Leaders are entrusted with the task of forging a path for the organizations they control. However, there’s more than one way to achieve the job done. This article undertakes a leadership style analysis that highlights differences and suggests when one form may be more appropriate than another.
In regards to situation theories, leadership is proposed to be triggered by the situational variables such as decision making. In a situation where the leader is more experienced and knowledgeable than the followers, an authoritarian leadership style is more favorable. On the other hand, in a position where the followers are skilled, a democratic leadership style is more effective. Therefore, situational theories define leadership on the basis of situational factors which influence the leadership style and the follower’s motivation. These are the relation between task structure, the leader and follower, and the power position. In leader-follower relationship, emphasis is placed on the followers’ trust of the leaders while the task structure is in the very nature of the task and power position is on the leader’s authority and influence. Moreover, the employee characteristics determine the leadership style as mentioned above. Directive style is preferred for followers that are unskilled and non-motivated; coaching style for unskilled but motivated followers; supporting style for skilled but non-motivated; and observing style for both skilled and motivated followers.
A Parade Of Leadership Information
Relative to management leadership theories (also known as transformational), leadership is based as the influential factor in job performance and satisfaction (Braun, Peus, Weisweiler, and Frey, 2013). In this respect leaders are required to set clear goals and paths to guide and to allow the employees to perform. In addition, the management theories highly focus on employee motivation. In this respect, leaders should incorporate styles which enhance employee motivation; supporting style where the followers lack confidence; and instructive style when the task is ambiguous, demanding and there’s no motivation to meet the deadlines. Most important, the management theories recommend regular leaders consultation with the followers as well as followers’ involvement in decision making (Braun, Peus, Frey, 2013), and Weisweiler.
In both theories above, employee behavior is totally dependent on the leader’s individuality. That is, if the leader is task oriented or relationship oriented. Leaders are supposed to adjust to their employees as well as their workplaces. These theories emphasize on the leadership approach which is flexible and helps in utilizing fully the possibilities of the employees, for this reason. The situational theories of leadership provides specifications upon which leaders should rely on in different situations. These specifications are based on three dimensions. First and foremost is the prioritization of tasks, next is assessment of employees skills and motivation and finally, formulating of the leadership style. In regards to management theories, leaders concentrate on employees’ skills, with a view to assign tasks and influence performance through rewards. The situational leadership theory portrays followers as having different responses based on their personality coupled with their capacity and willingness. Followers act based on the type of leadership applied by contrast to the management leadership theory.
The situational leadership theory developed from Hersey and Blanchard model of leadership, Vecchio, 2009), and the life cycle theory (Thompson. The life cycle theory purposed to help change the parenting approach of parents towards their children starting from infancy, adolescence to adulthood. Later, the two authors changed the application setting of this theory from home-based parent child relationship to the workplace relationship between leaders and followers. This approach laid emphasis that leadership needs to be based on leadership style is contingent on the members as well as their behavior. This brought forth newer aspects of leadership from relations with the behavioral aspects. For this reason, the situational leadership theory is seen as the single best model of leadership (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).
The situational leadership theory stipulates that different situations of varying degrees influence leadership effectiveness. Most notably, the situations in this model vary between the task behavior and related behaviour of the leaders to the followers. The task behavior refers to the extent upon which the leader clearly explains the functions and responsibilities of the followers. Task behavior is characterized with one way communication where the leader closely directs and supervises employees in their tasks. Relative to the relationship behavior, emphasis is placed on the degree of support that the leader provides to the employers. The relationship behavior uses a two way channel of communication unlike in the task behavior. Here, the leader plays both the function of a facilitator and the hearer. Therefore, an effective leader is the only able to determine the degree of task behavior and relationship behavior to accommodate based on employees readiness. In this context, readiness refers to the employees’ ability and willingness in directing their behavior towards the task at hand. Ability defines the knowledge, skills and experience of followers whereas willingness the confidence, commitment, and motivation possessed by the followers. Therefore, situational model of leadership revolves about the task and relationship behaviors provided by the leader and the follower readiness (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).
As far as the functions and relationship behaviors are concerned, their effectiveness is based four different dimensions. These are telling, selling, participating and delegating. Leaders should clearly define stipulate the rights and supervise them closely with respect to telling. Here, one way communication persist as the leader makes and announces the decisions based on what job is to do, when and how. Next to merchandising, the leaders encourage followers’ ideas and opinions about the task but the decision making prerogative remains with the leaders. Further to participation, leaders offer their followers support to boost their confidence and move them as well. Lastly, on delegation the followers should be ready and able to handle the task freely with minimal support and supervision (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).
