Each person has an intuitive idea of what leadership is. It could be the one in ‘charge’ or one who ‘bosses’ people around or it could be someone who ‘mentors’ or ‘guides’ you with their experience. Irrespective of that, there is no single ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ leadership style.
Leadership scholars have defined leadership however, there’s no particular universally accepted definition. Yukl defines leadership as ‘influencing the attitudes, behaviors, feelings, and feelings of other people.‘
In an organization, leadership can be formal- which is a leadership role assigned by the organization or informal- which is leadership that arises due to interaction, skill, or the ability of a person to provide guidance.
Let’s look at different approaches or leadership styles throughout the leadership literature.
Approaches to Leadership
There are many approaches and theories to studying, understanding, and executing leadership.
1. The Trait Approach
The trait approach is concerned with determining the personal characteristics of good leaders. It basically asks the question-
‘Who makes a good leader?’
This theory states that some people make better leaders than others. It means that leaders have traits, physical and personality characteristics, competencies, and values, and these traits are consistent over time. Recent studies have found that effective leaders are high on BIG 5 Personality traits.
2. The Leader Behavior Approach
This approach focuses on the leadership style adopted rather than the individual characteristics or traits of the leader. Thus it asks the question-
‘What makes a good leader?’
Leadership style in this approach consists of:
1) Participative: wherein the leader asks for advice and seeks the input of his/her subordinates. Multiple studies state that participative leadership style positively affects employee productivity, trust, and performance-boosting the overall morale of the organization.
2) Autocratic/ Directive: Here the leader does not involve subordinates in decision making. The decision is made and just announced to the group.
3) Achievement: This style of leadership involves emphasizing achievement and good performance. It includes setting challenging task goals and emphasizing high-performance standards.
A landmark study, The Ohio State Leadership Studies conducted in 1945 studied the effects of specific supervisory behaviors of leaders on their subordinates. The results determined two important elements in leadership:
a. Consideration- The amount of concern the leader shows for the happiness and welfare of their subordinates. Thus, it encourages a positive organizational climate and more engagement.
b. Initiating structure- This is the extent to which the supervisor makes clear what is expected out of the subordinates. This helps increase task management and team building, ensures effective communication, and reduces conflict.
3. Contingency Theory
The Contingency Theory by Fiedler and Path-Goal theory by House and Mitchell assumes that good leadership is the interplay of the person, the leader’s behavior, and the situation. Thus it asks the question:
‘ Under a given condition, who will be a good leader and what behavior is likely to be effective?’
4. Leader-Member Exchange Theory (LMX)
The LMX theory points out that leadership can be fully understood by focusing attention on the unique interactions of a supervisor with each subordinate. Transformational leadership has a similar outlook, where some leaders have a profound influence on the attitudes, behaviors, and values of subordinates. Thus, it asks an important question:
‘ How does the interaction between supervisor and subordinate affect the subordinate’s behavior?’
Most Fortune 500 companies such as Apple, Microsoft, Netflix, Amazon, Ford, etc. have found their roots in transformational leadership. The reason being, this leadership style intrinsically motivates employees; thus, they are more than willing to go the ‘extra mile’ for the company and look up to the leaders.
In a study, it is observed that employees who have a good relationship with their employers perceive their jobs as less stressful, have more job satisfaction and organizational commitment which benefits both employees and the organization.
5. The Vroom- Yetton Model
This is a model for decision-making in a working group. The Vroom-Yetton Contingency Model, developed by Victor Vroom and Phillip Yetton (with additional collaboration by Arthur Jago) bases decision making on situational leadership that can be used by just about anyone, regardless of rank.
In other words, it suggests that the best way to make a decision is to base it on the current situation or problem; not the personal traits or style of the decision-maker. The Vroom-Yetton model identifies five possible decision-making styles that suggest varying personal involvement from ‘completely autocratic’ to ‘acceptance without direct influence.’
How EngageWith Leadership Helps?
Leadership can be tricky but don’t worry. EngageWith can help you tailor decision-making and leadership personalized to your organization using theories and data for better plans and actionable results. EngageWith uses pulse surveys to gather feedback and leadership data from teams, departments, or the entire organization.
How EngageWith helps build more empathetic leaders?
- It is Short: You don’t want 5 pages of a survey unexpectedly on a Tuesday morning, right? Pulses are 2-4 questions that are easy to complete.
- Frequent: This mini-survey will pop up once or twice a month. Thus, it is more frequent than traditional yearly employee engagement surveys or feedback sessions.
- Measures Metric: It usually aims to measure a quantifiable metric over a period of time. (e.g., measuring leadership goals in April).
- EngageWith leadership has 3 metrics of measurement- General Leadership Culture, Reporting Manager, and Top Management. This allows feedback at an individual, micro-level as well as at and organizational level so that issues, grievances, and feedback can be managed and addressed better without it resulting in conflicts at a later stage. It allows
- The EngageWith Pulse covers leadership involvement right from onboarding, task management, work-life balance to values such as care, respect, and trust. It highlights the 8 stages of the employee cycle and the effect of leadership in it: recruiting, hiring, onboarding, developing, engaging, wellbeing, performing, and departing. This makes the process more humane and allows insights into processes, practices as well as values. After all, it’s the little things that matter, doesn’t it?
“Not everyone is born a leader.” Leaders are made step-by-step along the way; they learn, thrive on feedback, and EngageWith helps guide leaders to make smarter and better decisions with data and move towards happier, more engaged employees.
Instead of a complicated excel sheet, pulse surveys let you take a picture and get a snapshot image of what engagement really looks like for the company. It’s a revolution towards quicker, better engagement at your fingertips.