Leadership isn’t a game of chess. The roles of the pieces, the rules of the game and the shape of the board are not fixed and have not been rigidly predefined.
In chess, there should be a mathematically determined best game. Nothing like that exists in terms of leadership. There is no perfect leadership style. Instead, it is situationally dependent.
Why does this matter? Because it means there is space for you to find your own style, which works best with your people and in the market you’re in.
Instead of spending all your time worrying about whether some way of doing things is right or wrong and letting yourself be tied by the latest fad or leadership guru, allow yourself the room to find yourself and your leadership style.
Theory and Application
That doesn’t mean, however, that you should just ignore everything out there. Leadership might not be a game of chess, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to be learned. Leadership is largely a skill that you can develop and you can come to understand a lot by looking at previous great leaders.
Whenever you hear something new about leadership, don’t just accept it at face value. You need to be skeptical, do effective research, and make certain you always ask the question, “How does this apply to my team, our market and to my leadership style?”.
This is vital, because none of those three things are completely fluid. You can’t simply recast them into any form you like. You have to work within the pre-defined limits of your team, your company and your own personality.
And that means you might not be able to embody all of the leadership qualities. It also means that you should consider adopting a different leadership style, based on your personal weaknesses and strengths.
In his book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman suggests there are six different styles.
Note that they are not mutually exclusive and you can embody aspects of several:
- Visionary: This style is oriented towards taking the company forward for the future.
- Coaching: Directed at improving the skill sets and abilities of the employees as well as connecting their personal goals to those of the company.
- Affiliate: This style is focused on emphasizing the importance of teamwork. The drawback here is that people might feel mediocrity and free-riding is acceptable.
- Democratic: Draws on the abilities and knowledge of the group and is best oriented towards uncertain marketplaces where the future is unknown.
- Pacesetting: This style is all about setting high standards and expecting good performances. As such it raises productivity but can generate the feeling that nothing is good enough.
- Commanding: Also known as autocratic, this style is very top down and military. It can cause resentment as people feel their contributions are not appreciated.
You can read more about these styles here. The trick is to look at these and find which best suits your personality. Are you a dreamer? Then you might be closer to a visionary style and you should aim to get your colleagues to share their dreams. Do you find that encouragement is your style? Then work on coaching and teamwork.
Ultimately, you need to rely on finding a balance. Your leadership style is not just embracing what is outside or inside, but allowing both to find a natural balance.
There needs to be a combination of what is you, what you’ve learned and the environment you’re working in. Only then will you excel as a leader.
How Do You Develop the Right Leadership Style?
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