The art of bringing employees together and extracting the best out of them, all while maintaining a great stress free atmosphere at the office is not everyone’s cup of tea. Think of every manager you have come across, and you’ll find a handful who have impressed your socks off and most who have made you question their very existence. It’s safe to say then, that every leader has a unique style of handling their workers.

Needless to mention, those possessing the most flexibility tend to get the best outcome from their workers. A good leadership style depends on task, people and situations. In other words, there isn’t a golden rule book that you need to hold on to for dear life. Its how you adapt to the things that come at you that makes you a credible leader.

According to Hay McBer, there are six key leadership styles, let’s start with the most common one – Directive or Coercive style. In this style, the primary objective is to gain immediate compliance from the employees. The pros with this style is that it comes in handy when deviations are risky and there is a crisis at hand. However, because of the imposing nature of this style, employees stay underdeveloped and those that are highly skilled tend to become frustrated and resentful. Swimming in similar waters but armed with better gear is the Authoritative or Visionary style, here the leader sets the vision for the team, clearly and compellingly, then steps back and allows the team to work. The leader steps in from time to time to reiterate the vision if required, but that is all he / she does. The primary objective here is to provide long-term direction and vision for employees, which only works if the leader is credible or charismatic. If not, employees won’t follow vision if they don’t believe in it.

Both of the above mentioned styles rely solely on the enigmatic nature of the leader. Whereas, an Affiliate style focuses more on creating harmony among employees and between the manager and employees. What happens here is, due to the ‘people first, work second’ motto, the more focused employees get perturbed thinking that the manager is not doing a great job, so they eventually leap in and take control, effectively ‘sacking’ the leader. This brings us to the next style of leaders – the Participative or Democratic style, as the name suggests, the primary objective is to build commitment and consensus among employees. This is done by encouraging each employee to give their input in decision making, and then voting on the best option. However, it is important that the team is coordinated, experienced and reliable. Next is the Coaching style, here the ‘developmental’ manager helps and encourages employees to develop their strengths and improve their performance, motivating them by providing opportunities for professional development. The cons with this style come up when the leader lacks expertise and when the performance discrepancy is too great, where the leader would prefer to persist rather than exit a poor performer.

Finally, we come to the Pacesetting style where the main objective is to accomplish tasks to the highest standard of excellence. The ‘do it myself’ leader tends to perform most tasks personally and expects employees to follow his/her example. In this style, motivation is given by setting an extremely high benchmark which may not work if the employees aren’t competent themselves.

As you can see, different types of leadership styles exist in work environments. Advantages and disadvantages exist within each leadership style. The culture and goals of an organization determine which leadership style fits the firm and its employees best. There are many from which to choose and as part of your leadership development effort, the key to being an effective leader is to have a broad repertoire of styles and to use them at the right time in the right situation.

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