The Power of Transforming Your Leadership Style

2Posted by Garrett Muston on Mon, Nov 18, 2013

I’m a bit of a football nut, so when I write about leadership, I often find myself referencing great coaches in the industry. If I asked you to create your ultimate NFL “dream team” by handpicking each player, and told you that your team comprised of the most talented players in the country could still fail, would you believe me? Probably not, but you should.

You may have the talent, but what about the coach? Without an experienced and effective coach to lead, your “dream team” will look like a disorganized mess on the field, and will likely see little success. This concept isn’t exclusive to football; in fact, it’s a basic, vital principle within business around the globe.

Acquiring top talent to join your organization is only part of the equation of success. Having talented people on your team means they have the skills and potential to be great and to do outstanding work, but great potential requires special leadership to orchestrate it into a finished product. With this in mind, ask yourself – “Is my coaching style allowing my team to reach its full potential? What kind of coach am I?” Here are a few styles of leadership to help you decide:

Acquiring top talent to join your organization is only part of the equation of success. Having talented people on your team means they have the skills and potential to be great and to do outstanding work, but great potential requires special leadership to orchestrate it into a finished product. This in mind, ask yourself – “Is my coaching style allowing my team to reach its full potential? What kind of coach am I?” Here are a few styles of leadership to help you decide:

Autocratic leadership is characterized by leaders who exercise significant power over their subordinates, which allows little room for suggestions and input. While autocratic leadership has the benefit of incredible efficiency, it can come at the cost of unhappy team members and may lead to high turnover. It can be compared to military-style leadership, and is best used in a crisis where things need to be done immediately and without question.

1Charismatic leadership motivates a team to continuously move forward and better itself, adding energy and good morale to the environment. Charismatic leaders usually enjoy commitment and high engagement from their team, but should be careful not to focus on themselves more than their team. In the team’s eyes, success is derived directly from their charismatic leader, so this style of leadership requires a lot of responsibility and commitment from the leader. (Oh, btw – have your read Leadership Charisma?)

People-oriented leadership focuses on developing and supporting people, treating everyone equally and respectfully. These leaders often have highly productive and risk-taking teams, make them approachable, and are greatly concerned with the welfare of their subordinates. People-oriented leaders should be wary of placing attention on people’s needs over important tasks and deadlines.

Task-oriented leadership is the opposite of people-oriented leadership. This type of leader focuses on getting the job done, and often pays little attention to their team and their needs. Task-oriented leaders often create the standard of performance for their teams, define work roles, monitor the team’s work, and enforce deadlines.This style of leadership can be a benefit to team members who have difficulty with time management, often enhances productivity, and yields high-quality work. However, task-oriented leaders can often have the same characteristics as autocratic leaders, and may experience the same negative effects of high turnover and dissatisfaction within its team.

Transactional leadership often compensates team members in return for their effort and agreement to fully comply with their leader’s instructions. Should standards and expectations not be met, transactional leaders usually reserve the right to employ disciplinary action. This style of leadership recognizes subordinates by performance, offering external rewards and compensation to those who excel. Ambitious and motivated people typically thrive under this style of leadership, as their accomplishments are recognized and rewarded.  For others, this type of leadership may lead to high turnover; there is little that can improve satisfaction for someone who is not fit to work under transactional leadership.

Transformational leadership has proven to be an effective leadership style, as it facilitates high productivity and engagement from its team members. This is accomplished through inspiration, motivation, and high accountability and expectations for the leaders, as well as their team members. These leaders create enthusiasm and energy within their team, but may require the assistance of other leaders who employ a different leading style. For example, a transformational leader may collaborate with a transactional leader to ensure work is done and deadlines are met, while the transformational leader inspires and looks for value-adding initiatives.

Now that you have an idea of leadership styles, what should you do? For starters, evaluate your team’s success in relation to productivity, turnover, morale, work quality, timeliness, and deadlines. If your team is lacking in one or more of these areas, an adjustment or two to your leadership style could be a solution.

3For example, (here we go with my football references) New York Giants coach Tom Coughlin’s job was on the chopping block back in 2007, as his team was riddled with dissent, stress, and general unhappiness after they experienced only two wins in the last two months of the season. His coaching style was largely old-school and autocratic, and The Giants publicly criticized and questioned their coach – a wakeup call for Coughlin. By fall of 2007, Coughlin’s Giants were 6-2, and he had undergone a leadership transformation – from autocratic to democratic, and people-oriented leadership. Since the transformation, the New York Giants have celebrated two Super Bowl wins, an accomplishment that had only occurred twice in the history of the program prior to Coughlin’s leadership transformation.

If your team isn’t reaching its full potential, or has room to improve, consider a small adjustment, or even a total transformation of your leadership style. As Tom Coughlin showed us, it can mean the difference between a team of champions and a team of dysfunctional duds.

What type of leader are you? Can you tell us about a time you transformed your leadership style, and why? What was the outcome? Let us know in the comment box below!