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Leadership styles: Four common types in business

what is leadership

Did you know there are four types of leadership styles? Often, a leader doesn’t just adopt one of these styles, but all four are present in their methods of management. And, did you know that their style changes based on a number of factors? That’s right; leaders are a little more calculated than one might expect, but it’s for the good of the team and the vision and that strategic approach ultimately part of the characteristics of a leader.

The four types of leadership styles:

  • Direct,
  • Coach,
  • Support, and
  • Delegate.

While these leadership styles may not mean much to you right now, they are certainly worthwhile considering when you enter into a leadership role.

These four styles of leadership determine the level of decision-making authority you, as the leader, give to individuals in your team. Each individual will be given different levels of ‘authority’ when it comes to decision making, and this is based on the nature of the task at hand, and the individuals role, experience and emotional maturity.

Take a look at the leadership framework below to wrap your head around these four styles, and their ‘level’ of support and direction:

Leadership style #1: Directing

True leadership skills are not required when one is telling another what to do; how to do it and when it needs to be done. This makes this style more of a management tool than a leadership tool.

The ‘directing’ style is useful when: one is working with freelancers or contractors for example. When work is outsourced; and you have a clear idea of what you need done; and what the outcomes should be, you would use a ‘telling’ style. In this case there needs to be a clear direction (in order to communicate what you want), however, there needn’t be a high level of support.

The ‘directing’ style would not be useful when managing a direct team, as it would hinder growth and prevent the development of an inspiring team culture.

Leadership style #2: Coaching 

Leaders are visionaries; they build a vision, and direct their team to achieve the vision. However, in order to successfully direct their team and accomplish the objective, they first need to sell their idea and vision to all those involved in bringing it to fruition. This is not only done to effectively communicate the objectives, but to also excite, motivate and get team members believing wholeheartedly in the endeavour.

The ‘selling’ style is useful when: you, as the leader, are introducing a ‘new’ or refined vision. Although the vision was not formed by the team members; you need their buy-in to ensure they’re motivated to perform, and achieve the end goal.
This style is best used when the team is made up of individual contributors that are full-time employees.

Leadership style #3: Supporting

Collaboration is about working together: sharing ideas, suggestions and solutions within a group; but having the final say, as the leader. This is a rather inspiring leadership approach, as each team member is considered, and feels they are contributing in the decision-making process. Because the style is low on direction (from the leader), it gives the individual space to prove themselves and lead the process; and because there’s a lot of support, they are not held directly accountable for the outcome, should it fail.

The ‘collaborative’ style is useful when: a task needs to be carried out but does not need the initial involvement of the leader until a decision needs to be made. For example: when one of your team members are hiring an employee – they have full control over the recruitment process (interviewing/screening etc), but you as the leader have the final say, based on their input, ideas or suggestions. The ‘collaborative’ leadership style is best used when leading a team of managers or directors; otherwise a team of individual contributors.

Leadership style #4: Delegating

‘Delegating’ is yet another leadership style best used when leading a team of senior leaders, directors or managers. Because there is little direction or support, the leader gives full authority to the individual or team to make the final decision.

The ‘delegating’ leadership style is useful when: you fully trust the decision-making abilities of the individual or group. This style is usually used by CEO’s, who fully trust the capabilities of their directors or managers, due to their experience and emotional maturity. The ‘delegating’ leadership style is hardly ever used in teams made up of junior or mid-level staff, unless the decision is incredibly low-risk.

Erika Botha, the brains behind business success

Meet, Erika Botha (M.B.A), the brains behind our brand new Business Management online short course. She brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our course content.

Erika is a highly-experienced manager and has facilitated NQF qualifications in banking, financial markets and business administration, as well as leadership, management and team development training programmes for top-level clients, including: Standard Bank, FNB, Sibanye Gold, Sasol, SAB Miller, Auditor General S.A., Business Connexion, Rennies Travel and Volvo.

What is the highlight of your career?

