Question: I am fascinated by different leadership styles. Which style seems to work the best?
Answer: Of course there is no one particular style that works for all situations. So let’s focus on a few common approaches.
In the “olden days” the leader led by dictate. The process was autocratic. Organizational hierarchy was respected at all costs. The phrase “it’s lonely at the top” was an ingrained belief system. All eyes were on the man (seldom a woman) in the corner office. The leader rarely sought input from the management team. It’s possible that he had a “consigliore” or confidant. He made the decisions and issued orders to his troops. Often he valued fear and intimidation as techniques for maintaining order in the ranks. Imagine how today’s millennials would respond in this environment. There would be a mass exodus of biblical proportion! Thankfully the autocratic era has passed.
Some leaders use a consensus approach. Perhaps they have a senior leadership team or an executive committee where ideas are presented and discussed by everyone sitting at the table. Participants are able to express their thoughts with impunity and feel as though their opinions count. The real test of this style comes in how decisions are made. Does the leader ask for a vote of his/her team on the issue at hand and then carry forward with the results of that vote? There may be certain situations where following the majority-rule is appropriate. But in many cases this is simply management by committee and an abdication of leadership.
The style that I believe shows strong leadership involves the leader soliciting input from the various stakeholders. She/he listens to and weighs the opinions and the evidence . . . and then makes the decision. Sometimes the decision may be contrary to what the senior team or executive committee wants. The leader must be willing to fully explain his/her decision and have a valid reason for not following the advice of the group. Perhaps the leader has more information and a broader perspective. Or there could be a legitimate philosophical difference. But the leader makes the ultimate decision and will be held accountable accordingly.
Leadership is about a clear vision and purpose. It involves effective communications. A strong and effective leader shows sensitivity for others and values their input. A good leader considers the facts and overlays his/her moral compass on the situation at hand. And finally, a true leader makes the decision when it’s appropriate and doesn’t abdicate it to others.
Sound leadership principles empower us to make decisions even when it’s tough to do so. As leaders we should model the opportunity to make tough decisions which in turn will help others learn how to become strong leaders.
This blog is being written in tandem with my book, “An Entrepreneur’s Words to Live By,” available on Amazon.com in paperback and Kindle (My Book), as well as being available in all of the other major eBook formats.