Leadership is a topic that envelops so many aspects of a person’s life. Even though a person might not be in a leadership position at work, there are still many opportunities to be a leader whether it be within their family and/or community. Understanding the different leadership styles and knowing which style one naturally gravitates towards is important to be an effective leader. There are different leadership styles, but we are going to focus on these five: Charismatic, Participative, Servant, Transactional, and Transformational.
The first leadership approach is the Charismatic leader. Charismatic leaders identify and articulate a compelling vision and can build trust and excitement to support their vision. Selling themselves is as important as selling the vision. They tend to be adept at reading the “mood of the crowd” and very effective in the use of words and body language when communicating with others. They are often sensitive to the needs of others and are willing to take risks. Most people will not think of themselves as having this leadership approach but if you look at the different places you lead in your life, you might find that you do have this style.
The second leadership style is the Participative leader. Participative leaders seek to involve others in the process to some degree depending on the comfort level or beliefs of the leader. These leaders believe that followers will be more committed if they are involved in relevant decision-making. A participative leader may involve others in developing plans or a vision, including telling a team what he/she wants to be done and let the team figure out how to do it.
The next style is Servant Leadership. Servant leaders believe in serving others, rather than expecting followers to serve them. They also feel a social responsibility to serve the most disadvantaged in society. The servant leader believes that by serving followers, the followers will improve and achieve more. The servant leader may put people above the organization, sacrificing organizational and personal goals for the good of others. An example of this from my background is coordinating with a variety of churches in giving a disadvantaged area a “community hug” by cleaning up 86,000 pounds of trash in the area. We wanted to let the good citizens who lived there know we cared about them.
The fourth approach to leadership is the Transactional leader. Transactional leaders view work as a contractual agreement where followers are given a salary and benefits, and the organization (and superior) gets authority over the follower. Generally, there is a clear structure where rewards are understood, as is discipline if performance expectations are not met. Transactional leaders often are driven by the idea of being exceptional. There may be praise and other rewards for exceeding performance expectations and punishment if performance expectations are not met. Most of us, especially in the early part of our career has worked for a transactional leader. For me, this is one of my last go-to styles. However, I have found it necessary on occasion when a team member did not respond to other approaches.
The last style is the Transformational Leader style. Transformational leaders strive to call followers to higher standards, ideals, and values. They typically lead by example and are out front as they lead. They acknowledge success through celebrations or other rituals. They may be charismatic in building trust and support for the vision. The vision may have been developed by the leader, or in conjunction with others, but he/she is solidly behind it. I used this style to help a newly selected training team develop a vision of the powerful impact they could have on their work area. More than three decades later, the two key strategies we implemented are still in place.
What is your primary style? It is important to be aware of your go-to style. It is also a good idea to understand these other styles, because depending on the circumstances you may be more effective by using a style other than your primary style. A large part of being a leader is to be flexible in how you lead and using the right leadership style for the situation. Doing so increases the likelihood that you will be successful in your leadership.
For the Faith-based:
Many of the leadership styles that we use today in business were first exemplified in the Bible. Jesus is a prime example of many Biblical leadership principles. An example of the Servant Leadership style is Jesus’ washing his disciples’ feet. “When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. Do you understand what I have done for you? he asked them. You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am. Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. Very truly I tell you, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them,” John 13:12-17.
Though servant leadership was Jesus’ dominant style, He used other styles such as being a Transformational leader. He led his followers to have standards, ideals, and values even in situations where they did not want to. “When Jesus’ followers saw what was going to happen, they said, ‘Lord, should we strike with our swords?’ And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, ‘No more of this!’ And he touched the man’s ear and healed him,” Luke 22:49-51. Despite the human nature to protect Jesus by his followers, Jesus led them through his actions to have a higher standard.
There are other examples of Jesus’ different leadership styles in the Bible but these examples show that in order to be a truly effective leader, you must adapt your leadership style. Leadership is about being fluid and flexible and not rigid. Know your message or goal, know your audience, and lead by using the most effective style for that situation.