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What Are the Best Management Styles Found in Team Leaders?
Modern management can't simply be a laissez-faire force in a work environment, and they need to be leaders, guiding the direction their teams take and minimizing roadblocks before they become issues. Leaders need foresight, planning, and the skill to guide disparate employees towards a common goal.
Not all leaders are built the same, however. Different managers have different leadership styles. Depending on who you ask, there may be anywhere from three to 15 different leadership styles, as defined by various HR agencies and thought leaders.
How do you know which ones are the best?
What's My Leadership Style? is developed by HRDQ and is a short, points-based assessment that helps determine which of four leadership styles they most resemble.
Learning the different types of leadership styles helps you become the best leader you can be. By specifying your leadership skills and style, you can learn how to improve it and, consequently, your leadership itself.
Let's get started!
There Are No Right Answers
The most challenging truth many managers encounter is that there's often no correct answer. Life, social interaction, management style, and leadership are not like a mathematic equation; they have multiple solutions to any given problem. While you can determine a solution to be good or bad, often you won't be able to tell which is which until after the fact.
Likewise, with leadership, there's no one "best" style of leadership. There are poor leadership styles and cases where a leadership style is poorly suited to a particular team or task. Neither of those is necessarily indicative that one leadership style is better than all others.
Finding your leadership allows you to do two things.
First, it lets you learn and grow within your style. Different leadership styles grow in different ways. Do you emphasize your empathy and social connections? Do you emphasize your knowledge and skill when leading by example? Do you find new strategies to listen to and adapt to feedback? Some leaders work with some of these choices, while others do not.
The best leaders are not static, and they learn and grow over time to become better leaders both with their specific teams and specialties and in general throughout their lives. Most leaders grow through experience, but guiding that growth with the knowledge of your leadership style is a way to become that much more effective.
Second, finding your style helps you recognize how to handle different scenarios and which ones you are not suited to handle. Sometimes, a diplomatic leadership style might not be well-suited to a problem when that problem needs decisive, quick action.
Conversely, autocratic leaders might alienate team members and make them feel unappreciated, leading to decreased employee engagement, lower job satisfaction and well-being, and higher turnover rates.
Finding your leadership style grants you awareness, which you can then use to handle common problems. Most of the time, a good leader can adapt to other leadership demands, even if they're uncomfortable or outside of their typical style. However, in some cases, a leader may need to step back and allow different leadership to take command, at least until a given task is solved.
In practical terms, they may mean shuffling teams or tasks around, working with a partner leader, or hiring an external contractor for a given project.
The crux of the issue is this: there is no single best leadership style. Assessments like the HRDQ What's My Leadership Style test allow you insight and personal growth opportunities, not judgment.
Changing Leadership Styles
Part of being an exceptional leader is growing your abilities as a leader. Knowing your leadership style is just one part of this decision-making process.
It's important to consider that, as you grow, change, and mature in management, your leadership style may change as well. For example, early in your career, you may have a more team-focused democratic leadership style.
This style can stem from inexperience or respect for your fellow team members. As you learn and grow, you may find that your skills have progressed to a point where you need less input to make leadership decisions. Your team members don't have much to say that you don't already know, either because of your experience or your familiarity with them and their feedback.
As such, your leadership style can change and evolve. Where you may have been a more considerate and spirited leader before, you may be more of a direct and systematic leader now. Again, this isn't a bad thing, and it's not wrong to change. However, being aware of your changing leadership style is critical for success moving forward.
Sometimes, pressure to change your leadership style comes externally rather than internally.
Instead of using your own experiences to grow, pressures from above or a project's demands necessitate leaning in a different direction.
This situation is where critical decisions come up for managers and leaders. Do you flex within your leadership style? Do you try to adopt a different leadership style that you may be less comfortable using? Do you attempt to migrate to another project more suited to your style? Do you leave the company altogether and progress your career through mobility? These are, again, all valid options, with no wrong answers.
Four Starting Points for Leadership
In the HRDQ What's My Leadership Style assessment, four common leadership styles are assessed.
These four styles are:
Direct leaders are assertive and tend to lead by taking charge of a situation and making decisions based on their position, past experiences, and directives from above. Leaders with a Direct style tend to excel at taking charge of challenging situations, particularly when team members have unsettled arguments or time constraints on a project.
Direct leaders may falter when asked to delegate tasks; they tend to trust only themselves and a small group of colleagues and take on more responsibility than they can handle.
Some also have difficulty giving up direct control and trusting their team to implement their plans and final decisions. Unlike some of the more "hands-off" leadership styles, they might lean too heavily on micromanagement and direct oversight.
Spirited leaders are assertive, but unlike Direct leaders, they tend to lead by setting an inspiring example and encouraging others to follow their lead. As such, they tend to be highly expressive and charismatic as well.
