The Developing Manager series – providing information and support to leaders and managers of all levels.
Our aim is to share ideas and experience around a different monthly theme, in the process starting a conversation about what it means to be a leader and manager in the 21st century.
There can’t be many subjects which have had more books written about them, more talks delivered, than leadership. And yet leadership is as challenging and elusive as ever.
We know great leaders when we come into contact with them, but what makes a leader great? And how can we as Developing Managers act in a way which provides leadership to others?
We believe that leadership is an evolving practice, a skill to be learnt, developed and honed over months and years in management roles, with different teams in different situations. The requirements of leaders change as younger generations come into the workplace, and the nature of work also changes. So ideas about leadership also need to be flexible, adaptable and reflective of the current workplace and workforce.
Whilst there are many great books on leadership, and many great ideas contained within them, the work of Daniel Goleman has particular resonance for us. In our work with managers and leaders at all levels, the feedback we receive, and the evidence we see, suggests to us that his ideas strike a chord and offer a path to follow in the search for leadership capability.
Daniel Goleman on Leadership
For the last 15 years, in articles and books, Daniel Goleman has been sharing his view of the New Leader. For Developing Managers, the key ideas centre around the belief that leaders are most effective when they are responsive to the needs and mood of their team, and use their emotional intelligence to lead their team in a positive and productive manner.
Goleman identifies 6 leadership styles, with benefits but also costs to each. Here they are, in order of positive impact on the emotional climate of the team to which they are applied.
- Authoritative/Visionary – “Come with me”
The most strongly positive style, which is all about articulating a compelling vision for others to follow. It requires and demonstrates confidence and empathy, and is particularly effective when a new direction is needed.
Adopting this style, leaders motivate their teams by providing clarity about the purpose of their work, and how it fits within the wider vision of the organisation. They enthuse their people with their own excitement and passion for the goals and objectives at all levels.
This style is all about developing people for the future, and is another with a very positive impact upon the climate of the team. Leaders help their employees improve their performance and develop long-term strengths.
In adopting this style, leaders are demonstrating their interest, their concern and their respect for the individuals within their team, giving them time and ideas to enable them to develop. It increases communication and understanding, enabling leaders to remain close to their teams. It requires competence, empathy and self awareness in both parties.
- Affiliative – “People come first”
The affiliative style is all about creating harmony and building emotional bonds. Leaders encourage communication and freedom in work, rewarding and providing feedback as they go.
Leaders who adopt this style create fierce loyalty by caring deeply for their team members. This can be particularly effective to bring a team together, or to help a team through stressful times.
- Democratic – “What do you think?”
The democratic style is about working together with the team, gaining input and participation to reach a consensus. Leaders search out other views, drawing on the experience and expertise in the team to achieve the best solutions
Leaders adopting this style do so because they recognise the value of every contribution. In the process they allow team members to raise and discuss their concerns, which can have a positive impact upon morale. Leaders need to be conscious of the limitations of the democratic style as well though, as too much “management by committee” can be exasperating and slow things down. Overreliance on this style can create a sense of leaderlessness within a team too.
- Pace setting – “Do as I do, now”
The pace setting style sees the leader setting extremely high performance standards, and exemplifying them in their own behaviour. The leader will identifies and addresses poor performance and demands more.
Whilst sounding good in theory, in practice this approach should be used sparingly, as it can be overwhelming and demoralising. Team members can end up simply trying to guess what the leader wants, and delivering it, rather than working in their own most productive way. Trust and flexibility are reduced as work becomes very task focused and feel micromanaged.
- Coercive/Commanding – “Do what I tell you”
Viewed as the traditional “command and control” style, the coercive or commanding style has only short term benefits at best. Used in moments of crisis, or with problem situations or employees, it can produce a necessary compliance, or increase in performance.
However over the even slightly longer term, the manager who relies on the coercive style will suffer from decreased motivation, falling morale, higher staff turnover, and reduced productivity and results.
Based upon our years of interaction with managers, and their reflections upon these styles, certain aspects of Goleman’s ideas become clear to us:
The Visionary Style should always be considered and attempted
Even team leaders, supervisors and first line managers have a need to bring a group together and infuse it with a sense of purpose. Over and over again our contacts discussed and agreed that increasing the amount of “visionary” can increase a team’s purpose and achievement.
Although painting the big picture can seem quite daunting to a newly promoted or inexperienced manager, taking simple steps along the road to sharing their own vision for their department, and then exploring and articulating the organisation’s goals, are vitally important.
Senior and experienced managers also need to ensure they don’t forget to put the time and effort into sharing the important larger picture, bringing the journey and the purpose to life for everyone within the organisation.
The Coaching Style predominates
The most commonly observed and most comfortably employed style is the coaching style. Which is great news, as it has such a positive impact!
Even managers who have never received coaching skills training instinctively use this approach as a natural way to engage with team members and increase their performance. Managers who have taken the time, and had the support, to develop their coaching skills continually bring their team members on, with great results.
Your Next Steps
As managers we encourage you to consider Goleman’s leadership styles and to explore their relevance to your own situation. We suggest three steps:
- Explore your own style
Think about the styles you use, and consider their impact. Do you always resort to the same approach, or do you actively consider the best style to adopt in every situation.
- Observe the leaders you respect
Watch the great leaders and see what they do. Take the chance to discuss their style with them when you can, and see if they are conscious of their own approach.
- Flex your style
Try something new, particularly the Visionary style. Take the time to share the big picture with your team, and do so in a way that demonstrates your own enthusiasm and commitment.
Please contact us if you’d like to know more about how we help managers develop into great leaders – email@example.com
Look out for further communication about leadership on our blog, and from @mindinmotion and @motionlearning
We’d love to hear your views so please let us know your own experiences of leadership and leadership styles.