There are so many, but the one that stands out for me is the graduation ceremony of 250+ students that successfully completed a Business Management qualification through the Learning Academy that I managed. These students worked full time, studied a year-long qualification in their spare time, whilst juggling family time and in many instances, overcame traumatic events in their lives…. and here they were in front of me – all successful graduates! I was so proud of them I thought my heart would burst out of my chest.

Our top student’s story will always stay with me (and inspire me): Just when the course began, her house was burnt to the ground (she managed to get herself, her child and her husband safely out before it burnt to the ground). She then found that the insurance was not enough to cover damages, and a kind neighbour offered a room to her and her family. With all this going on she still managed to ‘Ace’ the qualification and came in top of her class with an above 80% average. Stories such as these are the highlights of my career. I know so many stories of people who overcame many adversities in their successful pursuit of education. Their stories continue to inspire me every day.

How is business management different in start-ups vs well- established companies?

Of course it depends on what kind of start-up we are talking about. Is it a small start-up that will grow organically, or is it a scalable start-up which is intended to go big from the outset?

In general though, a start-up requires much more of the three P’s: Planning, Patience and Pocket (finance!) – it is like planting the seeds and creating a new garden whereas business management in an established company is like ensuring that the garden is maintained and growing; new plants are planted and of course the weeds are regularly removed! In a start-up we have the opportunity to create a new vision of what we believe in and plan towards that future and in an established business we tend to reinforce our vision and mission and revisit, refresh and evaluate our plans.

Within start-ups there generally tends to be more uncertainty (will the seeds take root and grow?) – this can be a very positive aspect if it forces us to be agile and adaptable, something that is often lacking in established companies. Established companies can do well to ensure that flexibility and adaptability stays part of its DNA if it is to deal with fast-paced change, industry disruptors and being able staying ahead of the pack.

Perseverance is needed both in established businesses and start-ups. There is a saying ‘every overnight success took 10 years in the making’. Remember this if you want to embark on a new business venture. It doesn’t happen overnight, it takes time, patience, great planning and perseverance.

Any tips or advice for those starting their careers in business management?

Yes, slow down to speed up! I know this sounds counter-intuitive, but there is a very good reason why I am saying this. All too often, managers in new positions tend to go in ‘guns-a-blazing’ wanting to change everything and make their mark. My advice is this: Take time to listen, observe, see what is already working, understand the organisational culture, and ask: who is our customer?

Once you have a good idea of how things work, involve people in order to come up with a plan on how to proceed. Just trust me on this one. Too many managers change things for change’s sake so that they can look good…. and this often ends up back-firing. Involve ALL the key stakeholders, ask more questions than giving instructions in the beginning, take time to plan and chart your course right from the beginning – you will not regret it.

Another thing to consider in business management is a very key question: Do I care? Do you really care about the business you are in and do you really care about the people? If you really care, you won’t make it all about yourself (or just about the money) and your chances of success will be that much greater.

What are the most important skills to hone, in order to be a successful business manager?

The ability to be organised and systematically approach a problem objectively – in other words, stay calm and follow a systematic approach, is a very important skill to learn. Knowing how to frame information and knowledge using the right models, tools and techniques helps with this. We know that ‘the map is not the territory’, but, having the right map will always help you get to your destination faster. I believe this course is packed with some great models, tools and techniques that can provide you with a map to chart your course towards success in business.

Learning to really listen effectively is another one of the most useful skills in a Business Manager’s toolbox. The ability to really listen to those around you but also to ‘listen’ to what is going on in the business environment is key on the pathway towards success.

Learning to see the ‘bigger picture’ is an important skill to master. To have the ability to zoom out, gain perspective and then zoom back in to ensure the detail gets done, really is a mind-set that requires practice and also wisdom. Truly great managers have mastered the skill of seeing the big picture as well as what is required in the detail at the same time. This is something that does not come without focus and practice.

What book are you currently reading? Or what is your favourite thing to do to take a break from the everyday hustle?

I have just finished Dan Brown’s latest book: ‘Origin’. Really a good read, I enjoy his writing style.

Other than reading, my favourite thing to do to take a break from everyday hustle and bustle is to go canoeing on the dam (although it does get tough to continue this during the cold winter spells!). I love being on the water and find that I can paddle just about all my stress away after 5 kilometers on the water!

