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Leadership styles: How to become a better leader

Are you struggling to inspire your team? Let’s have a look at how to apply different leadership styles to better motivate those around you.

Great leadership can be the difference between the ordinary and extraordinary. Taking your business to the next level will require great leadership. The path to becoming a better leader starts with understanding that management is not leadership.

The two roles are often conflated, but a manager isn’t necessarily a leader. Of course, you can have a management title and still be a leader, but there’s a difference between being called a manager and being one. Great managers are facilitators while poor ones are focused on hierarchy and exercising their ‘power’.

A leader is something different altogether. A leader doesn’t even have to be in a senior position but leads based on their abilities and strengths, not their job title. The not-so-subtle difference between a manager and a leader is that the best leaders encourage leadership from others for the mutual benefit and inspiration of all.

Leadership equals success

A study in the Harvard Business Review found that a business’s leadership style contributed to as much as 30% of its profits. With that sort of effect, it’s amazing that businesses continue to invest in efficiency and productivity to increase the bottom line when fluidity in leadership styles could garner better results.

Why go to all the trouble of cost-savings or implementing new processes to add a few percentage points to your bottom line when understanding the different types of leadership and adapting to the climate could yield the same or better results?

The HBR study found distinct styles of leadership, each with varying effects on the businesses they reviewed. Your business can benefit from better leadership by mixing them up.

Six types of leadership found by the HBR:

  1. Affiliative leaders

    Focus on a sense of belonging and a people-first culture that cultivates loyalty. This kind of leadership works when stress levels are high and trust is low. It uses praise and a nurturing attitude to lift the team, but when used excessively it was found to encourage a lack of direction and lack of initiative for fear of missing out on praise.

  2. Authoritative leaders

    Use goals and individual targets to drive the team forward. This style works with teams that work on initiative and have reasonable autonomy. It fosters and inspires entrepreneurialism and enthusiasm for individual and team success; however, it can create friction with technical teams being asked to ‘follow me’ by someone with less experience or expertise.

  3. Coaching leaders

    Are great mentors who focus on personal development to inspire their team. They are motivational, encouraging personalities who coach individuals to build on their strengths. This works well in most environments but can be ineffective with legacy teams and people ‘stuck in their ways’.

  4. Coercive leaders

    Are effectively managers with ‘do as I say, I’m the boss’ attitudes but their style can be effective in crisis situations or as a last attempt to control a loose cannon. If you value intuition and creativity this style of leadership should be avoided.

  5. Democratic leaders

    Are collegial and focus on team buy-in, participation and personal ownership. This style works best with experienced teams but can be ineffective with new teams or when projects have strict deadlines.

  6. Pacesetting leaders

    Lead by example. Motivated teams excel with pacesetting leaders but used excessively this style can be overwhelming, especially if the leader is naturally intense.

Change it up

Think of leadership like breakfast cereal; you may have a favourite but no-one wants to eat a bowl of Nutri-Grain every day of their lives. It’s good to mix it up with Oats, Corn Flakes, Weet-Bix, some yoghurt or a slice of toast every now and then. Use all the leadership styles and change based on what your teams need.

The best leadership is situational and sometimes you’ll need to kick some butt while at other times you’ll need to be nurturing or inspiring. Whatever leadership style you choose, whatever the balance and mix, just ensure you’re not being a manager and success will find you.

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