Articles // September 13,2022

What Are Some Recognised Leadership Styles?

By Meenakshi Girish , Editor - Swetha Sitaraman

What is the motive behind good leadership? Some believe it is a process of motivating others to work as a team; others consider it a process to get things done. As you progress in your career and meet various leaders, you will notice that leadership comes in various forms.

Depending upon your organisation’s objectives and individual situations, you are likely to use many methods of direction, execution, and leadership. Read on to know some popular ways to motivate your team, engage with your employees, and at the end of the day, get work done.

How do I determine my style of leadership?

It is all a matter of what strengths and weaknesses you possess. By becoming self-aware and understanding your strengths, you can play to them. You can deliver great outcomes by utilising the best in people – including yourself. Your leadership style will impact the way you connect and communicate with your team members. It is a way for your team to identify you as a leader and know what to expect from you.

#1 Autocratic Leadership

Ever been a part of a team where the leader makes decisions without the input of others? This is an example of autocratic leadership. It isn’t a very feasible leadership style in today’s business culture, as people don’t want to always fall in line with the leader.

They want to be an effective contributor to the outcome and have good job satisfaction for what they do. This kind of leadership revolves solely around the judgment of the leader and may be effective during moments of crisis. But it depends on who the leader is and if they are good at handling incidents and risks.

Prime example – Elon Musk and his leadership style at Tesla and SpaceX is a notable example of autocratic leadership. Musk is known to set high standards for his employees and lay strict ground rules for them to follow without question. He is often known to scrap plans and start afresh when he changes his mind and doesn’t consult with his employees before doing so. Despite not being a likable leader, he is a successful one!

#2 Bureaucratic Leadership

Imagine finding a leader who follows only textbook examples of leadership and makes no decisions of his own. They avoid risks based on what past leaders have faced and often follow a template during meetings and while making decisions. Such leaders strictly follow the company’s past practices to arrive at choreographed outcomes. While there is not much scope for growth, these leaders flourish in established organisations that have highly regulated environments.

“I knew a bureaucratic leader in my past company who rejected all my ideas. I used to arrive with modern ideas that would help us stay competitive, but he preferred sticking to the rules. He would reject my concepts, as the current ones in place were already driving the company to success. There was no scope for innovation or change in the company. I left that agency three years back and I hear things are still the same!” said the accounts executive of a reputed agency in Chennai.

Prime example – One of the first personalities who come to mind when we discuss bureaucratic leadership is Winston Churchill. It is interesting to note that despite serving as a prominent public figure in the 1940s and a former British Prime Minister, he was a bureaucrat. He depended on several systems and government structures that were already established. His mindset revolved around using existing systems to get things done. Even during World War II, he was very particular about following proven methods and systems to defeat the Nazis.

#3 Delegative Leadership

Delegative leaders always believe that their employees know best. They always delegate the work to their team and interfere as little as possible. They trust their employees and don’t often provide directions for execution. They ensure that the company’s core values and strategies are understood. This way, each person knows what they must contribute to the team and work to the best of their potential.

While such a leadership style can empower your team to work independently, it could also prevent them from growing. Some employees depend on constructive criticism to grow and without guidance, they cannot develop. A lot of people think delegative leadership is good, as it is not intrusive and can provide freedom to employees. But many others look at the prolonged absence as a sign of lack of interest in what the team is doing.

A leader I recently met comes to mind when we discuss delegative leadership. Being the team leader of a digital marketing agency, she directs all her attention to client management. While she invests all her time and effort in retaining clients and ensuring they are satisfied with the quality of content created, she never gets involved in the content curation itself. She provides complete freedom to her content and design teams to pump out consistently good content without interfering in the creative process. This often leads to successful client meetings if the clients are happy, or unsuccessful meetings where she bears the criticism if the team didn’t perform well.

Prime example – A prime example would be the founder of Intel who turned out to be a delegative leader. Robert Noyce ensured that his leadership style paved the way for good research and development in the organization. Intel began to grow commercially during his tenure and succeeded during its initial offerings. This began to change after a few years when it began to turn into an authoritarian structure.

#4 Affiliative Leadership

Such leaders always prioritise their employees before everything else. They strive to create bonds with their team and connect on a deeper level. They believe that the team and their mindsets always come first, and profits or outcomes are secondary. Such leaders prioritise bringing trust into the company and making everyone feel like they have a specific role or purpose in the team.

Affiliative leaders help motivate their employees and focus on enhanced communication to ensure that the work environment is good. “My manager would always step in when there were moments of stress. He would constantly praise us and remind us of our performance in the past using examples to make us work better. He never left good performance unaddressed and would appreciate us on the spot. If there was a misunderstanding or lack of bonding between two people, he would make it a point to take them out to lunch,” said the sales team lead of a reputed start up in Coimbatore.

Prime example – The best example of such leadership is not someone who is currently in the corporate world. But he is someone who made people follow him by building emotional bonds and trust. Yes, we mean the Dalai Lama and how he influenced people to follow his teachings without even meaning to. Despite not being in a board room, he motivated those around him and ensured that they felt a sense of purpose while being with him. His followers were always content and felt appreciated. Affiliative leadership was also demonstrated when he made it a point to maintain harmony within the team.

#5 Emergent Leadership

This is surprisingly the most common style of leadership across industries and organisational sizes. This is a situation in which a team member is appointed as the leader based on their past performance or depiction of leadership. Suppose you are given a team project and one of your peers begins guiding the team on what could be done, he becomes a self-proclaimed leader that the team tacitly acknowledges.

It also depends on the team’s interaction with the person and how much the person can influence the team with their persona. Such leaders don’t possess any authority, as they were not officially appointed by any source. They were elected to be the leader of the specific activity owing to the circumstances and their initiative. The focus of such leadership is on relationships and the leader must know how to build bonds with others over time.

What could be a prime example of emergent leadership?

The best example of an emergent leader could be you! You don’t need to be appointed as a leader to join an organization with a title like Team Leader or Project Manager. It is all about how you manage situations and interact with your team that will make you a profound leader.

Suppose you defend a co-worker during a team meeting or manage to provide a stellar idea that turns the tables for the whole team. Your team will turn to you as someone they can trust and who knows what needs to get done. This style of leadership can be developed over time and with consistent efforts.

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