There are an incredible number of books, theories, and research studies on leadership styles. It seems as if every political leader, business executive, and sports coach has authored a book on leadership. With so many views on leadership, you may be very confused about how to develop your abilities as a leader. Perhaps the only valid advice you should consider in your quest for becoming a leader is this:
Create your own leadership approach through continual practice, observation, and self-reflection.
While the style of leadership you adapt will be unique to you, it is helpful to understand some of the contrasting thoughts about leadership. Here are some generally agreed to thoughts about leadership:
- Leadership is developmental, not something innate in your being.
- Leadership is not about having power over others.
- Leadership can result in both positive and negative outcomes (e.g. Adolf Hitler)
- Leaders facilitate the work of others.
- Leadership is needed and sought out in virtually every aspect of our lives.
- Leaders typically have a strong set of personal values.
- Leaders have a future focus and work on current issues while preparing for the future.
The many different theories of leadership can be thought of in some general categories as shown below.
- Functional – Leadership is about performing the basic functions needed by an organization. These include:
- Organizing the work that needs done
- Assessing opportunities and threats facing the organization and working on them.
- Teaching and motivating others in their assignments.
- Ensuring that work gets done properly.
- Trait based – This concept of leadership is based on a collection of characteristics that leaders share. A person with these traits should be an effective leader no matter the situation. These traits most commonly mentioned include:
- Drive for success
- Ability to inspire others
- Strong personal values
- Self confidence
- Quick study
- Strong conceptual, analytical, and judgmental abilities.
- Situational Leadership – This concept of leadership stipulates that leaders can adapt their style to each situation. This model recognizes that different situations require different styles. The four leadership models that can be adapted to different situations include:
- Directive – the leader gives specific guidance to people as to their assignments.
- Supportive – the leader serves as a facilitator for others in the organization to help them do their assignments.
- Coaching – the leader is a teacher who shows others how to perform.
- Delegating – the leader assigns work to others and expects them to perform.
- Servant Leadership – The servant leader shares power and helps people develop to the best of their ability. The servant model believes the following:
- Best long term results come from investing in people
- The way people in the organization are treated will also extend to how customers are treated
- Employees will have a higher level of engagement and will produce better results.
- A supportive organizational culture will lead to many other positive results
- Transactional Leadership – this model believes that both leaders and those being led can mutually raise each other to higher levels. A transactional leader does the following:
- Acts as a mentor to those in the organization
- Encourages people to go beyond their comfort zone
- Creates a vision for the organization
- Acts as a role model
As you read these, did one style of leadership seem to be a good fit for you? Maybe you would like to combine some of these. The next section Developing The Leadership Style That Works Best For You will help you think through the approach you might want to develop for yourself.