Familiarize yourself with the four basic leadership styles

For a long time, people thought there were only two leadership styles: autocratic and democratic. Democratic leaders were accused of being too soft and easy, while their autocratic counterparts were often called too tough and domineering. Today’s manager, however, is flexible and able to use all four of the leadership styles described below.

Directing: Leaders provide specific direction and closely monitor the accomplishment of tasks. Communication is largely one way: The leader explains what the goal is, what a “good job” looks like, and lays out a step-by-step plan for getting there.

Coaching: As a staff member or group gains experience and knowledge, directing leaders need to adopt a two-way communication style and become coaches. Good coaches bring out the best in people by helping them see their talents and abilities and how those assets add value to the team. They are also adept at pointing out an employee’s “rough edges” and providing suggestions for smoothing them out.

Supporting: As staff become more competent and take on more responsibility, the leader shares decision-making and problem-solving responsibilities and supports them in applying their ideas. The leader can be much less directive in this role, and in fact, becomes skilled in not giving the answers, but asking the right questions.

Delegating: The leader turns over the responsibility for day-to-day decision-making and problem solving to the staff. Delegating is appropriate for people who are self-reliant achievers, who are competent and committed and therefore do not need much direction.

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Leadership Insight