UNDERSTANDING LEADERSHIP STYLE
Leaders often exhibit two types of power. Positional power comes from the leader’s place on the organizational chart and the authority that comes with it. This is the power to hire and fire, to command and direct. Personal power is power that is earned — it flows from the leader’s qualities as an individual. It is granted to the leader by others based on his or her personal qualities, including integrity, respect for others, trustworthiness, and the willingness to work hard and follow through on promises.
People react and respond to what they perceive as a leader’s priorities. These priorities are grounded in two basic concerns: people and production. After interviewing many leaders, management theorists Robert Blake and Jane Mouton developed a leadership model that defined five distinctive leadership styles based on the level of concern shown for people and production:
- Bureaucratic. Low level of concern for both production and people. This leader achieves only what is requested and deemed necessary regarding both production and people. A bureaucratic manager”serves the system,” striving to do no more than execute stated policies and procedures.
- Supportive: Low level of concern for production and high level of concern for people. Supportive managers want their staff members to be happy, generally believing that productivity stems from happy individuals. They may overreward for minor achievements and be unwilling to address production concerns.
- Directive:High level of concern for production and low level of concern for people. Directive managers tend to have a command-and-control mindset, with a low tolerance for mistakes. They may reward well, but expect perfection and use scare tactics in regard to job security.
- Traditional: Moderate concern for both production and people. Traditional managers focus on finding the middle ground and keeping things in balance. In trying to achieve satisfaction for everyone, they can get stressed out easily.
- Collaborative: Equally high level of concern for both production and people. Collaborative managers aim to create employee satisfaction through the work itself, giving people the support and resources they need to meet challenges. While other leaders see production and people needs in conflict, collaborative managers recognize they are interdependent.
When asked, leaders typically say their styles are either traditional or collaborative. To identify their dominant leadership styles, leaders can ask themselves a series questions, including what matters most to them, how do they tend to handle conflicts between people needs and production needs, how do they assign tasks, and what do they find most frustrating?
The collaborative leadership style is the ideal “home base” for many leaders. Circumstances may call for one of the other leadership styles from time to time, but leaders should always return to the collaborative style. Every other leadership style will provide short-term gains and long-term pain.