Managing your way up to a leadership role in any organisation can take years. You will need to learn about yourself so that you can uncover the leadership skills to help you effectively influence, motivate and communicate with others.
Being a leader or managing teams is not easy. It doesn’t always come naturally, and most people need assistance and support to feel more confident in the role.
I recently spoke to a client who explained that she did not feel “legitimate” to influence or speak out while in meetings with more senior executives. The first step was to understand the reasons for using the strong word ‘legitimate’. Where was this reflection of herself coming from? And the second step was to identify where she felt her place was during those meetings.
In this article, then, we are going to explore how to develop the leadership skills to always help you feel ‘legitimate’, even when you need to influence and persuade senior colleagues in meetings.
By developing these skills now, you will be well placed in your journey to becoming a leader in your workplace or industry in the (near) future.
What is leadership?
According to Kevin Kruse, the creator of the Leading for Employee Engagement, leadership is a process of social influence, which maximises the efforts of others towards the achievement of a goal.
There are many definitions of the word leadership. For me, it is working alongside others, sharing your knowledge, listening deeply and helping them lead their choice and journey.
But before learning to develop effective leadership skills, it’s necessary to think about the type of leader you want to be or the type that you already are. Ask yourself:
- What leadership style works for me and the organisation?
- What is the leadership culture of the organisation for whom I work?
Answering these questions will help you recognize more clearly the expectations of the organization you work for, and help you define the methods and behaviours you’ll likely need for managing teams and projects.
It will also help you in determining whether a specific leadership style is more or less appropriate in your current workplace and whether that means you want to remain working for this organisation or not.
The 5 different leadership styles
According to the International Institute for Management Development, there are 5 different leadership styles. These are:
- Participative / democrative
- Transactional / managerial
- Authoritative / visionary
1 – Participative / democrative leadership
Participative leaders listen to their team members, empowering them to share ideas and develop solutions (not attribute blame) when problems arise.
It’s a style of leadership that involves developing collaboration and consensus within a team. It’s most successful in organisations such as marketing agencies or technology companies where employees have defined roles but need to work with each other on specific projects.
That said, businesses now using a remote working model may find this style of leadership less successful in maintaining control over virtual teams and their responsibilities.
How to develop participative leadership skills
One of the most important things you can do as a participative leader is to ensure that you give enough time for people to contribute their ideas and decide on the best course of action.
Setting deadlines that everyone is aware of can ensure that there’s time for input as well as time for the chosen input to be actioned.
2 – Transactional / managerial leadership
Transactional leadership, often referred to as managerial leadership, focuses on following procedures and monitoring performance. Success is rewarded and failure punished. This can happen, for example, through quarterly and yearly reviews with bonuses and raises attached.
Most transactional leaders are focused on maximising productivity in an organisation, which is why you will find this kind of leader in well-established businesses with fixed operations such as manufacturing or telecommunications companies.
As a transactional leader, it is important to establish roles and responsibilities for each team member with goals clearly defined.
How to develop transactional / managerial leadership skills
If this is the leadership style expected by your organisation or industry, there are ways that you can develop skills that still show you can bring a lot of value as a leader.
For instance, being clear from the get-go on the goals of the company and the gains for each team member can help motivate your staff, as can showing appreciation when they do meet their targets.
Additionally, learning how to give supportive, constructive feedback to employees will not only make it easier for them to improve, but any growth in their results will reflect well on you and your department.
3 – Authoritative / visionary leadership
Authoritative leadership is sometimes called visionary leadership and must not be confused with authoritarian leadership.
This latter type of leadership is rarely found in modern business practices and most commonly the leadership style in military or law enforcement organisations where a carefully-controlled decision-making process is a condition of safety and security.
Still, authoritative leadership as it applies to business does have some similarities to a more authoritarian style in that this leader may set and drive a business or department’s overall goals, often being the final decision-maker.
