To truly understand the essence of servant leadership, one must understand the different types of leadership. The leader must evaluate oneself to recognize what kind of leadership style he or she naturally exhibits. This will help in making a clearer judgment towards guiding the team. Individuals can sense when a leader is disingenuous to representing oneself. Be genuine and consistent in leading the team. Acting on an unnatural style will leave an impression of uncertainty and question your credibility to lead. Each leadership style is unique, and based upon the presenting situation, you will leverage one style over another. The foundation of leadership will guide you on the best style to use. There is no magic combination for success. Each situation is analyzed for the best approach. In 1930, Lewin defined three psychology-based leadership styles: autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. These styles are still commonly used today as leadership style descriptions.
Autocratic style demands immediate compliance. Whether you're selling playground equipment or gifts for men. As the word denotes, this is the do-as-you-are-told kind of leader. This kind of leadership style can be advised in situations that warrant an immediate action. However, when used continuously, it will result in discontent among the team. This style is effective to get people from a burning building or out of gunfire. It is effective during a code or in the critical care unit when someone goes into cardiac arrest. It is not beneficial when modifying the behavior of our team and often met with resistance. Be cautious when using it.
Democratic style is consensus through participation. The democratic leader is one who builds trust and achieves goals through voting, consensus, or collaboration. This kind of leader tends to ask questions and reaches agreements. Consider this style when you are rolling out a new process or initiative. Develop a small focus group to define the process, expectations, workflow, etc. There will always be elements you do not consider because you are not doing the job every day. Bring in your subject matter experts (i.e., team members) and collaborate. This will also provide an avenue for the team’s buy-in.
Laissez-faire style is based on the mindset of building a strong team and staying out of their way. It is the opposite of autocratic leadership. Here the individuals are given loosely defined objectives and goals. One of the most significant benefits of this style is innovation. This style can be frustrating to individuals who want clearly defined objectives. In 1964, business-minded professionals Robert Blake and Jane Mouton focused on two styles: task-oriented and people-oriented.
Task-oriented style is focused on results-driven outcomes. In this style, the leader ensures clear communication and expectations of the objectives and desired outcomes. The consideration of who is most appropriate for the task is not considered.
People-oriented style is focused on determining which team member is most suited for a task based upon his or her current skill set, interest, or personal development. This style is effective for developing an individual through stretch opportunities. Stretch opportunities are tasks given to individuals that are above his or her skill set and intended to push the individual out of his or her comfort zone to promote development. In 2002, Daniel Goleman detailed the six emotional styles of leadership including visionary, coaching, affiliate, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding.
Visionary style moves people towards a vision. This is said to be the most impactful style of leadership. This kind of leader gains strength through passion and vision. The coach empowers the individuals. This style empowers and inspires the team. It often drives innovation and creativity. Convey the vision and get out of the team’s way.