And finally, what is the one thing you can tell us about yourself that we won’t find on your resume?

I suppose my resume does not communicate just how much I care about education, training and the development of first-class leaders in Africa. It is a true heart-felt passion of mine. I believe everyone can learn to lead companies, departments and people better. As we become better leaders we also become better people, and the knock-on effect on society is almost always positive. Better leaders spell a better future for all of us.

HRM roles and how they are changing

how human resource roles are changing

If we’re honest, the Human Resources department has always had a slight ‘stigma’ amongst employees. They’re often seen as the ‘police department’ of an organisation; associated with hiring, firing, issuing warnings and handling grievances. Employees believe HR is watching their inputs; ready to strike with a performance appraisal that’s less than favourable. Thankfully, the HR department pay the salaries!

However, this stigma is about to be obliterated. The role of HR in organisations is being revolutionised rather rapidly, and the changes are sure to surprise you. Let’s take a look at the transformations we can expect within the HR department:

From hiring and firing to empowering, engaging and supporting

HR will no longer be seen as the department responsible for hiring and firing. The future of HR sees the department playing a key role in employee and organisational growth; consolidating the two elements to ensure employees are heard, valued and supported throughout their journey with the organisation. Modern-day HR responsibilities will largely focus on strategy and development to create an inspiring, uplifting employee experience.

From the ‘police’ of the organisation to the mentors and coaches

The HR department has long since been viewed as the department that enforces rules and leans towards the side of the organisation, rather than the workforce. This mindset has shifted, with the HR department now being the place to go for career advice, guidance and feedback. The modern-day HR department has the organisation, as well as the employees’ best interests at heart; and is now seen by employees as the place to go to to voice concerns and seek assistance, instead of being the place to shy away from, and feel intimidated by.

From eluding technology to relying on technology

The use of advanced technology was not always a driving factor in the HR department, however, as technology has evolved, as well as the nature of the department; there is a need for advanced technologies to streamline processes and foster growth. The use of new tools like big data and analytics, is giving the department a better understanding of employee behaviour; further assisting in employee motivation strategies and employee experience.

From having little impact on strategy to having an immense impact on strategy

For many decades the HR department was excluded from most organisational strategy exercises and decision-making efforts. Previously, the department was directed by top management and was told what to do, with little say on most company matters. Nowadays, the department is fully involved and has a significant impact on organisational strategy. They are seen as the voice of the company – speaking on behalf of the workforce; ensuring employees are considered during each stage of the decision-making process.

From meeting the basic needs of employees to creating an employee experience

HR no longer just meets the basic needs of employees; such as issuing employee contracts, paying salaries, or drawing up performance appraisals. The focus of the department has shifted from an admin mindset to a growth and experiential mindset. The department is now also responsible for creating an inspiring employee experience, and office culture in order to retain good staff and improve productivity and performance.

From focusing on employee inputs to focusing on employee outputs

Instead of honing in on employee inputs and what needs to be done, the modern-day HR department is now shifting their focus to employee outputs. This means employees are given more control over what they do and how they perform tasks, and only their outputs are analysed. This encourages motivation and seeks to improve performance in a less controlling manner.

From annual performance appraisals, to real-time feedback

Another way HR is improving employee experience is through real-time feedback. This has/is taking the place of performance appraisals, which are drawn up and analysed at a specific time during the year. It’s a much more ‘approachable’ method, and reduces the stress and anxiety associated with performance appraisals – many employees believe this exercise to be intimidating; which of course does more harm than good when it comes to motivation and company culture. Real-time feedback gives employees the chance to correct their shortfalls in the moment, rather than have them brought up later down the line. This method improves communication and relieves the feeling of being ‘watched’ or analysed.

From filling gaps in jobs to nurturing talent and enhancing careers

HR no longer looks for ‘placeholders’ for vacant roles. Now, as much as they seek to find the perfect person to perform the role, they also concern themselves with the way in which the role will serve the individual’s career development. Through nurturing talent, building skills and unlocking the potential within employees, they further create an environment of growth, built on upliftment and empowerment.

