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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 styles of leadership are:

  • 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.

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:

Confident

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.

Visionaries

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.

Risk-takers

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.

Transparent

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.

Empathetic

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!

Leadership essentials

essential traits of leaders

Do you believe you have what it takes to be a great leader? Do you recognise leadership characteristics within yourself?
Most leaders are born with leadership qualities; but even so, these qualities need to be nurtured and refined in order to be executed and used to their full potential. While one can learn many effective leadership techniques, there’s another effective way to strengthen your given leadership skills – this is by practicing them each day, in every situation, and embodying the behaviour of a leader. This will train you into becoming a strong, influential individual, who leads naturally and effortlessly.

By practising these leadership qualities – in every situation, you’ll be on your way to nurturing your leadership potential:

1. Inspire and uplift

One of the key characteristics of an effective leader is the ability to drive positive change. Leaders know there are various ways to approach this challenge, but one of the most effective ways is through inspiring and uplifting those around them. This is how trust is cultivated, and it’s also the fastest way to increase the motivation of team members. It takes a strong, charismatic individual who understands the value of people, to successfully steer a team. If you want to engrain this highly effective leadership quality into your psyche, practise inspiring and uplifting those around you; whether they’re family, friends or even strangers. By exercising this characteristic early on, you’ll find it easier to step into a leadership role in the future and successfully influence your team.

2. Set attainable goals

Leaders should always set attainable goals. Without clear-cut goals there’d be no clear direction of where the team is going and what’s being worked towards – this negatively affects motivation and therefore productivity. When leading a team; attainable goals are critical as they remove fear and are easier to ‘swallow’, whereas big goals have the potential to intimidate. To learn how to set attainable goals and work towards achieving a vision, set attainable personal goals for yourself. Identify what motivates you to achieve them, and recognise the difference in your personal performance when faced with daunting long-term goals compared to attainable short-term goals. This awareness will give you a clearer indication of how most people (and your future team) would react.

3. Communicate effectively

Effective communication is a vital prerequisite for the role of a leader. A leader needs to effectively communicate with their team members so that each individual is aware of the goals, objectives and the ultimate vision. Without clear communication from the leader, team members would be oblivious to what is expected of them – which is sure to affect motivation, productivity and performance. Leaders need to act as the communication vessel between different departments, as well as carry and relay information from top management, to staff and vice-versa. To become a strong communicator, practice communicating clearly with those around you. Try to predict the questions people would ask, based on the information you’re giving them, and recognise the weaknesses in your approach, which need to be worked on.

4. Give Recognition

Leaders should give recognition where it’s due, especially if they want to positively impact motivation of team members. People want their efforts to be recognised, and it drives staff to maintain – or exceed their previous performance when their superiors acknowledge them and their hard work. To become an individual that identifies the good in others, practise giving recognition to those you see are doing their best. This will help you to quickly identify, and acknowledge your team members’ efforts in the future.

5. Balance emotion and logic

It’s important that leaders find a balance between emotion and logic. While they should display a degree of empathy, it’s important they also manage emotions to ensure a clear perspective in all situations. Leaders are usually more logical than emotional, however, decisions based solely on logic can also be fairly dangerous as there’s a higher chance of team members’ feelings being disregarded. A balance of emotion and logic is a great formula to becoming a successful leader. Learn how to find the perfect balance between the two, by becoming aware of your emotions, your actions, and the way you seek out solutions. This will give you a clear idea of which side is stronger, and therefore which side needs to be nurtured.

You know the saying: “Practise makes perfect”! Become an influential individual by practising the above leadership traits, and nurturing your leadership abilities. To become an unstoppable force in leadership, however, you may want to invest in your career potential too.

Register for our Leadership online short course

Leading with heart

a good leader

A leader has many tools at his or her arsenal, but the greatest tool a leader possesses is their voice. Your voice has the ability promote a vision, and change the way people think and feel and act, a real difference maker. If you lead with your heart, you can can change your audiences perspective.

Julian Treasure is the chair of the Sound Agency, a firm that advises worldwide businesses, offices, retailers and airports. In this TED talk he asks us to pay attention to the sounds that surround us. How do they make us feel: productive, stressed, energized, acquisitive?

