Capable leadership is one of the most important traits of a successful business owner, manager or executive. However, different circumstances call for different management styles. This article discusses four basic types: Directive, Participative, Laissez-faire and Adaptive.
Directive: This is the perhaps the oldest form and is relatively autocratic. Someone using a directive style tells people what to do and expects them to do it right away. A good example of when the directive style is appropriate would be when directing an employee who is new to the industry or task at hand. They need a lot of direction until they become versed in how and when to do something.
Participative: This style seeks input from others and lets those being led participate in the decision-making process. An appropriate example would be when working with a subordinate on a problem that has arisen, when that subordinate has experience, but perhaps still needs to learn some of the finer nuances. This style would allow that person to help solve the problem based on their knowledge while at the same time allowing you to assess their development and teach them some of the finer points.
Laissez-faire: This is basically a hands-off approach. It allows the employee to take initiative and have latitude in developing a process to reach the desired outcome. An example might be when an excellent sales opportunity presents itself and you let your most seasoned salesperson who closes a high percentage of business take the reigns. In this case, given the existence of this level employee, you wouldn’t want to stymie their proven ability to perform.
Adaptive: A fluid style that takes into consideration the context of the environment and the individual being led. For example, suppose there is a new project being worked on by a team. The adaptive style of leadership might treat each member of the team differently based on their seniority within the team and level of experience.
A successful leader knows how to manage these four styles based on the circumstances at hand. Clearly, the right style at the right time with the right people can make a tremendous difference not only in how well you communicate, but how effective you are as well.
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