Styles of leadership. Styles of leadership

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1 Styles of leadership Do you recognise different styles of leadership? Do you use different styles of leadership? Are you accountable for decisions made by your team? In the BS2 session What is leadership? you learnt about the different theories of leadership that have been developed over the years. You also learnt that the combination of trait theory and the idea that leadership involves developing certain behaviours seems to make the most sense. You need a personality that allows you to be an effective leader and you need to develop certain skills that enable to you be an effective leader. Most people have the right sort of personality; all you need to do is to develop the right behaviours. In this session we will explore that more by looking at how different styles of leadership can help you choose the right behaviours. Leadership styles simply means different ways of behaving like a leader. It suggests that there is no right way, but that leaders have to select the right style according to the situation they are in and the people they are leading. This session will help you do this. Page 1

2 Autocratic, Democratic or Laissez-Faire? As we have just explained, leadership style is the way in which you go about giving direction to your team, organising people to achieve team goals and motivating team members to achieve them. Being an effective team leader involves knowing the strengths and weaknesses of each team member and choosing the leadership style that is appropriate for the situation and the people. The original idea of leadership style was developed by Kurt Lewin (who features in the BS2 session Understanding the change process). He suggested that there are three main leadership styles Autocratic: The leader takes decisions without consulting others. An autocratic style works when there is no need for input on the decision, where the decision would not change as a result of input, and where the motivation of people to carry out subsequent actions would not be affected whether they were or were not involved in the decision-making. Democratic: In the democratic style (sometimes called the consultative style), the leader involves people in decisionmaking, although the process may vary from the leader having the final say to working to find consensus in the group. People usually appreciate being consulted, especially if they have been used to autocratic decisions with which they disagreed. It can be problematic when there are a wide range of opinions and there is no clear way of reaching an equitable final decision. Laissez-Faire: The laissez-faire (French for leave to do ) style minimises the leader's involvement in decision-making, and allows people to make their own decisions, although the leader may still be responsible for the outcome. Laissez-faire works best when people are capable and motivated in making their own decisions, and where there is no requirement for a central coordination, for example in sharing resources across a range of different people and groups. As you can see, the three styles mover from telling people what to do to letting people make the decisions for themselves. There are other models of leadership style that are very similar. We could easily list half a dozen others but the differences are often very slight. Page 2

3 For example, one model developed by Paul Hersey and Kenneth Blanchard, has a style very similar to the Autocratic style called Telling and one like the Laissez-Faire style called Delegating. Their main difference is to divide the Democratic style into two, which they call Participating and Selling. Participating is closer to the Laisser-Faire style but not Paul Hersey and quite as relaxed about letting go, whilst Kurt Lewin Kenneth Blanchard Selling is closer to the Autocratic style but does involve leaders consulting their Autocratic Telling teams before making decisions. This diagram illustrates the way they relate to Democratic Selling each other. Participating Laissez-Faire Delegating Case Study Paul is a team leader in a High Street fashion store. He leads the team in the menswear section. He has learnt that they are going to close the whole section for five days whilst it is completely refurbished. They will be given part of the women s section to display their clothes. Most of their stock will have to go into the store room and be brought out when customers want a particular size not on display. Paul gathers his team when the store has closed and tells them what is going to happen. He asks them how they think they should deal with this. There is a lot of discussion about how to do it and they agree that the best way is for two of them to spend their time bringing things out from stock and the others will be on the lookout for customers searching for different sizes. They have radio headsets they can use to communicate with the store room. Paul goes to speak to Elise, to his opposite number in women's wear and asks what she is doing. She says she hasn t decided yet, but she likes Paul s team s ideas. She thinks she ll get her team to do the same. Exercise Which of the different styles described in this session best describes Paul and Elise s leadership style? Paul s style: Elise s style: Page 3

4 Paul has clearly been very Democratic (Lewin) or Participating (H&B), whereas Elise has been Autocratic (Lewin) or Telling (H&B) - although she might just decide to be Selling, depending on how she goes about presenting her decision. Paul wasn t Laissesz-Faire or Delegating because he didn t leave the decision to his team, but he did involve them fully in the decision. Task vs Person So far we have focussed on decision-making as the main way of thinking about leadership styles. Another way of doing it is to assess the balance of emphasis between the task that needs doing and the people doing it, your team members. Some leaders tend to be very taskfocussed. This means that all they care about is getting the task done. Others are very people-focussed, meaning that they care a lot about the people in their team but don t pay too much attention to the work that needs to be done. Most leaders will tend to be somewhere in-between these two extremes, but the best leaders will try and be high on task- and high on people-focus. Task focus People focus Leadership style Low Low Leader lacks motivation and interest in what other people are doing or whether tasks are being completed successfully. High Low Tends to be very autocratic - wants people to work hard but lacks interest in their needs. Low High Very caring about how people feel - very friendly and approachable, but not too concerned about their performance. High High A strong team leader - people are committed to task and the leader is committed to people You might think that this is down to basic competence. Effective team leaders should be concerned about getting tasks done but also care about the teams they lead. The difficulty is to keep both aspects in focus at the same time. When people have problems, can you also think about the tasks that need to be done? If the tasks are getting critical, can you still think about people? It s useful to remember these two aspects, to keep your focus balanced. Page 4