Good leaders know what it takes to gain an audience’s attention and in order to effectively do this, leaders should be willing to assert themselves and take centre stage with their voice.

Assertiveness is a key component as this is an indication of your self-esteem and certitude, which will in turn help you gain an audience’s attention, co-operation, and ultimately, their respect. However this open and direct approach can easily be conceived as “command and control” leadership and micromanagement.

Julian discusses this, the seven deadly sins of speaking and more as he explores the human voice, “the instrument we all play”.

Meet Dr Charl Coetzer

How is a leadership role different in start-ups vs well-established companies?

In well-established companies, leadership seems to be more focused and organised. The leadership role in such organisations is often focused on setting a new compelling vision, mission, and strategy, suited for the current and future predicted context and embedding that vision and strategy in the organisation. Leaders thereafter serve employees by means of aligning employee talent to the higher purpose organisational vision; by creating an effective organisational climate and culture to engage employees, and empower them with the skills and competencies to achieve this vision. Much of this work is done through policies, systems, procedures, interventions, and communication platforms.

In a start-up, smaller organisations, leadership seems to be more hands-on, more interactive with employees. In such organisations, leaders can influence employees directly as they have personal contact with employees on a day-to-day basis. Leadership is focused on building effective relationships with employees, coaching employees, removing obstacles for employees, and serving employees with support and guidance to achieve the higher purpose vision of the organisation.

Any tips or advice for those looking to study the Leadership course?

Leadership development is not a short-lived event, but rather a lifetime journey. The USB-ED Leadership course provides practical principles and practices to become an effective leader but requires continuous application thereof to change behaviour. It is important to make leadership development a lifestyle.

What is the highlight of your career?

The two major highlights in my career were: (1) being invited to provide psychological fitness assessments to the Springbok Rugby team and Coaching staff in 2010 and (2) presenting a new leadership framework at an international leadership conference in Iceland in 2017, and as a result, publishing a book chapter explaining this framework in an international leadership book.

What books are you currently reading?

The two books I am currently reading are:
Servant leadership in action: How you can achieve great relationships and results, by Ken Blanchard and Renee Broadwell (editors).
PostCapitalism: A guide to our future, by Paul Mason.

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

I consider my life purpose to be the following: change the world to the betterment of all – one leader, one organisation at a time.

_ _ _

Dr Charl Coetzer is a registered industrial psychologist with the Health Professions Council of South Africa (HPCSA), a Master HR professional in Organisational Development with the South African Board of People Practices (SABPP), and a certified Neuroleadership coach. He has more than 14 years’ experience in organisational development, human resources management, talent management, coaching, and leadership development.

He is currently the Managing Director of a research and development company named Wisdomy (Pty) Ltd and a part-time lecturer at the University of Stellenbosch Business School for Executive Development. Charl is currently working towards a PhD in leadership.

Charl presented several papers at national and international conferences and published articles in various scientific and non-scientific journals and online platforms. Charl also published a chapter in an international leadership book.

How your body language may shape who you are

body language insights

Social Psychologist, Amy Cuddy, shares her studies on the effects of non-verbal behaviour (body language signs) and snap judgments in varied environments, from the classroom to the boardroom. Her research on body language reveals that we can change other people’s perceptions and perhaps even our own body chemistry simply by adjusting body positions.

Body language in business

The manner in which you communicate with your employees, clients and others is not just about the words you use. Body language plays a major role. In fact, body language can undermine what you are communicating verbally. Leaders, established and aspiring, need to take note of the body language they’re conveying. Trying to tell someone that they are doing a good job while displaying negative types of body language, like avoiding eye contact, checking your watch or crossing your arms, can nullify the impact of that message.

You don’t even have to be talking for negative body language to undermine what you’re trying to do. For example, an employee sits down in your office to talk about a problem they’re having. You could actually be listening, but because you’re slumped in your chair, the employee might think that you’re uninterested in what they have to say.

Body language is not a hard concept to grasp, and can positively improve your interactions in business. Moreover, it can help you clarify difficult situations and could possibly be that ace up your sleeve in negotiations.