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Leadership styles: which works best for you?

There are now numerous ideas and theories about leadership. It is currently the most prominent area of management. Originally we just heard of one theory. A leader was either democratic (participative), autocratic (authoritarian: “my way or the highway”) or laissez faire (leaving people to get on with the job with very little help or direction).We then heard of the theory called Zeitgeist, which was used to explain the rise of Hitler to power. This simply states that if a person happens to be in the right place at the right time with focused charisma or exploitation, he or she can seize power.There is also a very popular theory known as Situational Leadership. This consists of adjusting your style to what the situation requires. However, it is quite complicated as it requires knowing your people very well and applying the right style to the right person at the right time at the proper stage of his/her development on a particular task or skill.For today, I will look at another theory which was devised by Rensis Likert and is known as the ‘Four Styles’. It looks at the best way to achieve the organisation’s overall goals and mission. The styles may be used by specific managers or exist throughout an entire organisation. It is possible to take a test to see which style is most prominent in your own organisation.System I Exploitive-AuthoritativeDecisions are imposed on employees. Direct reports are forced to work with fear, threats, punishment and have very little responsibility. There is very little communication or teamwork.System II Benevolent-AuthoritativeLeaders have a condescending form of master-servant trust in their direct reports. Some decisions are delegated. Rewards and some actual or potential punishment are used to motivate the workers. There is little communication and any teamwork that exists is weak.System III ConsultationLeaders have substantial but not complete trust in direct reports. Rewards, occasional punishment and some involvement are used to motivate workers. There is significant delegation with a feeling of responsibility at both higher and lower levels.System IV Participative GroupLeaders have complete confidence and trust in direct reports. Decision-making is widely spread throughout the organisation. Communication flows not only up and down the hierarchy but among peers. Workers are motivated by participation. There is extensive, friendly leader-direct report interaction.You may wish to ask yourself three questions: Which style are you using? Which style is your boss using? Which style dominates your organisation?Paul Loftus is an Industrial/Organisational Psychologist, an Intercultural Consultant and a freelance journalist. He is a regular visitor to Bermuda where he conducts both in-company and public management development seminars. He can be reached at (514) 282-9111, ploftus[AT]colba.net or www.paulloftus.ca