Changing your leadership style to fit the situation

If you are in any type of leadership role, either in the workplace or perhaps as part of a community group or volunteer group, then chances are you have already  discovered that you need to adopt different leadership styles with different people – because people themselves are different. They possess different levels of skills, different levels of confidence – and of course they have such different personalities.

There are many different models of leadership styles around – but they share one thing in common, and that is they advocate the need for the leader to have the flexibility to adjust their style of leadership to the needs of different situations and people.

Different situations and different people may require different leadership styles from you

Flexibility can be a difficult quality to develop – but it is an essential characteristic of effective leadership. You have to be able to recognise when you must change your leadership style, depending upon the different circumstances of the situation.

For example, depending upon whether you’re in a crisis – or whether you are dealing with a highly experienced employee, or whether you are wanting to gradually develop the capability of a team-member – all of these situations might require you vary your leadership approach in some way.

There are a number of different models of leadership, but one of the most simplest outlines three different styles of leadership, with each of the styles varying in the degree of control retained by you as the leader Each of these approaches can be effective, if used at the right time and place. However, if the wrong style is selected to supervise a person’s efforts, then  the person will likely become quite demotivated …

  • Directive leadership style

This is where the leader retains a high level of control over the task, thereby giving the employee very little latitude to exercise any of their own judgement. The leader defines very precisely what has to be completed and describes in detail the procedure to be followed in the task – monitoring performance closely and regularly. This style is suitable if the employee needs supervision and training when working on a task that is new to them.

  • Consultative leadership style

This is where the leader retains moderate control over the task and begins to genuinely consult with the employee over how the task can best be completed. The leader discusses the task and offers some suggestions as necessary – monitoring performance and providing some interim feedback during performance of the task. The leadership style is one of guiding and coaching, certainly not one of telling.

  • Empowering leadership style

This is where the leader simply outlines the task outcomes required, describes any relevant constraints and parameters to the task and then gives the employee the freedom and autonomy to determine how best to undertake the task. The leader trusts that the employee will let him or her know if any difficulty is being experienced, and usually “touches base” towards completion of the task. An employee who is capable and motivated generally warrants this leadership style, when they are working on tasks with which they are familiar.

The management training and leadership development program we regularly deliver in Melbourne, Management Skills course, explores when, where and how each leadership style can be used effectively

In summary, the effective leader is one who has the flexibility and the judgement to exercise different styles of leadership, depending upon the dynamics of the situation they are faced with. One of the key factors that you will assess in your workplace is the level of skill and capability that an employee possesses with a given task – and therefore how much direction and supervision they will likely require.

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