Archive for August, 2012

Leadership and management styles: the “prêt-à-porter” collection

“Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.”

 Peter Ferdinand Drucker,  Austrian-born American writer, management consultant and university professor (1909-2005)

Abstract:

Getting the right things done can obviously be achieved in various ways:  a “command-and-control” directive approach based on the manager’s exclusive expertise, a participative team discussion leveraging on everyone’s knowledge and skills, a path shown in a convincing and energetic manner by a charismatic leader… While it is important to know the various management and leadership styles with their respective advantages and drawbacks, it is also crucial to recognize that the best leaders are often the ones who can navigate from one style to another, depending on the context.

Download a one-page executive summary here (PDF or JPEG format): Leadership and Management Styles

DELTANOMIX LEADERSYNDROME - Leadership and Management Styles

Concept:

The above matrix allows a simple positioning of 5 classical pairs of leadership / management styles based on two dimensions where:

  • the x-axis represents the orientation of the manager towards people (ability to communicate and establish rapport with others, strong interpersonal skills, ease of communication with various audience) or towards tasks (set distance in his interaction with others, focus on hard skills, expertise and knowledge)
  • the y-axis displays the inclination of the team leader to take a direct control on things (strong personal involvement, commitment to success and results through self-implication and direction setting for the team) or to let the control to his teams (results are targeted through the team work, manager steps back)

Note here that each pair of style represents a “at best / at worst” set of behaviors with an existing continuum between the two extremes.

  1. “Leader control / Task-oriented leader” Quadrant
    • authoritative leader:
      • is self-committed, gives instructions, structures the team activities, sets precise objectives, models behavior, defines detailed evaluation criteria, is solely accountable for decisions, uses a top-down approach
      • style is also known as directive leadership
    • coercive leader:
      • wants full-control, does not delegate, does not accept co-workers’ influence, requests tasks to be executed, builds his authority exclusively on his technical expertise, does not accept failure, always decides, does not listen
      • style is also called autocratic leadership
    • risks and recommendation:
      • while a directive leader can quickly deliver results under unstable conditions (reorganization, new team being set, business downturn), his management style may be challenged when working with senior expert team members.
      • even if the strict command-and-control approach of an autocratic manager can save the company from high-urgency crisis situation, this leadership style is proven not being sustainable on the long-term. It inhibits the employee’s will to contribute and creativity and consequently freezes the ability of the team to change and evolve for the better.
      • it is not uncommon to see authoritative or coercive managers becoming real bottlenecks if not a true risk for their companies, acting as “hero” leaders that the company can no longer run without…
  2. “Leader control / People-oriented leader” Quadrant
    • persuasive leader:
      • engages his team through cooperation, explains projects and values, stimulates, encourages, mobilizes his resources to mobilize his teams, consults for opinions and suggestions, remains accountable for every decision, is flexible on methods, supports co-workers’ initiatives and autonomy
      • if the persuasive leader is pulled at the far-extreme of the 2 axis (Leader control / People-oriented) , he will turn into what is commonly presented as a charismatic leader, knowing how to inspire and energize his teams thanks to his creativity, enthusiasm and convincing power.
    • utopian leader:
      • manages based on principles, mixes up explanations and adherence, puts his teams under pressure, does not accept differences, promotes changes for the sake of changing, sets unrealistic goals, does not take the reality into account, confuses innovation and creativity
    • risks and recommendation:
      • while a charismatic leader will excel in motivating his troupes by giving sense to their work, his followers may fall in the trap of blindly walking the path without questioning the direction, even if requested to do so.
      • a persuasive leader is also usually less interested in closely following-up project and related  activities; obviously this may come as a barrier for junior or less experienced staff who would require a closer guidance and coaching approach.
      • when becoming his at-worst version of utopian leader, the team’s motivation drastically drops while the frustration increases which quickly implies a higher staff turnover.
  3. “Employee control / Task-oriented leader” Quadrant
    • delegative leader:
      • defines the rules, the missions and the responsibilities, plans and organizes the team’s activities, sets an activity tracking system, delegates missions and responsibilities, gives autonomy, steps in only when required, fosters mutual respect through expertise
    • bureaucratic leader:
      • isolates himself from his teams, lacks involvement in transmitting decisions, does not control delegation in place, mixes up activity and result, manages activities rather than employees, communicates principally per mail, is too rigid in his definition of roles and functions, does not question the existing organization
    • risks and recommendation:
      • team respect will come from the expertise and high competency of this type of leader. People with less experience can appreciate the clarity of their duties while being guided. Nevertheless, this profile is in many cases less able to inspire his teams, to share a vision. Consequently, this style is not recommended for a team with low morale.
      • a delegative leader with high expectations tends to force the pace, expecting excellence and autonomy from all his staff. If this works well with experienced and motivated employees, this may be disturbing for less experienced staff who may start doubting about their own competencies and abilities to perform the job.
      • when turning bureaucratic, the manager will simply build a mediocre structure by retaining staff with low-ambition and by losing employees with high energy and who are eager to contribute in building further their company.
  4. “Employee control / People-oriented leader” Quadrant
    • democratic leader:
      • supports team work, offers collective projects, listens to the bottom-up flow of information, encourages teams to express freely, takes into account the individual needs, recognizes and grows his staff’s competencies, fosters a positive work environment, engages his teams in the decision-making process
      • style is also referred as participative leadership
    • affiliative leader:
      • tries to hide the reality of the hierarchy, prefers to satisfy requests or requirements in order to avoid disagreements, gives precedence to ambiance against results, is unclear on what is negotiable and what is not, systematically seeks for consensus, assists his co-workers rather than helping and growing them, avoids conflicts, does not tackle or postpone difficult or unpopular decisions
      • style is sometimes labeled as paternalistic leadership
    • risks and recommendation:
      • under stable conditions, the participative leadership style allows to build a sustainable structure through empowerment of the staff. The manager himself is no longer the key to the success of his team but the team itself becomes the key and can run with little guidance thanks to an “intrapreneurship” mindset progressively developed through coaching. On the downside, employees who expect or need clear guidance and close support may feel leaderless and lacking directions. This style is also often more time-consuming than a directive style.
      • when turning affiliative, the manager develops a nice “family” ambiance that can help to improve a team with low morale or lacking bonds but also takes the risk to decrease performance on the long run by accepting mediocrity in order to preserve the stability of the team at any cost.
  5. “In-between” Quadrant
    • adaptive leader:
      • adapts to the various situations, works in a trial-and-error approach, formalizes only what is required, negotiates objectives and methods, leverages the competencies of his teams and their complementarities, remains hands-on, grasps opportunities, looks for win/win solutions
    • opportunistic leader:
      • tries to find a compromise when time to take a decision, is not precise, always changes his behaviors, uses fake-democracy, insufficiently formalizes the practices, talks rather than acts, does not take clear commitments
    • risks and recommendation:
      • while the adaptive style is usually efficient at an individual level, it may still be perceived as confusing and lacking direction, especially if the objectives and missions are not sufficiently defined and set.
      • if falling into opportunistic behaviors, manager and team’s performances clearly decrease because of the too-many uncertainties and promises which are not executed on.