The situational behaviors depend on the willingness of the followers, on the situational model of leadership. The dimension of readiness is comprised of four levels. Followers in the first readiness level are classified as unable and non-willing. This class of followers has little knowledge, skills and experience related to the task. In addition they’re less confident, committed and motivated to bring the task. Second level followers are those that are unable but willing. Similar to the first level followers, they’re less knowledgeable, skillful and experienced about the task but are confident, committed and motivated in the existence of the leader. Third level followers are able but non-willing. In this level, the followers are able to deal with the task but not willing. Finally, followers in the fourth readiness level are able and willing to perform the task (Thompson, and Vecchio, 2009).
Autocratic leaders expect obedience, not understanding and input from their staff or followers. Under the autocratic style, the leader is the highest ruler and they make all the decisions without seeking any input from those below them. It is characterized by very little trust and management relies on threats and negative enforcement to get things done. Hitler is one of history’s autocratic leaders and it is generally said that Martha Steward uses the same iron fist to rule her company. This style of leadership, though, has been criticized terribly in the last few decades as the workforce has started to crave more input.
Despite the overwhelming amount of negativity surrounding this style of leadership there are a few instances when it can be the best suited option. When employees are largely untrained and insecure, the firm decisions that come down from an autocratic leader can be welcomed. When there is limited time to get results or if their is a power struggle arising from lower levels an autocratic style might be in a position to maintain order.
In most instances, autocratic leadership needs to be taken in smaller doses. This style probably will not work for a long period, especially in modern organizations because Generation X employees expect to get a different level of participation in the workplace and autocratic leaders eventually create fear and low employee morale. These are both counter-productive.
Democratic leadership can be said to be the polar opposite of autocratic leadership. It is sometimes referred to as a participative style because it is marked by a more of a bottom-up approach. Management empowers lower-level staff to establish goals and even to assess their own performance. There is a steady flow of information up the hierarchy of command. This style of leadership often enlists greater employee commitment because everyone has a say in the sense of decisions so they’re more likely to attempt to make sure they succeed.
Democratic leadership styles come in handy when there are complex problems to resolve and they require several different perspectives to reach some agreement. When there is a major focus on team work and improving production based on this pattern of working in groups a democratic style is likewise appropriate.
This leadership style can seem particularly attractive so it might be difficult to think of cases where it wouldn’t be useful, but when there’s no time for mass consultation and the cost of making the wrong decision is simply too high, the consultative democratic style may have to take a backseat. If the workforce doesn’t have the level of experience necessary to make decisions, the democratic style can have devastating results.
Continuing with the leadership style analysis, laissez-fair leadership also needs to be examined. This style of leadership calls for the individual at the head to allow those who follow to make their own decisions and select the path they think is best. The leader takes direction and advice from those placed in key positions and here is in stark contrast to the democratic leader who invites input but reserves the right to make the final decision. Under a laissez-faire approach the experienced staff members analyse, interpret and arrive at a decision. Laissez-faire leaders shouldn’t choose this as a path to laziness but rather they must have extreme trust in their team.
Laissez-faire leadership is only ever appropriate when the employees are subject area experts. They’re capable of responsibly executing their duties. It is commonly adopted when working with consultants or other field specialists.
Laissez-fair leadership shouldn’t be used stronger management input is necessary and it isn’t an excuse to mask management incompetence.
Transformational leaders lead by example. They are ready to take charge by standing front and center and inspiring those who look up to them to perform in a manner that is always reaching for excellence. Transformational leaders seek to achieve some sort of change so they’re characteristically passionate and energetic. They are also usually charismatic, although the subtle distinction between a charismatic leader and a transformational one resident in a shift in focus, while the charismatic leader has a high belief in himself and is able to project that onto others, the transformational leader is there to sell belief in a process and highlight that all hands need to be on deck to accomplish the change.
Adopting this style of leadership is great when it is necessary for a change leader. If the situation calls for conversion of ideas and processes towards a different way of thought and doing, nothing is more appropriate than a transformational leader.
The danger of transformational leadership is the sacrifice of substance for style. Transformational leaders need to rely on a heavy dose of charisma to glamor their followers into accepting their chants for change. However, there needs to become a solid vision and programme of action to back-up their claims otherwise they may direct their followers to disillusionment.
After careful analysis of only some of the major leadership styles it is clear to see there are many to choose from. The final choice must rely on a match between the requirements of the company, the level of experience of the employees and the preference and the limits of those at the helm.