written by: eschulze•edited by: Elizabeth Wistrom•updated: 7/1/2010
Different leadership styles should be used based on the situation at hand. There will be times when one type of leadership style will work better than others. Authoritarian, Democratic, or Laissez faire leadership styles are a few to consider.
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Leadership theories abound in our culture. Perhaps it is because we, as a society, are so diverse. Many different leadership styles are embedded in each theory associated with leadership. This article will focus on one branch of leadership, the behavioral theory. This is effective in group decision making, thereby working well in project management situations, as well as others.
There are three recognized leadership styles within behavioral leadership. Authoritarian, Democratic and Laissez-faire. You have most likely experienced working for at least one of these types of leaders. Generally, they are very effective leaders.
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An Authoritarian leader will make decisions alone and accept nothing less than strict compliance to his orders. He will micro-manage his followers work and generally not participate. He will offer praise or, on the flip side, criticism. Working for this type of leader demands a viewpoint of his superiority by his followers, otherwise, feelings will tend to get hurt and performance will suffer. The authoritarian leader will not want to sit at a cozy, round, conference table, this type of leader would rather sit at the head of a long conference table, dictating the flow of the meeting by his actions. He will participate heavily in the job. This type of leadership is very effective in a crisis environment.
Communication from this type of leader is best expressed as direct. Leaders should use this style when they are short on time, have all the necessary information they need to complete the job, and their employees are well motivated. Praise is a significant piece to this type of leadership, criticism is as well, but it must be constructive and informative, not attacking. Every leader should have this tool available to them, but must be wise about when to employ its use.
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A Democratic leader will prefer assisting in a collective decision making process. This type of leader prefers brainstorming techniques and gaining insight from key members of his team. This leader would play a role in the process, but will not fully participate in all aspects. The job success or failure will be shared by all team members, while the authoritarian leader would generally take the credit of the success or responsibility of the failure. The democratic leader works best in fields where innovation is key.
Techniques for a democratic leader must be closely followed. The necessity for timelines is essential; otherwise, due to the innovative spirit of the followers of democratic leaders it is very easy to lose the forest through the trees.
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A Laissez-faire leader will not participate in the actual work. This leader will give freedom to his team to come up with the policy. This leader will not give praise or criticism and will not give an opinion or assistance unless directly asked to. This type of leader is best when you have highly motivated, well trained employees.
If a leader take this hands off approach, they must be certain to check in with their employees regularly. Hire only self motivated, highly trained individuals to build your team into a productive group.
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All of these styles of leadership have benefits and drawbacks. A mix of each type, when the situation calls for it, will bring about the best adjusted work atmosphere.