Become part of the revolution! Sign up for our Human Resource Management online short course

Financial Management with Sulet van Niekerk

Sulet van Niekerk is a qualified and experienced chartered accountant, boasting expertise in both financial and managerial positions.

She completed her articles with PwC South Africa and took on a role at the company as an assistant manager. There, she gained invaluable experience auditing the manufacturing and retail industries. Through her work as the head of recruitment and trainee intake, Sulet crafted a way of working with the training individuals in order to bring out their best.

After her time with PwC, Sulet joined WesBank as the Chief Financial Officer for Operations and worked closely with the Operations department, where she provided insight into the management of their budget and worked with them to plan their annual expenditure.

At present, Sulet is enjoying her role as a business coach and consultant. Through Think Growth Consultation, she assists individuals to find fulfilment in their careers. Combined with helping aspiring financial managers, Sulet lectures on a part-time basis.

Sulet believes that every individual has the potential to find fulfillment in their careers and she is passionate about helping them explore what that looks like.

Management development programmes

Sulet has designed and facilitated a variety of management development programmes offered to all levels of professionals ranging from new students to top-level senior professionals. The courses are with the University of Stellenbosch Business School (USB-ED) and other business schools.

What is Financial Management?

In any business, financial management is one of the most important aspects to consider. The financial manager in a company is involved in the oversight of all financial resources for the business. This includes processes such as planning, organising, governing and monitoring the budget.

The result of successful financial management is a well-run budget with particular financial assets going where they were planned with an amount of money available as a ‘just-in-case’ fund. The financial manager should aim to ensure that the company is spending as little money as possible, making sure that the business continues to run smoothly.

In a company, finances need to be handled correctly otherwise any financial repercussions could be detrimental to the success – and lifespan – of the business.

What jobs can I get with a financial management degree?

While we don’t offer a full degree in financial management at MasterStart, our courses offer important insight into the field so that students have the necessary foundation to become excellent financial managers. Careers well-suited to those who are interested in either finances, markets, stocks, or investment are:

Financial planners

Financial planners advise clients on where their budget should go and offer the best way to manage their finances, giving advice on where they should invest their funds.

Financial analyst

Financial analysts are involved in the research process of monetary assets. A person in this position looks at research stocks, bonds and companies in order to assist clients in building financial models.


Actuaries are involved in the leadership of businesses who have a financially-driven focus, such as insurance companies or banks.


Accountants know how to crunch numbers – well. Using financial information available, an accountant is able to make sure that a company’s numbers add up as they should and that all funds are in the right place.

Business teacher

Like Sulet, a person with a financial background might be geared towards the teaching side of the business.

Financial Management Fundamentals short course

Through our 7-week long Financial Management Fundamentals short course, Sulet will help you gain a solid grounding in the field of financial management.

The course is ideal for middle managers who are looking to gain a thorough understanding of financial matters. Sulet’s personal approach coupled with her expertise provides a practical, encouraging way of learning.

how to be a financial manager

Do you have these important leadership qualities?

important leadership qualities

Perhaps you’re interested in pursuing a career in leadership, or maybe you haven’t yet given it a thought. Either way, establishing whether or not you possess these critical leadership qualities may just validate your decision to enter into the field. It may only just spark a light bulb moment that a career in leadership may, in fact, be the correct path for you!

Great leaders are:


A great leader is confident. They believe in their abilities, as well as those of the team. Through their confident demeanour, they are able to win the trust of those around them because they never come across uncertain. It would be incredibly difficult to lead without confidence, which makes this a key characteristic in successful leaders. It’s believed that leaders who are confident have better relationships with those around them; are open to risk, are motivated, make better decisions and accept feedback.


A leader is coined a leader because they have a vision, and are able to lead those around them to fulfil and achieve this vision. It takes a special person to successfully put the pieces of the puzzle together in their mind’s eye, and recognise what needs to be done in order to accomplish their objective; as well as effectively communicate this with everyone around them. Visionaries see the bigger picture, they are able to dissect their idea and motivate themselves and others to achieve the main goal.


