When it comes to 21st century business leadership we often hear expressions like “top-down”, “laissez-faire”, “pyramid” (no, not the illegal kind), and on and on. People like to delineate different types of leadership or management, depending on how you define those two. The ultimate output is reaching goals that support the company’s vision, financial or otherwise. What is your potential leadership style and if you are a manager, how do you manage?
Autocratic (top-down) – this is your traditional authoritative approach. No-nonsense, assigned projects, voluntelling people, regular supervision and expecting to get the job done. There is very little employee input. This is the type of management the vast majority of people experience. It’s the type of leadership that make an entrepreneur want to stay in bed with the covers pulled over her head. But not as much as Metts.
Laissez-Faire – this is an approach that doesn’t involve direct supervision or regular feedback to see if people are reaching their goals. This one works with highly trained, experienced employees but not so great with the less self-disciplined and rookies. This is the type of style you’d probably find at Google. Entrepreneurs would enjoy this one a lot more than any other type of management. Employees and managers are trusted to do their jobs well and on time. This type of respect probably yields a lot of productivity.
Transformational – this approach relies upon regular communication between managers and employees. Leaders focus on the big picture and delegate smaller tasks to employees. School principals use this approach. Staff is assigned various projects for a common goal. This usually happens every staff meeting and whenever an administrator or teacher need to communicate with each other.
Participative – also known as the democratic leadership style, it requires the input of team members but ultimately the leader makes the final decision. One benefit to this style is that employees feel their needs and ideas are heard. It makes change less drastic. It probably happens in small to medium-sized companies. I don’t see how it could work in a conglomerate, but I could be wrong.
Transactional – I call this style the “here, Rex!” approach. It’s based on a reward and punishment system based on performance results. Management may need to re-train employees who are not meeting goals. Bonuses and raises are rewards. Getting sacked is a punishment. A black and white approach to work and leadership.
Now that you have an outline of some management styles you can decide what the leadership style is in your organization and whether it works for you. It may be that if you hate to go to work, it isn’t the work you do but the leadership style that is making you unhappy. If you hear colleagues often complaining about the boss but not their work, management style could be the cause of their unhappiness. That isn’t necessarily true of course. Some bosses are just psychopaths and bullies, in which case there is no leadership, just psychopaths and bullies.
Bottom line however is that every organization depends on its team to meet goals. Corporations need profit. Schools need academic results. Everything is performance-based. Whether your boss is the laissez-faire leader or the authoritarian, she has to ensure that everyone does his or her job, and does it well. She observes work performance, offers annual reviews and answers to a higher power if results aren’t happening. She has to hire and fire based on the company vision. No matter how you look at it, everything is authority-based. You know that expression ‘you’re not the boss of me?’ Well, you are the boss of you and you also give yourself pass/fail grades depending on your performance.
You will flourish or chafe under different types of leadership depending on your personality and your comfort level with management. Normally the young graduate from university or college depends heavily upon feedback in order to perform her job. In that case, autocratic and transformational might be the best approaches, even though they appear to be quite different.
Seasoned executives might have to work in an autocratic environment but those who have excelled in their careers and are in powerful positions might resent it. More likely these people flourish under a laissez-faire approach.
People in mid-career might do well with any of these styles. It all comes down to your nature and which environment offers you the potential to perform to your best abilities. Just because a leadership style is traditional for instance, doesn’t mean the boss is a jerk. You might actually look at her as a mentor.
If you aspire to become a leader yourself, it’s good to know which leadership style suits you the most and makes you feel the most confidence. Guaranteed not all of these styles is going to help you fill those managerial shoes. I shall leave you with these words of wisdom:
“It takes courage to stand up and speak. It takes courage to sit down and listen.”
– Winston Churchill