A lot has been written about leadership styles. One of the most popular framework was developed by Kurt Lewin. Although his research was conducted in the late 1930s, his framework is still being used in modern management theories. According to Lewin, there are three major leadership styles:
Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic). Autocratic leaders provide clear expectations—what, when and how tasks should be done. There is a clear line between the leader and the followers. When the autocratic leader makes a decision, he does not accept input from the rest of the group.
Participative Leadership (Democratic). This leadership style is currently the most popular style according to modern management. Democratic leaders consider their employees’ input. The final decision is up to the leader, but the employees play a big part in the decision-making process. Democratic leadership is often used when the leader only has part of the information and he needs to get his followers input in order to make quality decisions.
Delegative Leadership (Laissez-Faire). This style lets leaders give freedom to his followers in terms of how they do their tasks. Delegative leadership is useful if the leader completely trusts his followers. He is confident that his followers are competent enough to be given independence in doing their task. However, leaders must use this leadership style wisely to avoid complacency.
A good leader uses all three styles, depending on the situation and the nature of his followers. Let’s look at the following scenarios:
For a new employee who is just learning the job, use authoritarian leadership. The new employee needs a lot of guidance and monitoring from his superiors to ensure that the requirements of the job are met.
For a team of workers with enough experience, maturity and competence, use participative style. The team is knowledgeable enough to help the leader make informed decisions so their input is crucial.
For an employee who knows as much as the leader, use delegative leadership. He can take ownership of the job and the leader can now concentrate on his other duties.
In some situations, all three styles are applicable. Study the forces that influence these styles. How much time do you have available? What kind of relationship do you have with your followers? Any internal conflicts in your organization? What are the tasks on hand and how do this affect the team’s stress levels? Hence, whether you lead a small team or a whole department, being aware of your leadership style is crucial to your success.