For many decades, an abundance of research has been conducted on the topic of leadership — or, more specifically, which leadership style is most effective in the workplace.
Most professionals would agree that there are multiple types of leaders, with the most prominent being: the emotional leader, who fosters strong bonds with their employees through kindness, attention, and empathy; the coach, who personally nurtures and aids in the professional development of their employees; the democratic leader, who believes there is salient input from all of their employees and seeks to gather the team’s decision; the authoritative leader, who strives to mobilize the team toward meeting the same end goal, yet affords each employee the freedom to figure out the means; the coercive leader, who demands compliance and offers little variance among their employees; and the innovator, who values the originality and purpose of their company more than its profitability.
However, more recent publications have been geared less toward determining which kind of leader one is and more toward deciding which kind of leader one ought to be in specific situations. After all, no two employees, conflicts, tasks, or urgent situations are exactly alike. Therefore, it is becoming more and more common for modern leaders to take a situational approach when managing a team.
Some researchers believe skilled leaders should be able to relatively easily transition between two leadership styles, namely dominance and prestige, which fall in line with the coercive and coach leadership styles, respectively.
As an example, the dominant style is associated with being assertive and leveraging one’s formal authority to gain the desired response. This style is often effective in times of change, upheaval, or uncertainty, as it keeps the leader in firm command of his or her team. However, it is not appropriate constantly as being perpetually assertive may lessen employee motivation and dedication.
Conversely, leading via prestige occurs when a leader behaves more as a mentor or role model to their employees, encouraging them to follow on their own accord as opposed to following out of fear. Such an approach is useful in encouraging employees to become more independent and rely less on superiors for guidance or direction.
While these two primary leadership styles are important to keep in mind, other research has suggested that leaders should be able to switch between any of the aforementioned styles, rather than limiting oneself to just just two or three styles alone. While such extensive knowledge may be difficult to successfully apply, it is perhaps not surprisingly regarded as being the ideal skillset. After all, being equipped with contrasting leadership styles allows a leader to successfully navigate an entire range of issues — from personnel issues to organizational dynamics.
Regardless of which leadership method you apply, your focus should not only be on improving productivity, but on building and sustaining meaningful relationships with your team members that, in turn, creates a more cohesive work environment.