Leaders are risk-takers – this is where confidence comes in, as well as the dire need to accomplish their vision. An individual who is risk-averse would find the role of leadership rather challenging as risks need to be taken repeatedly. This is what moves a team forward and what brings the vision to fruition.

Natural problem solvers

Leaders are born with natural problem-solving abilities. Perhaps strategic/high-level problem solving is learned, but there’s no denying that exceptional problem solvers are gifted with natural talent and skill. Leaders are faced with challenges constantly, however, they are able to quickly pinpoint areas of concern, and swiftly strive to solve them. They don’t harbour on problems, they instead shift their focus to the solution and seek to inspire those around them to do the same.

Emotionally intelligent

Emotional intelligence encompasses self-awareness, impulse control, stress tolerance, empathy and self-expression. These traits make leaders aware of their actions, and the reasons for making certain decisions. Through this awareness, emotionally intelligent leaders take action based on what is best for those around them, rather than being clouded by their own thoughts and feelings.


Leaders value honesty from those around them, and they strive to always remain transparent and honest, themselves. They are committed to working ethically, and will always go the extra mile to do the right thing and ensure that all is fair. An individual who displays integrity in all that they do is an invaluable asset to any business, as there is never a risk that the individual will be dishonest or involve themselves in underhanded practices. Team members are also drawn to leaders whom they know are reliable and transparent, and ultimately have their best interests at heart.


Empathy is a critical quality of effective leaders. Empathetic leaders don’t think of what’s best for themselves or the business, for example; they consider the feelings, concerns or situations of each individual when making decisions, no matter their position in the team. This builds a strong, inspiring team culture which positively affects performance and productivity.

Have what it takes to be a great leader? Find out more about our Leadership online short course. Refine your skills and advance your career!

4 unlikely skills that can drive your team to victory

winning skills

We can go on and on about the many technical and conceptual skills every great manager needs. Skills such as: communication, organisation, analytical and logical skills, basic financial skills … the list goes on. However, there are a few unlikely skills every manager should develop to drive their team to victory – skills you may not have associated with the role of a manager, yet almost guarantee a winning outcome every time.

These skills may not directly impact the outcome of a task but they certainly impact the team and the vision positively, influencing performance and productivity.

HR skills

Though most management roles don’t require HR skills, it’s a skill that presents many advantages. A team is made up of diverse individuals of varying age and ability, and finding a way to effectively manage and motivate each individual in a way that speaks to them is invaluable to performance. Another advantage that comes with acquiring HR-related skills is the ability to successfully recruit, select, retain and nurture talent within a team. This again impacts productivity and performance, and will almost always guarantee victory. People are the most important asset, and a manager who acknowledges this and strategizes accordingly will always see great results.

Sales Skills

Managers should always have a vision, and this vision should always be communicated effectively with team members to ensure they’re aware of what’s expected of them; what the objectives are, and ultimately where they’re headed. However, to get team members on board with your vision and get them excited and motivated to inject their best efforts, managers need sales skills. This is because the manager needs to sell the vision to their team – they need to make the vision sound enthralling and compelling, enough for the team to feel exhilarated to perform.

Creative skills

Most of a manager’s role involves strategy development: finding more effective and efficient ways of doing things; better ways to motivate people and improve team performance, and they’re often required to develop strategic visions. This requires a level of creativity, in order to formulate smart strategies that propel the team forward. Without creativity, the manager would find it challenging to come up with inspiring ideas; and without inspiring ideas, the team is sure to become static.

Strong self-management skills

This may seem like a rather strange skill. You’re probably thinking ‘of course managers would already know how to manage themselves’ – especially if they know how to manage other people. Surprisingly, however, many managers lack self-management skills. Many are unable to manage their stress or even their own workload effectively; sending a ripple effect through their teams. Some find it difficult to manage their emotions – often acting out of impulse or making decisions based on their own feelings, rather than what’s best for the team. Strong self-management skills give managers the upper hand, as they are able to separate their strains from their responsibilities as a manager; which positively affects those around them, as well as overall results.

Become a well-rounded manager who not only displays technical and conceptual ability but who is skillful in ‘unlikely’ areas that are guaranteed to take your team to the next level!