Leadership Styles in Action

leadership styles

About Leadership

We know effective leadership is essential to the success of any organization. It is also a major ingredient in how much an individual contributor achieves in their personal job role. There are many ways to describe an effective leader. Think of someone you know who is in a leadership position at your company, school, or community.  What words would you use to describe this person?

Below is a simple list of common characteristics of great leaders. What other words would you add?

Area Characteristics
Behavioral Dependable, Principled, Accountable, Sincere, Genuine, Authentic, Ambitious
Emotional Enthusiastic, Flexible, Passionate, Stable, Calm
Intellectual Intelligent, Creative, Perceptive, Decisive, Good Communicator/Listener
Social Assertive, Cooperative, Collaborative, Persuasive

Do you possess some of the characteristics listed above? What traits do you still need or want to develop?

Remember, good leadership skills are usually necessary for using other workplace skills effectively, including managing conflict, negotiating deals, networking with others, holding crucial conversations, leading a team, providing coaching and feedback to others, motivating someone, and delegating tasks just to name a few.

Leadership Styles

There are several styles to describe leadership. Let’s explore what kind of a leader you think you are based on the work done by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard and the Situational Leadership II model.  As you read each style, think about which one best describes your current boss, and which style best describes you? Do you prefer a different style?

Director’s Style

Someone with a director’s style does well with new employees, who seem to easily respond to being told what is expected, having processes and procedures outlined for them, and having someone they can report to or ask questions of regularly. The director’s style is defined by a high emphasis on directing tasks and being able to account for results.

Coach’s Style

Coaches can blend supporting people and directing tasks. This is available to a leader when employees understand what is expected but need some range of support to take independent steps and make things happen. A coach’s style has a high degree of involvement in directing tasks, with an equally high emphasis on supporting people.

Supporter’s Style

This style encourages people to come up with solutions and solve problems on their own. It provides them with the support they need in terms of tools and resources. The supporting style shows a low degree of directing tasks and a high emphasis on supporting people.

Delegator’s Style

Delegating means that the delegator holds responsibility for results, but that the work is done by others. We delegate to individuals who have high levels of related skills and the experience it takes to locate their resources and tools. Then they can report to the delegator at defined intervals. This style is one with a low emphasis on directing tasks and an equally low emphasis on providing people support.

Managers versus Leaders

Leaders can be managers, but all managers are not necessarily leaders. Within any organization, you will find job titles that are associated with leadership roles, and we also have people who are not formally in a management role, but they are certainly leaders.

Workplaces need people who can both lead and manage. Being an authentic, strong, and successful leader is not easy, and we should not expect it to be. While you may see leaders who make the journey look easy, it’s important to recognize that they must work at it.

Managers are often defined as looking after administration, systems, or a particular structure; being accountable; and getting things done correctly. All these things are essential to achieving business success.

A leader, on the other hand, is observed as an innovator, a visionary who inspires trust, someone who has a long-term view, and someone who can empower managers and others to get the work done.

In short, when a leader sets a direction and shares a vision, a manager is responsible for implementing it. Perhaps Peter Drucker said it best: “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

Servant Leadership

Servant leaders are those who can see the larger picture and make a commitment to serve their own people.

In a traditional organization, employees often respond to what their boss needs. Servant leaders, however, know that their role is to help people reach their goals, and they keep the bigger picture in mind. Rather than wanting their own needs met, servant leaders want to make a difference for others. The outcome this approach has on individual employees is empowering and the impact to the organization profound. The standard business practice has been to focus on results in terms of profit and put “bosses” in positions of authority and accountability. Servant leadership, however, is about heart. When leaders pay attention to what their people need and engage their hearts as well as their minds, they can get a level of commitment that is much higher than in traditionally led organizations. The results can be measured in terms of profit, but also in terms of employee engagement and commitment.

The best way to support your team is to treat them all as though they have the potential to be leaders. Both existing and emerging leaders can benefit from continual support by enabling them with the tools to apply their leadership skills in their everyday roles. To find out more about how TTA can help develop your team’s leaders, check out our leadership development page.


About the Author

Craig Gerdes is an innovative education and training professional with extensive experience in a variety of leadership roles and in various settings all aimed at helping adult students succeed.