5 Being accountable Team leaders are accountable for their team s performance. Accountability means that team leaders have to take responsibility and answer for it to their managers and the organisation, generally. This short case study gives an example. Case Study Three members of Paul s team are moving as much stock as they can into the women s section of the store. Paul is in the store room putting surplus stock onto shelves with two members of his team. Suddenly the door is thrown open and Elise is standing there, furious. Elise: Paul: Elise: Paul: Elise: Was this your idea? What? What s happened? Just come and see. They ve thrown some of our most expensive silk shirts on the floor and made them all grubby and creased. There ll be hell to pay when Gary finds out. I m not carrying the can for it. They re your team, you should have kept an eye on them. Who s they? Patrick, Edie and Katrina, of course. They re out here now, causing havoc. Elise doesn t want to be held responsible for the damage that she claims Patrick, Edie and Katrina (members of Paul s team) have done. She wants Paul to accept responsibility when Gary (their manager) learns about it. Paul is accountable for what they did, not Elise. All team leaders are accountable for their team s behaviour, but not generally for other people s behaviour and only for those aspects of their behaviour over which they have authority. Authority means that they have (positional) power to make a team member do or not do something. A team leader can t be accountable for a team member who gets arrested for drink driving while on holiday. A team leader can t be responsible for a member of another team who they have never met or seen. However, if a member of another team is passing through your work area and stops to start fiddling with a very expensive piece of equipment without any reason, would you have any authority to stop him or her? Would you be accountable for any damage that was done? Have a go at the Exercise over the page. Page 5

6 Exercise Read through these little case studies. For each one, decide, would the team leader be accountable in any way for what happened? Put Y (yes) or N (no) in the box at the end of each. A customer is trying out some equipment in the shop where you work. You see her doing so and notice that one of your team is very near and leave him to supervise her. She puts the item down and leaves. You discover later that it is so damaged it can t be sold. The team member says he didn t see her as he was busy pricing items on the shelves, as you d told him. A team member has been to a party the night before and has come in very tired and worse for wear. She starts making silly errors in her work, all of which needs to be redone. The fencing on the construction site where you work has been damaged by a vehicle leaving the site. You report the damage to the site manager immediately and he says he will get it fixed. When you leave the site that night you see that it still hasn t been fixed. Some children get in that night and one breaks his arm climbing on the scaffolding. 1. You are accountable for the customer s damage. You should have checked that the team member close to the customer knew she was there. You are accountable for your team s performance and should make sure that you know what they are doing. 2. You should not allow someone to work when they are performing badly, whatever the reason. You may not be able to do anything yourself, but should tell your manager that the team member is making too many mistakes. You are accountable for their performance and, although you may not have authority to do anything about her, you must advise someone who does. 3. You have done what you are responsible for doing. The site manager is accountable for his failure to take action. Having said that, an effective team leader would probably not be happy about leav- (Continued on page 7) Page 6

7 ing the site in that state and may go and remind the site manager that it still needs doing. Ultimately, your accountability depends on your role and the limits of your authority, something we will look at in more detail in the session Being a team leader. However, effective team leaders will always accept accountability for their own actions, the actions of their team and for those areas where they knew something was happening, even if it wasn t their direct concern. This is because leadership means being able to know what is right and what is wrong, and doing the right thing. Ultimately, you are always accountable to your own conscience. Whichever style of leadership you use, you will always remain accountable for the decisions that are made. Many team leaders find this difficult. If they allow team members to make decisions, why aren t they accountable? They are, but to you. You are accountable to others, to your manager and to your organisation. You cannot shift your personal accountability onto others. That s not a reason for making all the decisions. By involving team members in decisions you can make better decisions and the team will want them to be successful. But it is your authority that allows those decisions to be made and it is you who remains accountable for them. Page 7

8 Comprehension Check Complete the following exercises. Refer back to the session if necessary. A. Hersey and Blanchard identified four main styles of leadership. What did they call them? B. Match Kurt Lewin s three styles to the descriptions below: 1. The leader takes decisions without consulting others. 2. The leader involves people in decisionmaking, although the process for the final decision may vary from the leader having the final say to facilitating consensus in the group. 3. The leader allows people to make their own decisions, although the leader may still be responsible for the outcome. C. Identify the task and person focus of these four descriptions. Write in High or Low, as appropriate. Task focus People focus Leadership style Leader lacks motivation and interest in what other people are doing or whether tasks are being completed successfully. Very caring about how people feel - very friendly and approachable, but not too concerned about their performance. Page 8

9 Making Connections Answer the questions following the case. Alan is walking across the yard when he sees some of the lads from the warehouse playing football. He knows some of them, because they all went to school together. One calls out to him: Hey, Al, come and join us, we re four:three up. Alan laughs, and says, No, I m busy, even if you aren t. His friend replies: It s our break, we ve still got five minutes left to equalise. Alan knows that they shouldn t be playing football there. It s dangerous. Vehicles are driving in and out the whole time. He says: Do you think it s wise playing there? There s vehicles coming in all the time and they won t see you until they come round the corner. His friend calls back: It s OK, we can keep an eye open. He noticed that one of the men playing is a team leader, so he reckons it s not up to him to say anything more. As he comes out of the warehouse five minutes later Alan hears a squeal of brakes and a thump. He turns to see one of the footballers lying on the ground near a lorry. What style of leadership do you think Alan was showing? Do you think Alan is in any way accountable for the accident? Why or why not? Page 9

10 Think and Apply How well do you use the skills in this session? Do you recognise any of these different styles of leadership? Do you tend to use any of the different styles? If so, which one (s)? Do you think that the style of leadership you use is always the right one? Why? 1. Read the list of skills. Tick the boxes to show your strengths and weaknesses. Skills strengths < > weaknesses I m good at this I m quite good at this I m not so good at this I m quite poor at this recognising different styles of leadership using an appropriate style of leadership recognising the limits of your accountability 2. Do you want to improve any of these skills? 3. How do you plan to improve the skills you listed in question 2? (You might want to discuss this with your line manager or your tutor/mentor/coach.) Page 10

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