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The 4 Leadership Styles That Every Leader Must Master

You must master multiple leadership styles to be an exceptional leader.

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BY James Kerr - 02 Jul 2018

Why Funny Leaders are Better Leaders, According to 2 Stanford Professors

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

It's unwise to be a "one trick pony" when it comes to leadership. Rather, you need adaptable and have multiple leadership approaches at your disposal.

An "adaptable leadership style" is one that is flexible and rich enough to enable you to give your team exactly what it needs to be successful. The implication here is that you're aware of the work at hand and can recognize and anticipate what is required from you to make your team a success.

Most importantly, it implies that you're willing and able to shift your leadership style to accommodate what your people need in different situations and at different points in time. You should become expert in at least four key leadership styles, including:

  1. Directing: This includes specifying exactly what must be done and how to do it. You would adopt a "Directing Leadership Style" when your team is stalled on an assignment and isn't sure how to get the job done. You would want to provide clear direction on what and how the work should be completed.
  2. Teaching: This includes explaining the "why" for what must be done and enabling your people understand the greater context of the work at hand. You would adopt a "Teaching Leadership Style" when the team is somehow discouraged and needs convincing to commit to learning how to, and do, the work assigned.
  3. Advising: This includes not being directive at all, instead, adopting a role that enables you to help your team by clearing-up any ambiguity or removing and organizational roadblocks that emerge which may impede their performance. You would adopt an "Advising Leadership Style" when your team is executing well on the work at hand, but, occasionally needs clarity and positive reinforcement or support from you to get through the "tricky" parts of the assignment.
  4. Empowering: This includes delegating the work to your people and letting them execute as they see fit. You would adopt an "Empowering Leadership Style" when your team is fully competent and staffed to get the work done. The best advice in this situation is to get out of the way and cheer them on as they deliver on expectations.

Adapt your behavior to the situation that your team(s) is in at any given point in time. Use the wrong style and you will negatively impact performance. Use the right one and your team will develop and soar.

How to Get Started

Like mastering any new skill, you need to taught the basics and then develop proficiency in it through practice and repetition. Here are three suggestions to get you started:

  • Find a professional coach that can help you to develop and practice various leadership styles. A one-trick pony is very limited. Strive to be better than that by learning new styles of leading.
  • Seek a mentor from the senior leadership team to help you to develop and practice various leadership styles.
  • Ask your leader for the requisite training to develop new leadership styles. Practice using those styles in different situations.

If you adopt an adaptable leadership style, you'll improve your ability to initiate and drive change, be a better communicator (enabling your team to understand the "why" and not just the "what") and you will facilitate the success of others. Isn't that what leadership is all about?

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