Which Leadership Style Is Right for You?

You've read about the dictatorship, the "almost" democracy, the partnership, and transformational leadership. You may have found characteristics of each of those styles that correspond with how you have already been leading. Or you may have found some traits that you'd like to develop.You may also find that as your group weathers challenges, successes, and changes in the organizational culture, you may need to be a partner one day and a dictator the next. As unpredictable as one individual can be, a group is even more so.

For example, Greg was a newly promoted manager in the sales division of a sporting goods manufacturer. He knew that his group had achieved phenomenal success in the past, but had recently been performing below average since a company-wide reorganization in which the group lost some longtime employees.Since Greg was a new manager and relatively young, he entered the situation using the partnership method of leadership. He knew that several of the sales division's most decorated members were in his new group. He began by telling the group that their performance had slipped noticeably and let the employees know that he was there to help them regain their spot as the top sales team in the company.

Greg turned to the veterans in his group to find out how they had achieved their past successes and to help diagnose what was holding them back now. He found that they were eager enough to talk about how great and innovative they were in the good old days, but they repeatedly said they didn't have the energy to try again.Once Greg had established a level of trust and loyalty with his staff, he became a dictator. He needed to jump-start his employees and let them know that they were all directly accountable for the group's success, or lack thereof, and that he expected them to work. Greg ended up having to fire one employee who continually defied his leadership and had never exhibited much skill in sales.

Once his team was working on at least an average level again, Greg morphed into the transformational leader. He inspired even the oldest veterans in the group to try new sales methods and to strive toward his vision of a 75 percent increase in the group's sales within six months.By encouraging and stimulating his employees, Greg's group emerged as the leading sales team at the company. Both he and his employees were recognized for their innovation and contributions to the company's success.

Determining Your Style


To determine which style of leadership will work best for you, make two lists: one with your natural leadership traits and one with the goals you need to accomplish within your group. On the first list, you might include things such as sense of humor, ability to easily communicate, commanding presence, or innovative visionary. When your list is complete, try to see which style of leadership is most closely matched to your traits. You might use that style of leadership as a starting point.

On the second list, compile the goals—large and small—that you'd like to accomplish with your group or organization. What are the hurdles to those goals? Is your staff ineffectual or just in need of intellectual stimulation? In practical use you'll discover, like Greg in the earlier example, that you will probably combine several leadership styles and aspects of those styles to create your own unique style of leadership.

Leadership style is not determined only by you, but also by the group that you are charged with leading. You are not a leader if there is no one following you. Be sensitive to the unique challenges the individuals in your group face.

Above all, there are some traits that are always important in a leader, regardless of his or her style: fairness, integrity, honesty, and caring.