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Leadership development: When to apply different leadership styles

Karen Glen
Wednesday, 12/07/2017 - 12:24

When to use different leadership development techniques

Leadership development is an important aspect of your role as faculty head—and indeed, any position that involves motivating teams and establishing visions. However, leadership skills are not something that one tends to study through formalised courses or as part of a school or university curricula. Instead, leadership development is often left up to the individual, with their leadership style being influenced by personality and circumstance. Leadership skills are distinct from management skills, with the latter involving directing people and resources to implement objectives. In this blog, we’ll examine various leadership styles and the situations they’re most effective for.

Authoritative leaders set clear objectives and orders

Also referred to as the directive or autocratic style of leadership, authoritative leaders like to take charge and set clear objectives for those beneath them and are usually extremely self-confident individuals. They provide plenty of structure and are very particular about the way in which things need to be done. However, they tend to lean towards micro-management and use threats, rather than rewards, as a means of motivating their teams. This style is ideal for implementing new visions, or in chaotic situations that require decisive leadership.

Democratic leaders value the opinions and input of their peers

Perhaps antithetical to authoritative leadership, democratic leadership focuses on gaining consensus from the entire team or organisation. Such leaders recognise that the power of their team lies in its people, and so seek out the opinion of everyone before ultimately making decisions themselves. This style creates a wonderful sense of camaraderie, but—similar to cases in which authoritative leadership is the predominant style—can prohibit individuals from feeling they have true ownership of their work, as each member of the team is involved just as much as the others. This style of leadership is better suited for leading staff, rather than students.

Collaborative leaders encourage all individuals within a team to shape its vision

Collaborative leadership is similar to democratic leadership in that it centres around including every member of a team in decision making. However, collaborative leaders won’t only ask for their peers’ advice, but actively encourage them to lead too. Empowerment of the group is a key focus of collaborative leaders, instead of their own self empowerment. The benefit of this style is that individuals tend to feel a great sense of buy-in as the vision is shaped by all, instead of one person acting as a leader. This style of leadership works well in teams made up of highly skilled and motivated individuals.

Coaching leaders bring together the clear goals of the authoritative style with the support of the democratic leadership style

The coaching style of leadership relies on setting clear visions and instructions for team members to guide them towards achieving these goals. But unlike the authoritative leader, coaching leaders provide plenty of support and nurturing through the process. Like the democratic leader, they are people orientated and like to seek buy-in from their followers to create harmonious workplaces. This style is ideal for instilling long-term skills in individuals, such as leadership development in students.

Pacesetters lead by example and set high standards

Pacesetting Leadership is another style best suited when leading a team of highly skilled and motivated individuals, as it involves setting high standards and short-term goals. Pacesetters give minimal feedback and expect their team to aim for continual improvement. It can be effective for achieving change quickly, but long-term use of this style can lower morale in both a work and educational setting.

Leadership style is a key influencing factor in how students develop their own leadership abilities

The leadership style you adopt around faculty staff will vary depending on the situation and individuals you interact with. Besides being an important factor in the way you manage and motivate staff, your leadership style is heavily linked to how you motivate students. Not only this, but the way in which you lead will set an important example to students for their own leadership development. Leadership is an important soft skill students require in the workplace.

For more information on the importance of instilling work readiness in university students through a skills development programme, download our guide.

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