Leadership is the crux of every business—big or small. The way a business is run defines its core values for all of its constituents. This includes everyone from the highest-ranking executives to the customers and competition. I’ve seen time and time again how, without the right style of leadership, a company’s vision blurs, and its marketing tactics fall flat. More often than not, working out the kinks of a business’ marketing plan is simply a matter of reassessing the business’ leadership style.
Five Different Leadership Styles
Take a moment to reflect upon your own business’ leadership style. Are employees granted leeway in the workplace, or do managers really crack the whip? Discovering your business’ leadership style can reveal quite a bit about your company, particularly areas that could use improvement.
An article on Chron.com sorts leadership styles into five categories: laissez-faire, autocratic, participative, transactional, and transformational. Throughout my years as a marketing consultant, I have thoroughly observed all of these styles in action, with mixed results. Below, I have provided brief explanations of how these leadership styles typically function.
The Top Five
- Laissez-faire leadership is characterized by a distinct lack of supervision and involvement on the part of management. Managers more or less give employees free rein from top to bottom. As a result, this leadership style often generates quality control issues and unnecessary expenses.
- Autocratic leadership functions through managerial dictatorship. The company’s managers maintain full control of all aspects of the business. They make the rules and supervise employees strictly. In all matters, they have the final say. Though this style can prove beneficial for employees who appreciate extensive involvement and instruction, it can also crush the creative spirit of independent thinkers.
- Participative leadership is significantly more democratic. When it comes to decision making, this leadership style takes into consideration the opinions of all members of a business, regardless of level, even though the participative leader still possesses the final say. While this style generally makes employees feel more valued and content with their workplace, it takes time and effort, which makes critical decision-making strenuous in a pinch.
- Transactional leadership is all about reinforcement. Under this style of leadership, managers and employees set goals together. Managers evaluate their employees’ performances on a regular basis. Your employees receive rewards and acknowledgment if they achieve their goals. If they do not, they are punished and/or retrained. This leadership style can be hit-or-miss, depending upon employee performance.
- Transformational leadership promotes extensive communication and transparency from management. It requires that managers engage themselves deeply in all areas of the business, pursuing long-term goals while simultaneously allocating less critical, day-to-day tasks amongst their employees. The success of this leadership style relies entirely upon the commitment of management.
Which Leadership Style is Best?
The truth is that none of these leadership styles is necessarily better than the rest. There are pros and cons to every method of running a business. As a result, there exists no one-size-fits-all style of leadership. Take into account your business’ mission statement that requires a specialized leadership style to address. More importantly, take into account the value of the talent you’ve hired. How much do you trust your employees to work independently? Is employee input important to your business ethos? However, I will say that in my experience, the leadership styles that tend towards the middle of the two extremes of Laissez-faire and Autocratic tend to produce the right balance and best results.
That’s not to say that I haven’t encountered businesses that thrived under laissez-faire leadership. The managers and employees of these businesses performed their jobs well without intensive supervision because they are highly qualified and highly motivated self-starters. However, I have also come across companies that only functioned effectively because of their implementation of the sort of reward systems characteristic of transactional leadership.
Generally, business leaders improve their company by applying aspects of different leadership styles in combination; managers need not commit wholeheartedly to one leadership style and abandon the rest. It’s all about finding the right fit for your business’ individualized needs.
Is Your Leadership Style Effective?
Finding the best leadership style for your specific business, then, is often a matter of delving into what makes your business unique. What is your unique value proposition? Which values are present in your mission statement? And what kind of an experience do you want your employees to have? Have you hired thinkers, or doers?
You can improve your business’ leadership once you’ve learned about the different styles of business leadership at your disposal. A leadership overhaul,then, could be just the thing your business needs to acquire those long sought-after results.