Spirited leaders are great at boosting morale and teamwork, particularly during long downtimes, slumps, or seemingly implacable problems. Their spontaneous and creative nature allows them to think outside the box and find innovative solutions or directions for different situations that otherwise become roadblocks.
However, Spirited leaders often live in the present, taking challenges as they come. This style can lead to further difficulties down the road that they could have avoided with forethought and planning. The biggest weakness of the Spirited leader is, in fact, that comparative lack of long-term planning and vision. They tend to be tactical rather than strategic.
Considerate leaders are not very assertive but are highly expressive. They tend to be democratic leaders or to lead by social consensus. They value the input of their team and strive to solve conflicts at every turn, even if they're not directly related to the tasks at hand.
Considerate leaders excel in situations where team harmony is paramount. They foster teams that work well together, and they use empathy and communication to work through issues and build agreements between members with conflicting visions. They can also help reconcile seemingly disparate viewpoints.
The most significant drawback of the Considerate leadership style is the lack of assertiveness. Considerate leaders value harmony over productivity and may not be able to make a stand and push back against team members with special interests. Often, particularly aggressive and focused individuals can strong-arm Considerate leaders into getting their way, even at the expense of less vocal team members.
This situation can lead to a crisis in the future, as the overridden and less outspoken team members choose to leave rather than continue working in that environment.
Systematic leaders typically are low on both assertiveness and expressiveness. While this might sound negative, it's still a valid leadership style. According to best practices and established processes, systematic leaders tend to take things one step at a time, working by the book with the resources they have. They spend time building a plan for both short-term and long-term operations and execute that plan, accounting for as many eventualities as possible along the way.
Systematic leaders tend to be highly accurate and effective when given the time and resources to plan.
High-level systematic leaders have the experience and resources necessary to avoid pitfalls and complete projects on time and within budget. They may not be the most inspiring or friendly, but they are highly effective.
The downside is that same thoroughness. Systematic leaders need that time to analyze a situation. They plan their path, and when pressure builds, when unexpected things go wrong, and when time constraints are tight, they may not be able to operate effectively.
Alternative Leadership Styles
These four leadership styles are the ones assessed in the HRDQ materials. They are not, however, the only set of potential leadership styles out there. If these don't seem helpful, there are other sets available. Such resources include the six styles described by PeopleGoal, the seven styles described by Workzone, and the eight styles (four good and four bad).
While these articles do not have assessments attached, they offer descriptions of their various leadership styles that you can use to self-assess, such as visionary leaders, authoritarian leadership, bureaucratic leadership, servant leadership, and participative leadership.
There tends to be significant overlap between different sets of leadership styles. We've found that our four primary styles encompass all of the "good" leadership styles while leaving out negative styles such as autocratic leadership and transactional leadership.
Finding Your Leadership Style
If this set of leadership styles sounds applicable to you, or if you're unsure what type of leader you are and want to find out, the HRDQ What's My Leadership Style assessment is a perfect tool.
We developed this assessment and other assessments and tools to help business leaders identify their styles, learn about them, and find ways to grow. Every product we offer aims to improve the quality and ability of the great leaders who take them.
When you take the What's My Leadership Style assessment, here's how it works. You are given 20 sets of scenarios, wherein you distribute five points between two opposing groups of actions. Totaling these points shows the angle you take in your leadership style and directs to which leadership approaches you most match.
Armed with this information, you can:
- Identify your leadership style proclivity and which secondary style that you are closest to. This process helps you expand your self-awareness and knowledge of that style and use it more effectively. Tools are best used with awareness, after all.
- Learn the strengths of your style. What are you best at, and how can you augment those already-formidable skills to become a powerhouse of an effective leader?
- Learn the weaknesses of your style. What situations are you most likely to have a hard time handling? How can you work around or plan for these scenarios?
By knowing which secondary style you're most similar to, you can also find ways to "flex" into that style when the situation calls for it. This knowledge helps you act with confidence, knowing it's something you're naturally capable of, which expands your skills, problem-solving capabilities, company culture, and your comfort zone.
What's My Leadership Style is an excellent piece for any leader to build self-awareness and move on to a more thoughtful and self-reflective path of growth. It's also perfect for use as part of an overall management assessment or training program. HR directors and other upper management can also purchase additional materials, such as the Facilitator's Guide or a more comprehensive assessment package. Meanwhile, individual managers and leaders can acquire the self-guided learning package as well.
While there are no wrong leadership styles, there are poor actions to take. One of those incorrect actions is operating purely on instinct and avoiding learning about your leadership style. Determine your style so you can grow as an effective leader with mindfulness and knowledge. You don't have to struggle on your own; others have walked this path before and can help you along the way.