Seasoned leaders know from experience that excelling as a manager requires to navigate the above leadership styles matrix depending on the context, while staying crystal clear on what is negotiable and what is not with the team and its members. “Context” can be summarized here as the influence of the following factors:

  • organization / team missions and objectives
  • team maturity
  • team member individual situation: personality, role and responsibility, autonomy and competency for the required task or activity, motivation

Understanding those factors allows the leader to identify and use the most appropriate leadership style for a given staff at a given time for a given duty…

Practice:

  • exercise 1: To which quadrant of the leadership styles matrix do you belong to by default? Where do you position yourself on the “at best / at worst” continuum of this quadrant?
  • exercise 2: Reading the below sentences from various leaders, can you precise the management style?
  1. “You remember the training I gave on that new product we need to support, don’t you? I’d like you to be in charge of setting up and maintaining a test environment with that product for next month. You can get the support from the infrastructure team if required. Simply send me a weekly progress report and don’t hesitate to let me know if you get stuck somewhere.”
  2. “I don’t have the time for questions now. Do what I say!”
  3. “Guys, our sales funnel on this strategic product has been pretty low for the past four weeks. Can we sit all together tomorrow afternoon in order to identify what’s on the way of increasing our pipe here? Do not forget to come with your notes on the challenges or successes you had while selling this product; I’d like we share those to see what actions we could take as a next step so that everybody can meet their quota this quarter. Thanks”
  4. “Don’t ask me. Simply follow the procedure and enter a travel request in the expense system even for that half-day case you are referring to. I will log in the system in the next two days and check the details of your travel request. if I have questions, I will put a comment under the supervisor window; make sure to check it and answer. I know that you already know the cost of the train, but please attach the quote of our vendor to the request. I will then check it to approve or deny the request based on our usual expense limit.”
  • exercise 3:
    • Analyze the last interactions with your boss. Can you identify which leadership style he/she has used while interacting with you? Is always the same style being used? Is it efficient or would you prefer to be managed in a different manner?
    • In the same way, analyze your last one-on-one reviews with some of your team members as well as your last team meeting? Have you exclusively used your default management style as identified in exercise 1 or which other styles have you also used? What can you conclude? Is there anything you would do differently and why?

So What?

If obviously different management styles can be described based on the team leader’s inner nature to turn to people or to tasks and his tendency to be self-involved or to let part of the control to his staff, each profile reveals nevertheless clear advantages and drawbacks, especially when pushed to their extremes. Therefore, every manager should understand first the dominating management style they fall under by default and then learn how to adjust their behaviors based on the situation of the team and individual employee they interact with.

Answer to exercise 2: 1. delegative – 2. coercive – 3. democratic – 4. bureaucratic

Last Revision: 2015 March 24

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