Managing Performance Through Effective Leadership Styles

Traditionally, effective Leadership Styles were thought of being a ‘one size fits all’ approach: that any Manager could pick the best off the shelf model and mirror this to create successful Leadership results.

The accepted model, back a few decades ago, was that of the democratic Leadership style, and while this is generally more successful than other styles, it was widely accepted from the 1950’s that this style alone would not help every leadership situation, and that this early model of you are wither autocratic or democratic seemed pretty floored.

Many experts came up with the conclusion that contingency leadership was probably more effective, as in order to manage a dynamic environment (and humans are one of the most dynamic influences), a leader must adjust and adapt to suit their surroundings. It is commonly now accepted that this is the case.

Effective Leadership styles therefore rely on the ability for a manager to understand the situation and his/her environment, including employees, corporate culture, and others, and then change his/her style to suit the environment, therefore adjusting the style.

– The result: An effective Leadership style, which gets results.

Effective Leadership styles range from the following (Based on Lewelin’s model):

  • Autocratic

  • Consultative/participative

  • Democratic / participative

Autocratic Leadership

This role is very much centred on the Leader. He/She makes all final decisions for the group and manages a ‘very tight ship,’ meaning team members are controlled and managed through close supervision.

Team members are not really regarded for their views, and the principle behind this model is that staff are there to do a job – and let Management make the decisions. Empowerment therefore, is dismissed and the environment is very much based around a conformist or coercive stance.

This situation is considered appropriate when decisions genuinely need to be taken quickly, when there's no need for input, and when team agreement isn't necessary for a successful outcome. In some situations, where there is urgency and large resistance to change, a coercive/ autocratic style may be beneficial for that moment.

Consultative / Participative

The Leader values the team’s input, but makes his/her decision after consulting with them. There is total communication between the team and the Leader is supportive and developmental to his/her team members. Empowerment is encouraged, but the Leader retains accountability and responsibility for the Team’s results. Ways of working, however, are largely unspecified and clarity of roles can be murky at times.

This type of style is important when team agreement matters, but it can be quite difficult to manage when there are lots of different perspectives and ideas. This model would suit a general improvement/ decision making program, whereby teams can be mentored and nurtured into positions.

Democratic / Participative

Decisions are generally made by the group, by consulting or a vote. All members are then bound by the group decision and support it. In this role, the Manager is a Team Leader / Chair to the group. The main downfall to this style is that decisions take longer and if the team are unskilled, empowerment through team decision making, will fall down.

The democratic/participative style works best when people are capable and motivated in making their own decisions. This is also particularly strong when there is no need for central coordination. A good example of this approach is through Self Directed Work Teams, whereby the teams are empowered to make their own decisions, and are empowered to get the job done through their team work.

Selecting and Choosing the Right Style

Through the use of selecting and utilising the appropriate style for the environment, the Leader can successfully achieve his/her three key tasks, which are:

  • To achieve the objective.
  • Keep the team together.
  • Focus on the individuals and manage them for optimum team performance.

This philosophy can be transposed into certain Contingency theories and arguably, the most favorable one is the Six Leadership Styles model.

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