Leadership that gets results

Research found that six distinct leadership styles have a direct impact on the working atmosphere and financial results in terms of revenue growth and profitability. The six leadership styles include coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and coaching. More importantly, it indicates that leaders with the best results do not rely on only one style, but depending on the business situation. To lead effective, manager should switch between different styles flexibly. All styles have a measurable effect on flexibility, sense of responsibility, level of standards, sense of accuracy of feedback, adaptedness of rewards, clarity people have about values and level of commitment to a common purpose.

First, coercive leaders demand immediate compliance. The top-down decision making is the least effective in most situation as it kills new ideas at early stage. The problem with this style is that the team may not able to act on their own initiatives with lost of their sense of ownership. However, this dominant power work best during turnaround as it can break failed business habits and change people to align new ways of working quickly in the same direction. For example, as one former Apple employee said about Steve Jobs, “When Steve was pissed off about something, it got fixed at pace I have never seen… people reacted that fast out of fear.

Second, authoritative leaders mobilize followers towards a vision. By making clear to people how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization, this is most effective style in most business situation. Followers understand why and what they do matters, thus maximizes commitment to common goals.. The standards that revolve around that vision is the singular criterion on the performance feedback. A quote from investor John Doerr, he likes to say “Classic entrepreneurs do more than anyone thinks possible with less than anyone thinks possible”. People also has freedom to innovate, experiment and take calculated risks. However, this approach fails when the team members are more experienced than the leader and regarding him as arrogant.

Third, affiliative leaders create emotional bond and harmony. It revolves around people by valuing individuals’ emotions more than tasks and goals. The leader manages by building strong emotional bonds and get the benefit from loyalty. It has a positive effect on communication as people like one another. They share ideas and inspiration, thus enable innovation and risk taking. The leader motivates by providing lots of positive feedback for recognition and rewards. They are also good at building a sense of belonging. This style should not be used alone as a focus on praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected. People can also feel lost if there is a lack of constructive advice on how to improve.

Fourth, democratic leaders build consensus through participation. By spending time to reach decision collectively, leader builds trust, respect and commitment, thus drives up flexibility and responsibility. From my personal experience, the mobile app project I am in, we have a leader who is willing to listen to followers’ concerns in order to keep the morale high and realistic about what can be accomplished. The drawback of this approach is no consensus after wasting time in long meetings, result in people feeling confused and leaderless, and escalate conflicts during crisis. However, this approach work best with able employees can provide guidance and generate fresh ideas.

Fifth, pacesetting leaders expect excellent and self-direction. The leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself. He is obsessed with doing things better and faster, thus demanding more from poor performers. This style destroys the morale of employee by overwhelming demands of excellent. The leaders did not explain clearly with the guidelines, while people often guessing what the leader wants as well as not feeling being trusted to work in their own way. Research shows that when employees do not feel trusted by their manage, workplace productivity suffer. People feel no feedback was given and directionless when leader is not present without knowing how personal effort can fit into bigger picture. However, the approach works well when all employees are self-motivated and highly competent with little need of coordination.

Sixth, coaching leaders develop people for the future. They have employee identify their unique strengths and tie them to their personal and career aspirations. They encourage employees to establish long-term development goals and help them to achieve with a plan. This style would provide many instructions and delegate employee challenging assignments. Coaching brings positive effect on business performance result, flexibility, responsibility and commitment. This style works best when the employee are already aware of their weaknesses and would like to improve. On the contractionary, it does not work if the employee are resistant to change their way.

The most successful leaders lead by excelling in the art of a variety approaches. Studies have shown that the more styles a leader exhibits, the better. Leaders who have master four, especially authoritative, democratic and coaching, have very best business performance. And the most effective leadership switch flexible among the leadership styles. They are sensitive to the impact they are having on others and adjust their style to get the best results.

Few leaders have all six styles and even fewer know when and how to use them. The leader can build a team with members who employ styles she lacks. An alternative approach is to expand their own styles. Leaders must understand each emotional intelligence competencies and work hard towards increasing the quotient of them. Enhancing emotional intelligence is possible with practice.

With the research, leaders can get a clear picture of what it takes to lead effectively and how they can make that happen. Since the business environment is constantly changing, leaders must play the styles with the right ones at the right time and in the right measure in order to get results.

By Victor Leung

Experience in software development, consulting services and technical product management. Understanding of business and technology with an MBA in Finance and a Master degree in Computer Science. AWS Certified Solution Architect with experience in building products from scratch and serving as a charismatic leader.

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