Take a deep dive into leadership development style

April 3, 2019
6 min
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When your business decides it needs a leadership development program, it shouldn’t choose just any leadership style. Rather, businesses should custom tailor their leadership development programs to fit the specifics of their culture, brand, and desired outcomes.

Be wary of any leadership style that’s promoted as a catch all. Because, when a style tries to do everything it often, in effect, does nothing. In leadership development, one size does not fit all.

From the most junior management to the most senior executive, leadership determines the direction and outcomes of your business. So failing to account for these considerations, in creating a leadership development program, would be a detriment to your organization.

To determine which leadership style fits your business’s culture and goals you must look at the focus of each style. No method of leadership being perfect — each style offers its own strengths and weaknesses. Some may be very successful in some industries, but completely ineffective in others. It’s up to your business’s decision makers to determine which is which.

It should also be noted that these leadership styles are not mutually exclusive. These styles can, and probably should, be mixed to meet the needs of your business. Some, of course, mix better than others.

Before you decide on your business’s leadership style you need to take a deep dive. To get you started, below are 6 different leadership styles that leadership development programs can be based off of.

1: Commanding

‘Commanding’ is listed first because it is the most basic leadership form of leadership on the list. This leadership style is simple — it primarily entails giving clear directions with little to no leeway on its execution. Very little discussion is involved in this form of leadership, because it is considered unneeded.

Today, the commanding leadership style has gained a bad reputation, but this need not be the case. Like any leadership style, it works well within an appropriate context. It is understandable that it has fallen out of favor, however, as work today requires more complex decision making.

Commanding is likely right for your organization if it is involved in traditional form of production. This involves businesses like factories — where the processes and results are clearly defined and understood.

2: Visionary

Visionary leadership seeks first and foremost to inspire those that they lead. This means they communicate the possibilities that great work can provide — instead of appealing to authority or mere monetary reward. This leadership style thrives in moments of uncertainty.

Visionary leadership is perfect for a startup environment — where the work is intense and difficult and the rewards never guaranteed. By offering an inspiring vision, startup leaders can ensure that they retain the talent they depend on while also encouraging them to offer their best work.

Visionary leadership may not work well with organizations where work is steady and extraordinary outcomes are not to be expected. While the occasional motivational speech is always a good thing, not all organizations are conducive to visionary leadership.

3: Affiliative

Affiliative leadership is all about developing strong emotional bonds with teams. In this leadership style, leaders become close with those they lead and blur the lines between professional and personal relationships.

Affiliative leadership is probably best for small organizations or for leaders with very small teams. As is probably obvious, this style’s biggest weakness is that, when leaders and their teams are friends, they may not be willing to ask of them what they might otherwise with a strictly professional relationship.

4: Democratic

Democratic leadership defers important decision making to stakeholders rather than giving top down directives. It seeks to establish consensus rather than impose conformity.

Democratic leadership is a good fit for organization where each team member has a high level of understanding of the business. For instance, this could be the case for a design cooperative where each member is a highly skilled designer with many years of experience.

While this leadership style is a great fit for many organizations, it may be difficult to implement at many organizations. Organizations that require quick turnaround and decision making may suffer if many decisions have to be deferred to the team.

5: Pacesetting

Pacesetting leadership is a hands-off approach to leadership. This style assumes that those they lead are capable of self managing and need only minimal direction.

This style best serves organizations or teams where each member is highly skilled and experienced. Because, on such teams any micromanaging just gets in the way. This style works well in conjunction with the democratic style of leadership.

This leadership style may not be suitable at large organizations as the larger the team the greater the need for clear direction and coordination. Large groups do not easily self coordinate without a central source of direction.

6: Coaching

When leaders take on a coaching style, they focus primarily on the growth and development of those they lead. This involves seeking to bring out the best in each individual team member as well as the team as a whole.

The coaching style of leadership best suits teams where leaders are able to spend extended periods of time with individual team members to provide in depth guidance. This is a style that mixes well with many other styles of leadership.

However, like all leadership styles, coaching has its weaknesses too. Coaching requires a lot of time and resources from leadership — so when teams grow it may not be feasible to maintain.

Leadership development with MicroActions

No matter what style you choose for your business, MicroActions can facilitate your leadership development program. MicroActions are brief actions, which take no longer than a few minutes to complete, that help orient the actor towards a specific goal. When leadership consistently commits to daily MicroActions, the macro-effects become apparent.

At ProHabits, we’ve developed, and continue to perfect, software that automates the delivery of MicroActions. This state of the art software allows for the seamless application of your business’s custom leadership development program. With this in place, your business can strategically target the leadership behaviors it needs to develop.

Click here to learn more about the ProHabits platform

John Paul

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