Leadership Styles – One Size Does Not Fit All!

Flex your approach

We all have preferred ways of working, and managers and leaders will have preferred ways of managing and leading. If you’re not sure about your preferred style of leadership, it’s usually the one which emerges when you’re under pressure! Not thinking first, just saying and doing, with mixed results! This is where a leader’s ability to be adaptable and flexible when faced with different situations becomes vital.

There are a range of leadership styles at your disposal, and only one Golden Rule: It depends!

 

The above model is a sliding scale or continuum. It compares the amount of authority a manager might use in certain situations, with the level of freedom to contribute given to the team members. As we move from the left to the right, the manager’s use of their authority recedes, giving the team more freedom to join in and feel more involved in the situation.

Let’s consider the range of leadership styles this presents us with:

Tell

A very directive style; the manager’s use of authority is total. This is the one-way flow of instruction – the manager states what, how and when and the team complies. It’s that simple! Many managers are aware of this style but refuse to use it: ‘Oh no, it’s just not me! I could never be like that!’ Well, here’s the hard truth: sometimes, this needs to be you. Telling people what to do can be the best approach, e.g. when time is short, or there is an emergency or crisis and swift, decisive action is needed. Or, you’ve tried the other styles and nothing else has worked! New starters will be happy with this style, as they’re new to the role and need direction. It can be applied in a polite and respectful way, it’s not about shouting at someone, but it is the one-way flow of instruction, no doubt about that!

Sell

A similar style to telling, but the manager gives the team not just the what, how and when, but also the why, i.e. the reasons behind the task and the background are explained. This is better because the team now understands more, and can buy-in to the task: ‘Well, I didn’t know that, but now you’ve explained, ok, I’ll do it’. Don’t just tell it, sell it!

Consult

‘Hello team, there are a number of jobs that need doing. I do have a few provisional ideas regarding how I’d like them to be completed, but I’d also like to know what you think. What you tell me may or may not change my original thinking, and ultimately I’ll still be making the final decision re-task completion, but I’d still like to know what you think.’

Participate

‘Hello team, there are a number of jobs that need doing and I don’t really have any thoughts re how we’re going to tackle them. Tell you what, let’s decide together.’ A very democratic leadership style!

Empower

‘Hello team, here’s a list of jobs which need doing today. Let me know when they’re done. Thanks!’ This style works best with more experienced team members.

 

Conclusion

Any one of the above styles could be the correct approach in a particular situation. It’s all about your ability to take a step back and then decide on the best style to use to achieve the best result. With some people you’ll be telling, with others you’ll be selling, and with some you’ll be empowering. As long as you’ve thought about it first, there’s never a wrong answer!

5 Steps to Resolve Conflict

Identifying Conflict

Conflict in business is simply unavoidable. Disagreement over actions, a clash of perspectives and opposing visions can result in problems between people. Some reactions may be inappropriate, while others seem justified. When it comes to effective communication, a professional’s ability to manage conflicts is one of the most challenging and rewarding skills there is. Dealing with, and understanding the source and outcome of conflict, is where knowledge becomes the key.

There are three types of conflicts

  • Inner
  • Interpersonal
  • Group

Inner conflict

Difficult to recognise and difficult to live with. This could occur from a lack of life-work balance. Those small emergencies which can spring up and soak away your family-time. Or it could be from a disagreement with a senior who has a view or an objective you don’t understand. Maybe you have a direction suddenly offered to you and it conflicts heavily with your ambitions? Inner conflicts typically challenge integrity, values and ethics. The reactions can be widely diverse and extreme.

Interpersonal conflict

Between two or more people where differences are brought to the surface. These differences can be in the way individuals communicate, their tone of voice and attitude, or their need for decision or compliance. The most prevalent areas which incite conflict are prejudice and bias, stubbornness (either perceived or established), sensitivity, and differences in perception, facts, goals and methods.

Sometimes there are underlying issues or a history of resentment which may surface when one of these catalysts are activated. People from different countries can harbour deep feelings based on political, religious and ideological views. It is therefore important to understand the true source of conflict and not be misled by assumption-on-the-apparent.

Group conflict

Personality, culture and values can clash. Workplace policies and practices, resource competition and an inadequate reward system may also be responsible for conflict, especially if unfair treatment is perceived. Polarisation occurs when two or more take a united stance which clashes with another’s view. This is how the union movement was established, and shows that we shouldn’t assume all conflicts are bad. It is important to note that the area most affected will be the breakdown of trust, so this is where your efforts must be focused.

Dealing with conflict

Resolving conflict in 5 steps

1) Remove all masks and encourage participants to be sincere and committed to turning the problem into an opportunity.

2) Identify the problem and allow each person to:

  • state their position
  • their needs
  • their assumptions

Trust building should be the goal of the discussion.

3) Clearly state a win/win only position and ask for options. If someone is keen to block and be stubborn this is where they will announce their intentions. Ensure all participants agree that it is win/win at all costs.

4) Allow participants to openly consider and evaluate all options tabled. There is a clear opportunity here to show each other respect, so any criticism should be avoided at all costs.

5) It is about building the relationship. The resolution of the conflict should strengthen the relationship and not weaken it.

Conflict resolution requires you to be a highly efficient, productive and performance-based leader. It is about rising to the challenge to unite others – the question is, do you have what it takes?