Changing our leadership style depending on the situation

The concept of situational leadership has been around for some time and states that a leader needs to lead in different ways depending on the circumstances.  It is something that we probably all know in theory, but pay too little attention to in practice.  The traditional way of thinking about the variation of style is by considering points along a continuum between high and low control.

A study by the Harvard Business Review, and described here by Robyn Benincasa on the Fast Company blog, went beyond the theory and looked at what happened in practice.  A 3 year study of over 3,000 managers found that management style can make a huge difference in the profitability of the company.  They were also able to uncover 6 distinct styles of leadership and reflect upon their effect.  Here is the summary:

  1. Pacesetting leader – expects and models excellence
  2. Authoritative leader – mobilizes towards a goal with flexibility in the route taken to get there
  3. Affiliative leader – builds bonds between people and a sense of belonging
  4. Coaching leader – develops people
  5. Coercive leader – demands immediate compliance
  6. Democratic leader – builds consensus through participation

How easy do you find it to switch between styles and match your leadership to the situation?

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