But they tend to position themselves more as mentors whose actions guide others. They have a vision and they want others to follow. And through engagement, encouragement, and clear goal-setting (however extraordinary the goal!) they tend to inspire people to do exactly that.
Visionary or authoritative leaders are a great fit for start-ups and creative industries who need someone to take charge while at the same time guiding innovative ideas. That’s why the best of these leaders empower individuals to adopt new and more effective ways of thinking and doing.
How to develop authoritative / visionary leadership skills
A great visionary leader understands the skills and strengths of each team member. This enables them to provide the necessary guidance and feedback to help each person succeed. So, take time to cultivate relationships with people, not “positions”. Even employees who are new or in a lower-level position can have great insights and ideas about the business.
Because you often need to convince people of your plans, it’s also critical that you spend time and effort practising communicating your vision in a simple but compelling way.
4 – Delegative leadership
Often referred to as “laissez-faire” leadership, the delegative leader has a hands-off style of leadership that involves empowering team members to be responsible for their own productivity and decision-making.
If this sounds like lazy leadership it’s not (usually!). Delegative leaders help cultivate environments where individuals feel trusted and valued. This can inspire them to create routines and approaches that help them achieve better results in the long run.
It’s also a good form of leadership when managing a team of employees who are highly skilled in their area of expertise. Sometimes, in these situations, it’s actually the leader who has the least experience on the team, and being able to step back and let individual workers do what they do best, shows respect and shrewd intelligence.
Delegative leadership is not useful in organisations or departments where the team is new or not used to making decisions for themselves.
It’s also crucial that a delegative leader still takes responsibility for overall decisions and actions taken by the team, as otherwise they may be viewed as incompetent or unprofessional.
How to develop delegative leadership skills
Your team may be more than capable of doing the work at hand but it’s up to you to ensure they are aware of all the practicalities involved in any project such as goals, expectations, available resources and deadlines.
It’s also important as a delegative leader that you make your team aware that you are available to them if they need further details, have a question or just need to thrash out an idea or problem.
Finally, be sure that while you’re delegating you’re not left in the dark as to what is happening. A good delegative leader won’t micro-manage but they will set up project check-ins so that everyone can update you and their team members with their progress on a project.
5 – Transformational leadership
Transformational leadership focuses on “transforming” others to be the best they can be for themselves and the organisation. This type of leader is very effective in businesses that are pivoting, growing or undergoing any kind of big or rapid change.
A transformational leader tends to emphasise the excitement and opportunities that are inherent in change (rather than the fear and possible failures), and presents a bigger picture of the organisation’s future.
This can empower team members to feel a sense of ownership in the organisation and believe that their contribution matters. They often feel encouraging by their leader to step outside their comfort zones, keep learning, and actually reach for their potential.
How to develop transformational leadership skills
Leaning into your transformational leadership skills means leaning back from any tendency you might have to micro-manage. While this kind of leader is not as hands-off as a delegative leader, they tend to encourage innovative thinking and decision-making in their team members rather than dictating the route everyone needs to take.
They do this often by creating an environment that is open to new ways of thinking and contributions from everyone. Of course, this means a transformational leader has to be more tolerant of risk than, say, a transactional manager, and for that reason, having a positive, forward-thinking attitude is also critical for this kind of leadership to be fully effective.
So, these are the main leadership styles. The more familiar you become with them, the better you will be able to adapt and adopt your own style and leadership skills to different situations and cultures. Of your work and career.
It is a good starting point to understand the leadership style or approach within your organisation. This will help you identify where and when you may need to readjust your own style in situations such as dealing with people with more senior roles or who are new to the organisation.
If you’re not sure of the leadership style of your workplace, don’t be afraid to ask questions. For example, if you have inherited a team, ask them about the previous leadership approach (you can do this in groups or individually). Find out what type of leadership approach works best for them.
Finally, try to gather as much information about what works and what’s expected of leaders in your organisation. And then use your own newly discovered leadership skills to become an asset to your workplace and an inspiration to your team.
Photo byThe Coach Space