Estimated reading time: 6 minutes
Familiar with the 5 leadership styles and their characteristics? Want to know how to identify them and what are the pros and cons of each one?
The Management of a company has sent a policy to its different local branches for middle managers and executives to communicate to their subordinates. They know that the new policy will be very unpopular, but there is no alternative, and it is expected that employees will show resistance from the outset.
The managers not only have to communicate it to their subordinates, but they also have to ensure that it is met. To top it off, many of them don’t agree with the directive either. How do managers with different leadership styles face this situation? What are the pros and cons of each one?
1) Autocratic leader. This type of leader gives orders or ensures compliance using incentives or sanctions. They threaten with their power if anyone questions what they say, and hence communicates the policy absolutely, leaving no room for argument. For that reason, employees associate the policy with them, despite it having being imposed from above.
Pros: It works. The directive is met fast and effectively.
Cons: It damages the relationship between the leader and their subordinates. It destroys trust and worsens motivation, communication and collaboration. It even affects the team’s performance. The policy is met, but paying a high price for it.
2) Bureaucratic leader. This leader is completely focused on the rules. Like the autocratic leader, they will use sanctions to ensure compliance, but in a more indifferent and functional manner than the autocratic leader. They believe that it is obvious that rules are to be met, and for that reason, they expect everyone to comply with them. They limit themselves to applying the regulation.
Pros: It also works and the policy is met. Furthermore, it is a leadership type that generates responsibility in some employees.
Cons: They are leaders that tend to create rules for everything, employees can become saturated by rules they don’t understand and feel that in their workplace protocols are more important than people. It generates demotivation in the long term.
3) Charismatic leader. They exercise a leadership style based on charisma in which they project their personality, generating such a level of following and influence among their subordinates that in their strongest version they can simply communicate the policy for it to be met automatically, without resistance.
Pros: It is probably the leadership style that generates the least amount of conflict regarding the new policy in the short term.
Cons: The charisma of the leader can be so strong that it rules out the other people in the team and their contributions. It creates dependence on the leader and makes them difficult to replace, generating many problems in accepting a new leader in the group if a necessary change is made. The leader has too much influence.
4) Laissez-faire leader. In their positive version, they lead a mature, independent and committed team that works well individually, without requiring much interference from them. The members of the team understand that the policy escapes the leader’s scope of decision and assume it in a more or less tolerant way. On the negative side, the leader doesn’t interfere in the team due to a lack of leadership, and assumes that the collaboration will work by magic. They do not act as a leader although the team needs it and, in the case of the policy, they will feel uncomfortable having to ensure its compliance. It is probable that they will shut themselves away in their office and the relationship with their subordinates will be scarce and progressively deteriorate when the employees realize that their leader doesn’t interfere in the daily conflicts and problems, but does ensure the compliance of the new policy, as they have no other choice.
Pros: In the positive case, it can be the most effective leadership. The leader knows how to delegate and the team manages themselves flexibly and autonomously.
Cons: In the negative case, it is the most perjudicial as it means that unsolved conflicts and problems grow over time. It frustrates more involved employees, demotivates them and creates a poor working environment in which it is a case of “save yourselves”.
5) Participative leader. They know how to ensure the policy is met without exercising their power or resorting to sanctions. Firstly, they use information empathically, trying to give employees as much information as possible. They explain the background behind the policy, where it comes from, and the reasons why it has been take. They also explain what their role is in ensuring it is met. They listen carefully to the opinions of their subordinates, and when they see that there is resistance, they ask for the reasons, leaving it clear that it is not in the team’s or the leader’s hands to change the policy, but listening with interest and curiosity, and not just asking for the sake of it. They show they understand the opinions of their subordinates, offering to communicate those opinions to the superiors, and above all, trying to reach agreement regarding the policy. They know how to keep a balance and show loyalty to their employer as well as respect to their subordinates. Their way of relating and communicating with the team generates trust in spite of the policy.
Pros: They take advantage of a conflict to reinforce the relationship between the leader and the team, empowering employees and making them feel valued, and do not weaken motivation. It is one of the styles that generates the best collaboration environment for high performance.
Cons: The participative style requires a lot of time for it to be effective, and due to the lack of a participative culture, it doesn’t generate participation spontaneously nor do many leaders know how to generate it in order to lead using agreement.
In reality, these styles do not exist in a pure state, they are only models in which one aspect of leadership is emphasized over others. Each leader combines characteristics of the different styles to a greater or lesser degree, making up the unique and irrepetible leadership style of each person, which evolves over time with training, experience and practice.