Several theories have been propounded as to which are the most effective leadership styles, and what is the best way of getting the work done from their employees and keep them motivated at the same time. Theories have evolved over time, as we have learned from our ancestors and their experiences.
First, let me differentiate between what styles and types are actually about. Apart from being two different theories, propounded by two different individuals, in my opinion, business leadership styles are something which may vary in every situation. A different leadership style may be required under different circumstances. On the other hand, types of leaders remain more or less fixed and depends on the disposition of the leader in concern. So basically, I feel that while a leader may modify his/her style to suit a certain situation, his/her type remains more or less the same.
While this is an assumption, which I have propounded myself, let us get to the theories which have been set forth by management gurus and have been in vogue for quite some time now.
Like I said, in my opinion, the corporate leadership style may vary from time to time. If the situation demands an iron fist and the workers need the stick approach, the leader will use the iron fist. On the other hand, if the workers are self-motivated, intelligent, and work for the benefit of the company, then the leaders will employ a softer approach.
The specific styles mentioned below were theorized by Kurt Lewin in 1939. In his opinion, there are three basic styles, which a leader employs to get the work done. They are:
This is where the leader has a control over all the actions of the group. There is a clear line between the management and the employees, and the flow of communication is largely up to down, i.e., the employees have no say in the decision-making process, and all the orders of the management need to be followed unquestioningly.
In this style, there is still a clear line of difference between the employees and employers, but the employees are encouraged to come up with suggestions and take an active part in the decision-making process. This style fosters a good employee-employer relationship and isn't as extreme as authoritarian or Laissez-Faire style.
In a way, this isn't a style of leadership at all! Laissez-Faire means that anyone and everyone is empowered with the opportunity to take their own decisions. It may sound good but more often than not, it leads to a chaotic situation. It is best implemented only within a group which shows good group dynamics, is highly motivated, and needs its creative space. For example, a research and development department.
Types of Leaders
The type of a leader depends on his/her overall disposition rather than the situation. A leader will have one or more of these leadership qualities inherently. Hence, its essential that while looking for someone who will occupy the post of the leader, one checks the type of leader the organization really needs, otherwise it would be a futile exercise.
The types of leaders were given by Daniel Goleman in his book 'Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence' (2002). The leadership types in his thesis are:
Democratic leaders are those who encourage participation of the workers in the decision-making process. Collaboration and team spirit are best fostered with the help of this leadership style. Democratic leaders require good, intelligent, and motivated workers.
Pacesetting leaders believe in setting an example with their own superior quality of work. A pacesetting leader aims to set the performance benchmark himself/herself. This style thrives best in a highly competitive environment where both leaders and subordinates strive to achieve their potential.
Out here, one encourages the subordinates to learn from the leader. This is most effective in an environment where the employees are young and need to be trained properly. Effectively coaching the employees helps build better long-term relationships.
A visionary leader is one who drives his/her subordinates towards a common goal. It is said to be the most effective style. The motivation is not in terms of any monetary compensation, but it's the very idea of striving to create a better company, which drives the employees into action. But, the vision of the leader must be both compelling as well as achievable.
An affiliative leader is one who believes in progressing as well as maintaining a good relationship with the employees. He/she is the one whom the employees will like and will be more of a guide to them than a leader.
The last type of leader is the commanding leader. This is an autocratic leadership style in which the leader alone is the boss and no one dare infringe his/her range of power! A few commanding leaders, who have succeeded till date, have shown phenomenal growth in their companies.
So, whether you are a management student reading this or a leader who is trying to find the right style for himself/herself, you can now choose for yourself the best and for the situation you are in!