Nearly everyone has an opinion about good and bad leadership styles.  As the times change, so does both the definition of leadership and our opinions of what makes a good leader.  In many ways, leadership is an extension of a one’s personality, but it’s also something that true leaders work to improve on daily.

But what is leadership?

If you ask 10 different people for a definition, you’re likely to get 10 different answers.  Some people believe that leadership stems primarily from your position within a company.  A CEO or the VP of whatever are both certainly working in leadership roles, but does that mean they are true leaders?

Leadership is about more than your position in a company.  It’s also about encouraging others to reach a common goal.  By that definition, virtually anyone in a company can be a leader, whether they have a title or not.

“The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.”

– Ronald Reagan

leadership style trick or treatAny one of us can be a leader within our own organizations and make a positive impact. Great news, right?

But what if your leadership style needs a little work? In some cases, people really want to be great leaders, but their innate leadership style just gets in the way. The good news is that your leadership style can evolve and improve over time. In other words, your leadership style may start out as a Trick (in keeping with the Trick or Treat theme), but you can always turn it around and make it a Treat for everyone you lead.

Let’s take a look at the different types of leadership styles and how effective they are.

Autocratic Leadership Style

In autocratic leadership, full power and authority is given to the leader.  Autocratic leaders make all decisions without taking any input from subordinates.  Anyone who reports to the leader is neither considered nor consulted prior to choosing a direction, and employees are expected to do whatever the leader has decided.

An example of autocratic leadership would be if a manager unilaterally decided to drastically change office hours without consulting the team of employees affected.  This type of leaders would expect employees to adhere to the new office schedule without question or complaint.

It’s “my way or the highway” mentality.

Autocratic leadership is rarely effective in the business world, but it is often found in other situations like military leadership.  In general, people resent this type of leadership style because of its controlling nature, and they eventually revolt or quit (then you can come see us).

The autocratic leadership style is a Trick.

Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic leadership is something that you often run across in older, larger, more traditional companies.  This type of style is a by the books, always follow the rules, this is the way we’ve always done it type of leader.  While they may listen to and consider employee input, they tend to reject that input if it doesn’t correlate with past practices or company policy.  These types of leaders generally resist any type of change.

While employees under a bureaucratic leader won’t feel as controlled as they do under autocratic leadership, they often feel stifled.  This type of leadership does not encourage ambitious goals, quick growth, or innovation.

The bureaucratic leadership style is rarely effective and is mostly a Trick.

Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leadership is not uncommon throughout the business world today.  These types of leaders reward employees for the exact work they are doing.  As an example in the manufacturing world, a transactional leader might give bonuses to employees who produce a certain number of units per week.  This is not to be confused with incentive plans that motivate employees to master their regular duties quickly.

While transactional leaders can help establish employee roles and responsibilities, their leadership style can also encourage employees to limit their work.  After all, employees know exactly how much their effort is worth, so they have no real incentive to go beyond the bare-minimum required to receive the incentive.

Transactional leadership can be effective in some situations, but can also limit company (and employee) growthWe’ll call this one neither a Trick nor a Treat.

Democratic Leadership Style

Democratic leaders make decisions based on the input of the people that they lead.  Although the leader makes the final decision, this style is more participatory in nature because employees are involved in the decision-making process.  They have a voice and are freely allowed to express their opinions.

This leadership style works best in organizations where employees are highly skilled and experienced, but most types of organizations can benefit from this type of leadership because it allows for open communication.  It also encourages growth (company and employee) and innovation because everyone feels as if they have skin in the game.

The democratic leadership style is definitely a Treat.

Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leaders are always trying to improve the company and push those they lead to challenge their comfort zones.  This style tries to create a thriving work culture where goals are set high and deadlines are demanding.  Transformational leaders want to challenge employees to reach their full potential.

Although this style is often considered one of the most desirable leadership styles, especially for growth-minded companies, it can also have a downside.  These types of leaders run the risk of losing employees, or over-challenging them, if there isn’t a good mix of coaching and guidance offered.  After all, not all employees can meet challenges at the same pace.

The transformational leadership style is generally one of the more sought-after styles because it has the potential to achieve exceptional results, but it also requires a strategic vision to work well.  Many try to be transformational leaders, but few actually succeed.

That’s why we’ll call this type of leadership style a Treat, but hard to achieve.

Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Laissez faire is a French phrase that translates to “let them do,” and refers to the leadership style where the leader gives nearly all their authority over to their employees.  Laissez-faire leaders delegate responsibilities to their employees and allow them to work on their own with little (if any) interference.

While this type of leadership can be effective when working with teams of highly experienced and skilled employees who are self-motivated enough to require very little supervision, this leadership style can also limit company growth opportunities.  It can also severely limit employee development.

Laissez-faire leadership only works in very specific circumstances, so we’re calling this one more Trick than Treat.

Strategic Leadership Style

The Strategic leadership style is pretty much what it sounds like it should be.  Strategic leaders generally bridge the gap between a company’s growth opportunities and its operations, while keeping executive interests in mind.  Strategic leaders use their strategic vision for the company to influence others to make decisions that will point the company toward that goal.

Strategic leaders generally create teams of people who are equipped to manage risks and threats as they lead the company toward specific company goals.  Not only are these types of leaders very effective at influencing others and leading their teams, but this particular leadership style also serves to create more leaders within the organization.

The strategic leadership style is definitely a Treat.

Coaching Leadership Style

The coaching leadership style is very similar to a coach for a sports team.  These leaders focus on building strong teams, where individual employee strengths and skillsets compliment each other, and the team works well together to get the job done.  Coaching leaders also put a lot of emphasis on nurturing the strengths of each individual member of the team.

Coaching leaders are considered a more modern leadership style that boosts employee motivation, increases skills, and helps to create new leaders.

The coaching leadership style is definitely a Treat.

Is Your Leadership Style a Trick or a Treat?

There are many different leadership styles in practice today, so we’ve chosen the styles that are most common and most relevant to the manufacturing sector.  Everyone has an opinion about what makes a good leader.  You may not agree with our assessment of which styles are Tricks and which ones are Treats, but hopefully it will get you thinking about your own leadership style.

All of us can be leaders in our organizations, even if we don’t have a title to back it up.  Informal leaders can be found throughout a company.  All it takes is a positive attitude that encourages others toward a goal, whether that goal is a company goal or a personal development goal.

And even if your leadership skills stink right now, you can work to make them better.  If you’re having trouble identifying your own style, take a look at the leaders around you.  What kind of leader is your boss (or his boss)?  Identifying leadership traits in others can help you see your own.  It can also help you to see why one style is more effective than another.

So is your leadership style a Trick or a Treat?

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