Adapting Your Leadership Style

There are many recognised leadership styles supported by academically robust research models which play an integral role in leadership development. In general, all models and styles can be measured by performance and behavioral assessment, though what is evident is no one style can be considered the ‘best’.

Each will have a positive and negative impact depending on the environmental situation, the people that are being led, and quite often the level of personal threat or pressure. Hence these leadership human behaviours may be more instinctive rather than planned, although leadership can be considered as a reactive and responsive trait that sets people apart when subjected to high risks.

For example, people will respond differently when exposed to a more autocratic style as opposed to participative engagement; however, each will hold equal merit and justification depending on the situation and level of experience within the team.

The key to effective leadership is recognition of the variety of styles, human acceptance and applying the most appropriate form of direction. Understanding what the goals and objectives are and identifying the strengths and limitations of the team will be vital to providing clear delegation of tasks.

Empowering the most able team members and where necessary providing support to those that require guidance, is particularly important to continually monitor performance and if required to re-posture the approach in a timely manner.

The strength with this method is to continually develop all team members by intelligent application of motivational factors through the emphasis of mutual trust and respect.

Further consideration of recognising and employing the most appropriate style to conduct a task is awareness of the working environment.

Many capable leaders have failed when undertaking a new role in another department or organization.

Taking time to ascertain the unfamiliar surroundings and the established norm will be of great benefit to understanding the workforce. This will also allow time for observations and consideration of what will be the most effective way to lead the team.

I am sure that many have experience of the new ‘leader’ changing everything on the first day and the effect this may have had on general morale – no one fully embraces drastic change.

Other considerations are the organizational ethos, which exemplifies the corporate standing and approach.

Within a globalised society, considerations should also be made and adapted to cultural sensitivities and motivational attitudes, where the workforce can be very diverse and individual respect should be applied.

The successful leader will be able to adapt to all environments in order to communicate with equal clarity and providing direction without ambiguity.

How do you become an effective leader? Can this be taught? Some schools of thought suggest that leadership cannot be taught; it is a natural skill that is an embodiment of human personality.

Though, understanding the application of leadership and categorising leadership qualities is a knowledge that can be transferred through learning programmes and coaching within the workplace.

Personal observation of one’s own leader can provide a very qualitative view of both the positive and negative forms of personal leadership which can enhance an individual’s learning development.

Academic and vocational leadership qualifications can be internationally achieved and contribute to the career development of organizational staff.

This is however, generally focussed on theories and knowledge based learning, which only provides the foundation to face the realities of workplace application.

The essence of learning how to lead will more often be the result of experience, which sometimes means learning from mistakes.

Organizations should invest in both collaborative and experience learning to instil confidence and encourage innovation within a working environment, whilst the elements of corporate risk are managed.

As briefly mentioned earlier, a true account of leadership ability cannot be measured or observed until an individual is subjected to unfamiliar pressure.

Some of the more conducive methods of learning are through continuous feedback/feed forward.

This can be achieved within a 180/360 degree setting, but is more effectively developed through self-assessment and reflection. Recognising personal limitations and striving to improve is accepting responsibility, which is the highest form of a leadership trait and will set a path for the way forward, through conscious willingness of self development.

The results of clear and strong leadership provide an organization with confidence, clear mission orientation, the ability to adapt and a direction which can only encourage and therefore retain a valued and content workforce.

Gerwyn Harkett is an internationally experienced Training Consultant. He has worked within the UK Armed Forces, UK Ministry of Defence, Emirati Government Authority and UAE Vocational Education Institute.

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