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Leading Change, Part 3

The Importance of Changing your Leadership Style

This month we are considering four guiding principles for leading change and this week we highlight the importance of adjusting leadership style to suit the circumstance; whether through periods of extreme change, or everyday challenges. 

We have already outlined how the 20/60/20 rule helps a leader to consider whether they are devoting too much time and attention to the poorer performers, the negative bottom 20%. And in last week's post we looked at the Change Curve as a useful tool for identifying the natural anxieties that people feel when confronted with change and what to do to support them at each stage.

Leadership Styles

Successful leaders embrace a spectrum of styles from directive and authoritative, to engaging and participative. Experts identify six common leadership styles: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and commanding. Most leaders are naturally dominant in one, or maybe two of these, but consciously moving between the full spectrum of styles is one of the skills that an effective leader learns. 

Each style has its strengths and potential drawbacks 

  • Visionary: During times of change and great challenges, a visionary leadership style provides direction and motivation – but be careful, remember to listen to employees throughout the organisation, ensuring the vision feels ‘real’, not just rhetoric. 
  • Coaching: Adopting a coaching style provides a great learning and development environment for staff – but there are times when employees need clear direction.
  • Affiliative: Being a ‘caring’ boss can create great loyalty – but it’s easy to spend lots of time on more ‘needy’ employees and neglect your steady high performers. Remember the 20-60-20 rule from earlier in this series. 
  • Democratic: This style can be very effective for employee engagement – but leaders need to be mindful of situations where decisive and explicit direction should take precedence over a consultative approach.
  • Pace-setting: A highly competent, motivated team will respond well to this style – but beware, excessive pressure can de-motivate. 
  • Commanding: When the pressure is on and outcomes are critical, this commanding style of leadership can be reassuring for the team. However, if it’s overused without the balance of other styles, it can also be de-motivating, leading to poor morale and loss of performance. 

In our experience of working with hundreds of leaders from all sorts of organisations and many sectors, it’s very common for them to gravitate towards their dominant style. But research shows that 75% of leadership is learnt, so the good news is that whether you’ve been running an organisation for decades or merely months, every open-minded leader can enhance their skills and confidence with the right support. And that always makes for better outcomes, whatever your corporate goals. 

If you’d like to understand more about leadership and how you can become the leader you'd like to be, please take a look at our leadership development program on our website, or send us a message here to speak to us personally.

Next week

...we will address Employee Engagement, our fourth principle for Leading Change. 



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