Leadership Style According to Three Leadership Thought Leaders

Tags: Leadership, Leadership Definitions, Leadership Style

Leadership style is a topic that attracts a lot of interest from leadership practitioners and thinkers.  Although leadership is something practical, it is good to regularly remind ourselves of the theory behind leadership.  This post’s aim is not to discuss the theory of leadership in detail.  The aim is to highlight three different thought leaders’ theory, as a kick-start for your own thoughts in your daily practice of leadership.

Leadership Style is Adjustable

Leadership Style is not something that is uniform across all situations.  The need of the situation or the specific goal that must be achieved will often determine the relevant leadership style.   It is not only possible but also necessary to adjust your leadership style as it is necessary.  In order to do this it good to have an understanding of the various leadership style theories and their application.

Leadership Style According to Lewin’s Three Basic Leadership Definitions

Kurt Lewin led a group of researchers in 1939, as they set out to identify the differences in leadership style. They identified three leadership styles present when leaders lead.
  • Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic).   Authoritarian leaders are focused on clarifying expectations of what  must be accomplished.  They not only give clear expectations on the outcomes, they also are very clear on when it should be done, as well as how it should be done.
  • Participative Leadership (Democratic).  Participative leadership is normally the most productive leadership style.  The group receives ample guidance from the Participative leader and he/she often participate actively in the group, while soliciting and accommodating comments from the group members.
  • Delegative Leadership (Laissez Faire).  A group led by a Delegative leader can expect little or no guidance from the leader.  All decision-making is left to the group members.  This style of leadership is however only effective where the members of the group are highly qualified or have specific areas of expertise.  The drawback is that it often leads to poorly defined roles and motivation.

Leadership Style According to Likert’s Four Leadership Definitions

Rensis Likert identified four main styles of leadership.  His work focused mainly on the decision-making process as well as the measure to which people are involved in the decision.

  • Exploitive Authoritative.  The main goal of this leadership style is conformance with a low concern for people.   In order to get the required conformance, the leader will often use fear based methods to get the required outcome.  Communication channels is normally downwards and the concerns of people are largely ignored.
  • Benevolent Authoritative.  By adding concern for people to an Exploitative Authoritative leadership style a Benevolent Authoritativeness leadership style is created.  Instead of making use of fear tactics, the leader now makes use of  rewards to encourage appropriate performance.  The leader also listens more to lower down concerns in the organization.  Unfortunately the communication to the leader is often limited to what the people think the leader wants to hear.
  • Consultative.  The leaders using the consultative leadership style, makes a genuine attempt to listen the ideas being offered by the people he/she leads.  The information reaching the leader is however still somewhat cautious.  Although the leader listens more, the decision making is still largely centralized.
  • Participative.  This leadership style is practiced by a leader the people, especially on the lower levels of the organization.  The effect is that people across the organization is much closer and work together well on all levels.

Leadership Style According to Goleman’s Six Emotional Leadership Definitions

In defining leadership style, Daniel Goleman, places much emphasis in his six styles of leading on the effect of the leadership style on the emotions of the people.  A leader can use any style at any time and a good mix, that is customized to the situation is generally the most effective approach.

  • The Visionary Leader.  Shared vision is the focus of the Visionary leadership style.  The Visionary Leader communicates the destination to the people, but he will generally not tell them how to get there.  By leaving the group to answer the “How to get there” question, the leader creates motivation.
  • The Coaching Leader.  The Coaching Leader specializes in connecting personal needs with organizational goals.  The practice of this leadership style often entails conducting long and personal conversations, helping people find strengths and weaknesses.  By understanding the person’s strengths and weaknesses the Coaching Leaders can help the person in generating meaningful career paths.
  • The Affiliative Leader.  The focus of this leadership style is on creating people connections and harmony within the organization. The collaborative style of the Affiliative Leaders often focus on emotional needs over work needs.
  • The Democratic Leader.  The Democratic Leader solicits input and comment from everyone in the organization.  This leader will listen to both sides of the story and will encourage participation from the members of the group.
  • The Pace-setting Leader.  The Pace-setting Leader is challenge driven.  This leader will often set challenging goals for the people he/she leads.  The expectations in achieving the set goals is also always very high and excellence in non negotiable.
  • The Commanding Leader.  The Commanding Leader takes a powerful stance through which he/she calms the situation down.  This leader will also give clear and strong direction and expect full compliance with the goals and set direction, without getting agreement from the people being led.

The Theory of Leadership may be boring to a lot of people, especially those focused on practical leadership and action.  However if we do not understand the theory behind the practice of leadership, our actions may become empty and unfounded.