Choosing the Leadership Style That Works Best for Your Team

June 20, 2016

In manufacturing and distribution, a leader is so much more than an employee that guides and supervises staff. They are the decision-makers that have influence over productivity, morale, and overall job satisfaction. A study by the Harvard Business Review found that only 15% of managers showed the consistent capacity to innovate and successfully transform their organizations. Like personalities, managers can have various leadership styles. Knowing which types work best for your crew, and when to use them, is part of being a good leader.

5 Different Leadership Styles

1. Autocratic

Akin to "cracking the whip," this form of leadership style has no room for employee input. This type of leader makes all of the decisions on the production floor, and employees are managed through close and tight supervision. The principle behind this model is that staff are there to listen and do their jobs. An autocratic style may work when decisions need to be made promptly, or when the staff is comprised of new and unskilled workers, but problems do arise. Some employees may feel this style is difficult to work under, and it has been known to breed resentment amongst a more qualified team.

2. Democratic

This method is also known as the "participative" style, and involves consulting different members of a team during the decision-making process. Although empowerment is encouraged, the leader retains accountability for the team's results. The democratic style is useful when team agreement matters, and would suit a general improvement program where people can be mentored and nurtured into positions. In this way, it works for both skilled and unskilled workers. Clarity of roles can be murky with the democratic method, however, and it can be difficult to manage a variety of different perspectives and ideas.

3. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Also known as a "pacesetting" style, this type of leadership is the opposite of autocratic. The laissez-faire method allows workers to make decisions on their own, and the leader only chimes in to update the team on their progress. This type of leadership works best with a highly skilled team that might take offense to a more autocratic style, which they often view as micro-managing. In this method, the leader is simply there to provide support with resources and advice. Although a Laissez-Faire leadership can lead to high job satisfaction, it can be damaging if team members lack a self-driven attitude and/or time management skills. This is particularly noticeable in manufacturing and distribution, where time is golden. 

4. Situational Leadership

Just as it sounds, this type of leadership involves adjusting the approach based on the situation, and the needs of the employees. This style is also known as "affiliative," and is largely based on putting employees first. The leader must make sure they are also working to meet the needs of the organization as well. A manager operating under this style will consider the skills, morale, and independence of their workers to determine the best approach to meet uniform goals. This style is most effective when there are situations of poor teamwork or low morale in general. Situational leadership is known to create collaborative teams and heightened performance, yet can overlook important factors like employee feedback.

5. Coaching

This style focuses purely on helping others in their personal development. Much like a coach, the leader is there to mentor and help team members become successful. This leadership style works best with skilled employees who already know their weaknesses and are receptive to constructive feedback. When used well, it is an effective style to help develop a learning organization. The coaching method can tend to come off more as autocratic, however, if employees are not given the freedom to make mistakes.

Choosing the Right Leadership Style

A leadership style must work well with your team's skill levels and independence. It is important to understand the types of leaders currently positioned within an organization prior to making adjustments.  Knowing the various styles and understanding when and where they apply, is part of managing an effective team. Through selecting and utilizing the appropriate style, a leader can effectively achieve the following:

  • Team collaboration
  • Meeting goals and objectives
  • Optimizing team performance

Leaders who make an effort to understand the logic of their own actions can improve their ability to lead, and the right type of leadership can keep your team happy, successful, and motivated.