Varied paths of leadership

“After completing a leadership assessment, I became aware of my preferred leadership style, and found it to be rather useful information for improving communication between my staff and me. Is there any research showing that certain types of leadership styles are more effective, or more preferred by employees?

There are many factors that can influence an employee’s preference for a specific leadership style, such as the quality of the leader-employee relation, group norms, the organization’s culture, team expectations, and how much power you have over employees. Therefore, it is best to avoid the temptation of seeking out a leadership style that will work for you in all situations.
While there are many labels for the various leadership styles, the two most frequently used are directive and supportive. A supportive leader shows concern for the needs of the employees, whereas the directive leader lets employees know what is expected of them. Depending on the characteristic of the employee (such as his/her experience or ability), and contextual factors in the workplace (such as degree of team support) you can modify your leadership style to meet most employees’ needs.
If you have an employee who lacks certain skills or experience you would err in using the supportive leadership style. An inexperienced employee needs specific guidance and direction. When tasks are ambiguous or confusing, direction is always needed. Similarly, if there is a lot of conflict within the work group, or a crisis at hand, a directive leadership style should be applied generously. In this case, your job is to lessen the conflict and make it easier for them to do their jobs effectively.
Conversely, employees who have lots of experience, strong skills, and/or well-structured tasks will appreciate a supportive leadership style. Keep in mind that your job as a leader is to compensate for the things lacking in your employee, or the work setting. Your effectiveness as a leader will depend on how well you can identify factors that are lacking, and your ability to fill in the gaps.

Article prepared by Renée LeMoine, Executive Director, LeMoine & Associates

Based on R.J. House, “Path-Goal Theory of Leadership: Lessons, Legacy and Reformulation,” Leadership Quarterly, Fall 1996.






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