Working under a great leader is a privilege that can be far too rare, but even more rare is a definition of what makes a great leader. In 2014, Gallup published a study suggesting that companies hire the wrong person for the job as much as 82 per cent of the time, and that only one in ten people have the skills to be a good manager.
Therefore, it’s simpler to look at the types of managers out there, and consider how they differ, and what their strengths and weaknesses are.
In 2002, psychologist Daniel Goleman set out a list of leadership styles in the workplace. Here are five of them, and the pros and cons for each.
The defining traits of a visionary leader are that this person will constantly look to the future in every facet of the job, and engage workers by sharing their own optimistic views of where the company is headed. These leaders promote innovation, learning, creativity and relationships, all in the effort to share and attain a common goal.
In short, a visionary helps others see the goal and stay focused on it.
Strengths: When times are tough, it’s easy for employees to lose sight of the company’s goals. A visionary leader can help gather the troops and remind everyone of why they are there, what their role in the future of the company is, and how great it will feel once they have attained the goal as a team.
Weaknesses: Vision is one thing, but action is another. If a leader is too focused on what’s happening in the future, they may not have the same level of drive to enforce actions to make it happen. There is also a chance they will not devote as much time or energy on pressing problems of the present.
A coaching leader is one who puts the most time and effort into building up their team members’ skills, experience, confidence, and knowledge. They will be the type to say “give this a try”, and would much prefer to spend 30 minutes teaching an employee how to answer a question, rather than take a few minutes to answer it themselves.
Strengths: Many people love working with a coaching leader, as it is a surefire way to build up their own assets. This can inspire fierce loyalty, as well as driven and satisfied employees. Long-term, it can mean a staff of highly competent individuals who are capable of multiple roles.
Weaknesses: The coaching technique tends to fall down in one of two ways. Either the employees – the students – will be unwilling or incapable of learning, or the leader will not quite have the best skills in teaching, making it frustrating and difficult for those trying to learn.
A democratic leader is one who solves problems or makes changes by asking team members for their feedback, suggestions and ideas. This leader will be uncomfortable with making all the decisions themselves.
Strengths: When employees are involved in the decision-making process, they may be more inclined to feel obligated to ensure it works. Therefore many of those who work under a democratic leader may be less likely to disapprove of changes. It can also be a good style for bringing out the best in a team, with the best ideas on the plate in all situations, rather than just the best idea from a single person.
Weaknesses: The democratic leader may struggle in difficult times when decisions need to be made quickly, or when employees are unavailable for comment. The system also has weak points when team members have differing opinions on the best way forward.
Goleman’s affiliative leader is one who cares, first and foremost, about the wellbeing of the employee. There will be very little conflict on a team run by an affiliative leader, staff will feel valued and appreciated, and there will be an overall sense of harmony within the workplace.
Strengths: In a 2014 Career Builder survey, 65 per cent of workers felt undervalued in their role. In the same survey, the number one reason for workers to remain in their jobs was that they liked the people they worked with (54 per cent). With an affiliative leader, the first scenario is unlikely to happen, and the second is likely to be true. Employees feel welcome, valued and happy about coming to work, which is also particularly useful when a workplace needs to recover from a stressful or difficult time of change or upset.
Weaknesses: An affiliative leader may have a tough time dealing with inevitable conflicts when they do arise, and will be less likely to meet these scenarios head on. It can also result in poor performance from workers who become complacent under the stream of positive feedback, as they run out of direction to strive to be better.
A coercive leader is one who simply tells others what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. They expect compliance immediately and without question, and can be very tough when demands are not met. While many people may feel their manager is coercive, this is not a terribly common leadership style.
Strengths: The ability to get the job done quickly is almost unparalleled for the coercive leader. With no ‘if’s, ‘but’s, or excuses, employees will move through tasks with impressive efficiency, which can be especially useful in times of crisis. This style can also be a good way to deal with an underperforming employee when other avenues have been exhausted.
Weaknesses: A coercive leader will never be a popular one. More like a drill sergeant than a manager, this leader will quickly stifle creativity, innovation or ideas that may come from team members, and can leave them feeling overworked and undervalued. This can promote staff turnover and effectively cost the company more money, despite an increase in production.