be true, without exposure to the right environment, it is possible that they may not develop to their full potential.

You can learn how to become a leader. Attend leadership trainings or leadership seminars. Read books on leadership. You can observe the leadership skills in your daily interactions not only in the working environment but even at home and social environment. This becomes obvious when something goes wrong and you see how this person responds and sets things right.

Observing both formal and informal leadership modes, you can pick up leadership insights and further your knowledge on leadership skills.

Remember, though, that leadership styles are not learnt in a day. It needs daily use to learn from daily experiences and to put your learnt knowledge and skills to the test.

3. Practice Makes Perfect

Theoretical knowledge alone is not sufficient to develop leadership styles. The best way to develop it is to apply it at every opportunity you get. As you get better at it, people will recognize that you take charge when you are around.

Leadership is not only handling situations. It is also how you carry yourself. How you interact with people be it your work colleagues, family, friends or the guy at the bookstore. It is also reflected in how well you manage your personal and organizational responsibilities.

If you keep applying your knowledge, leadership should become a habit to you.

4. Successful Leadership Requires Trust Between The Leader And Team

There is no leader without the team members. The responsibility of achieving objectives is a shared responsibility as the leader alone cannot achieve them.

A person may be made leader as a formal position but this does not necessarily mean that he or she can bring the team together to complete the tasks at hand. Each member will have their own skills that makes them informal leaders in those areas.

The formal leader needs to be able to work together with the team and generate trust to build a cohesive group. Just words are not enough. Appropriate actions will be required to foster trust and to build confidence.

5. Situational Leadership

The type of leadership varies depending on the situation at hand. You cannot just apply the last technique you learnt without due consideration to the situation.

In emergency situations, like a fire, you cannot be consulting everyone on the decision. It is different during normal times, especially when you need everybody's buy-in. In this case, you will want to take a consultative approach.

The style you choose will also depend on the skill level of your team. For a highly skilled and motivated team, you may use a combination of high delegative and moderate participative styles. But if the team has low competence, you may need to use a combination of high coaching, high supporting and high directing leadership styles.

Leadership styles need to be continually learnt not only through leadership training and books but also from observing other good leaders. Most importantly, practice because the best learning will be that which you learn from your own experience.
About the Author
Regina Maniam shares information on leadership styles. You can find more useful information at http://www.lifecoachingsecret.com.
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