If you seek to grow in your management role, you need to decide what type of leader you want to be and learn what type of leadership is most effective.
Many times in my coaching and consulting work I encounter leaders who have stumbled into their leadership roles. They might be entrepreneurs whose great idea blossomed into a company with numerous employees. Or perhaps they were promoted to a leadership role in an organization because of their technical expertise, rather than their outstanding people and managerial skills. However, being talented at what you do (i.e. outstanding engineers, project managers, sales) does not necessarily translate into being competent in motivating and leading other individuals to a mutual goal.
Furthermore, even though leadership training and educational development programs are offered within a company, I suggest that many of these initiatives are too late to make the necessary impact on your value as a leader. They might enhance your skills, but your approach to your role needs to be carefully considered before you ever direct the actions of one employee. If you are even contemplating assuming a management position in your organization, your thoughts and behaviors need to be purposeful from day one. The first step in being an effective leader is deciding how you want to show up in this new role and acting accordingly. You need to think about not only what type of leader you want to be, but how to be open and flexible to modify your behavior based on the situations and people you need to manage.
Lewin's leadership styles
Although much time and effort has been spent defining leadership styles, the original research in this area was done by Kurt Lewin, in 1939. He defined three basic leadership approaches that remain relevant today. They are: autocratic leadership, democratic leadership and laissez-faire leadership.
In autocratic or authoritarian leadership there is a clear boundary between leaders and followers. This individual makes decisions without much input from team members. If you are this type of leader, you may get things done in an expedient manner, but you do not necessarily get the best results from your people.
The democratic or participative leadership approach has been shown to be the most effective style. This type of leader encourages group input and guides a collaborative conversation, while reserving the right to have the final say in the decision-making process. Research studies confirm that this leader not only promotes transformational growth in his or her employees, but this approach leads to better decisions and superior outcomes.
The laissez-faire leadership style is the least productive. This type of leader offers little guidance and delegates responsibility to others, rather than taking charge and providing boundaries and focus for the team. In my experience employees thrive when they have predictable, consistent and accountable leaders guiding them.
We all have a normal pattern in our interactions with others, such as a tendency for making unilateral decisions or avoiding conflict. However, a better understanding of the variables that influence your behavior can guide you to make more focused choices about the type of leader you would like to be.
Take a moment to reflect on the following questions and assess both your attitude and approach to your leadership role:
1. How would you describe your thinking style? Are you more strategic or tactical in your approach to your business? How much time to spend a week thinking “about” your business, rather than working “in” your business?
2. How do you relate to people? Would you describe yourself as more of an extrovert or introvert in your interactions at work?
3. What motivates you more: the need for affiliation with others, the need to be able to influence and impact others or the need for achievement?
4. What influence or impact do you want to have on your team? Do you like being a mentor or coach to others?
5. Do you enjoy collaborative decision-making or would you prefer to be the primary decision-maker for your team?
6. Are you able to anticipate and accept the possible consequences of decisions made by you or members of your team?
7. In setting goals for your team/company, is your focus primarily on processes or outcomes?
8. Are you more proactive or reactive in your approach to solving problems?
9. How would you measure your current success as a leader?
10. What do you want your legacy as a leader to be? How would you like others to describe you as a leader?
The answers to these questions should give you some insight into your abilities, strengths and challenges as a leader. The most critical aspect of being a purposeful leader is understanding that you create and are responsible for your own success. This translates into you not only proactively deciding what type of leader you want to be, but being prepared to engage in some honest self-reflection and a willingness to learn the necessary skills to achieve your leadership goals.
Denise P. Federer, Ph.D. is founder and principal of Federer Performance Management Group. She has 27 years of experience working with key executives, business leaders and Fortune 500 companies as a behavioral psychologist, consultant, coach and trainer. Contact her at: [email protected]