It is widely known that leadership is a quality beyond management. It is a skill that enables one to influence people and inspires them to do their best. There are several types of leadership styles, but few, if indeed any, are appropriate for all settings and situations. Three general leadership styles discussed here are the autocratic, consultative, and democratic1 approaches.
Of the three general styles, the autocratic approach is the oldest. It also is in the process of passing from the management scene entirely and none too soon. Autocratic management relies on intimidation and minimizes employees contributions to the organizations well-being. In an autocratic atmosphere, management never hears whatever good ideas employees have, nor does it want to hear any employee input. The consultative leadership style represents the other extreme. The consultative approach has some positive points, but it minimizes the role of leadership and often fails to provide clear direction. Some variation of the democratic leadership style is the most workable within most types of organizations. The democratic approach engages employees and preserves management responsibility.
Two common approaches to democratic leadership style are Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) and situational leadership. The LMX framework focuses on the two-way relationship between managers and the employees they manage, for the purpose of maximizing organizational benefits arising from positive interactions between supervisors and subordinates. In the leader-member approach, individual and vertical relationships are more important than group dynamics and member-member relationships.
Situational leadership is not to be confused with situational ethics. Rather, it refers to the need for the manager to alter his or her leadership style based on conditions. Originated by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard, the Situational Leadership model is a variation of contingency theory and depends on the balance between task behavior, relationship behavior and the level of maturity of subordinates. Interactions between production managers and semi-skilled workers represent one end of the continuum. At the other extreme, the low-task, high-relationship variation might be used to supervise other managers or research scientists. The point is that the leader adopts a style appropriate to the situation. It is necessary, of course, for the manager to be able to identify the leadership style that will be most advantageous in his or her group.
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1MindTools.com. Leadership Styles. [Online]. Available from:
http://www.mindtools.com/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm. [Accessed: September 2, 2014].