- Leadership Styles
- By Annick M. Brennen, 2002
The term "leadership style" refers to a leaderís
manner of behavior in a work situation. According to Fred E. Fiedler, oneís
leadership style depends on oneís personality and is therefore relatively
fixed. A study of leadership styles therefore deals mainly with the manner in
which the leader carries out his/her leadership functions or rolesĖthe use of
authority and power and the approach to the decision-making process.
Fundamentally, the leadership adopted is the one with which the
person is most comfortable. This is dependent on the personís values,
personality, and how comfortable it is to allow subordinates to participate in
the decision-making process. Many of these characteristics are well developed by
the time persons on the job would be considered for leadership positions.
Meanwhile, many leaders, by means of training and introspection have been able
to change their leadership style dramatically.
The Iowa Studies identified the Authoritarian, Democratic, and
Laissez Faire Leadership styles. These leadership styles exist on a continuum
from autocratic to laissez-faire.
- Authoritarian Style
- The Authoritarian Leadership Style is characterized by a leader who
makes all the decisions and passes the directives to subordinates who are
expected to carry these out under very close supervision. Any subordinatesí
attempt at questioning the directives given are discouraged. There is
little or no opportunity for subordinates to develop initiative and
creativity. Employee behavior is closely controlled through such means as
punishment, reward, arbitrary rules, and task orientation.
The authoritarian leadership style is based upon the assumption
that the leader knows everything and knows what is best for the organization.
Employees are ignorant, indolent, lack ambition, dislike responsibility, and
prefer to be led. Employees cannot be trusted to do what is right for the
organization. Unlimited authority is thus rightly vested in the leader.
Authoritarian leaders can be arrogant, hostile, boastful, and
Inspite of its weaknesses, the authoritarian leadership style is
well suited for certain environments such as the military, a prison, etc. In
those settings, in which the lives of people depend on others following orders,
the authoritarian styles is ideal. This style would also be appropriate for
directing beginning teachers in the school setting because of their inexperience
they tend to need more direction.
The research shows that the authoritarian leadership style is
preferable to a democratic one for the achievement of tasks. People love
democracy, but it does not mean that it leads to more productivity. An
authoritarian leadership style is thus well suited in a very structured
environment, where the lives of people are stake, and
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where the level of
professionalism is also low.
- Democratic Style
- It is characterized by a structured but cooperative approach to decision
making. It focuses on group relationships and sensitivity to the people in
the organization. This type of leadership style fosters professional
competence. Supervision is minimal as individuals take the responsibility
for their behavior. Subordinates are encouraged to express their ideas and
make suggestions. However, shared decisions are not likely to occur in all
aspects of the organizational operations. Democratic leaders sell ideas.
They tend to be warm, confident, and friendly.
The democratic leadership style encourages employee
participation and professional growth. It is well suited in environments where
people have a very high level of expertise such as software engineers, lawyers,
doctors, mature teachers, etc. The democratic leadership style promotes greater
job satisfaction and improved morale.
- Laissez-Faire Style
- This leadership style is quite the opposite to the Authoritarian style.
There is the absence of any real leadership and every one is free to do as
it pleases. Usually, with no goals or direction there is a state of
confusion, and lack of confidence in leadership. The employees also often
doubt their own ability to accomplish the task at hand, thus productivity
is usually very low.
Although this leadership style is not usually advocated, it has
its place with persons who are highly motivated and can work totally on their
volition. This type of leadership style would also be appropriate when there is
nothing significant at stake. For example, if teachers wanted to give a party,
then a laisser-faire style would be most appropriate.
In conclusion, each style has its place in an organization and
can be used for different situations, tasks, and the maturity and level of
professionalism of employees.
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