Read this section about the different leadership styles.
- Explain how managers direct others and motivate them to achieve company goals.
The third management function is directing – providing focus and direction to others and motivating them to achieve organizational goals. As owner and president of Notes-4-You, you might think of yourself as an orchestra leader. You have given your musicians (employees) their sheet music (plans). You've placed them in sections (departments) and arranged the sections (organizational structure) so the music will sound as good as possible. Now your job is to tap your baton and lead the orchestra so that its members make beautiful music together.
Actually, it's fairly easy to pick up a baton, cue each section, and strike up the band. But it doesn't follow that the music will sound good. What if your cues are ignored or misinterpreted or ambiguous? Maybe your musicians don't like your approach to making music and will just walk away. On top of everything else, you don't simply want to make music: you want to inspire your musicians to make great music. How do you accomplish this goal? How do you become an effective leader? What style, or approach, should you use to motivate others to achieve organizational goals?
Unfortunately, there are no definitive answers to questions like these. Over time, every manager refines his or her own leadership style,
or way of interacting with and influencing others. Despite a vast range
of personal differences, leadership styles tend to reflect one of the
following approaches to directing and motivating people: the autocratic, the democratic, or the laissez-faire. Let's see how managerial styles reflect each of them in a work situation.
- Autocratic style. Managers who have developed an autocratic leadership style tend to make decisions without soliciting input from subordinates. They exercise authority and expect subordinates to take responsibility for performing the required tasks without undue explanation.
- Democratic style. Managers who favor a democratic leadership style generally seek input from subordinates while retaining the authority to make the final decisions. They're also more likely to keep subordinates informed about things that affect their work.
- Laissez-faire style. In practicing a laissez-faire leadership style, managers adopt a "hands-off" approach and provide relatively little direction to subordinates. They may advise employees but usually give them considerable freedom to solve problems and make decisions on their own.
In general, your assessments of the three leadership styles would be
accurate. Employees generally dislike working for autocratic leaders;
they like working for democratic leaders, and they find working for
laissez-faire leaders rewarding (as long as they feel they can handle
the job). But there are situations when these generalities don't hold.
To learn what these situations are, let's turn things around and pretend
you're the leader. To make it applicable to your current life, we'll
say that you're leading a group of fellow students in a team project for
your class. Are there times when it would be best for you to use an
autocratic leadership style? What if your team was newly formed,
unfamiliar with what needs to be done, under a tight deadline, and
looking to you for direction? In this situation, you might find it
appropriate to follow an autocratic leadership style (on a temporary
basis) and assign tasks to each member of the group.
Now let's look at the leadership style you probably prefer – the
democratic leadership style. Can you think of a situation where this
style would not work for your team? What if
the members of your team are unmotivated, don't seem interested in
providing input, and aren't getting along? It might make sense to move
away from a democratic style of leadership (temporarily) and delegate
specific tasks to each member of the group that they can do on their
How about laissez-faire leadership? Will this always work with your
group? Not always. It will work if your team members are willing and
able to work independently and welcome the chance to make decisions.
Otherwise, it could cause the team to miss deadlines or do poorly on the
The point being made here is that no one leadership style is effective all the time for all people. While the democratic style is viewed as the most appropriate (as is the laissez-faire style, to a lesser extent), there are times when following an autocratic style is better. Good leaders learn how to adjust their styles to fit both the situation and the individuals being directed.
Theories on what constitutes effective leadership evolve over time. One theory that has received a lot of attention in the last decade contrasts two leadership styles: transactional and transformational. So-called transactional leaders exercise authority based on their rank in the organization. They let subordinates know what's expected of them and what they will receive if they meet stated objectives. They focus their attention on identifying mistakes and disciplining employees for poor performance. By contrast, transformational leaders mentor and develop subordinates, providing them with challenging opportunities, working one-on-one to help them meet their professional and personal needs, and encouraging people to approach problems from new perspectives. They stimulate employees to look beyond personal interests to those of the group.
So, which leadership style is more effective? You probably won't be
surprised by the opinion of most experts. In today's organizations, in
which team building and information sharing are important and projects
are often collaborative in nature, transformational leadership has
proven to be more effective. Modern organizations look for managers who
can develop positive relationships with subordinates and motivate
employees to focus on the interests of the organization.
- A manager's leadership style varies depending on the manager, the situation, and the people being directed. There are three common styles.
- Using an autocratic style, a manager tends to make decisions without soliciting input and expects subordinates to follow instructions without undue explanation.
- Managers who prefer a democratic style seek input into decisions.
- Exercising a laissez-faire style, the manager provides no more guidance than necessary and lets subordinates make decisions and solve problems.
- One current leadership theory focuses on two contrasting leadership styles: transactional and transformational.
- Managers adopting a transactional style exercise authority according to their rank in the organization, let subordinates know what's expected of them, and step in when mistakes are made.
- Practicing a transformational style, managers mentor and develop subordinates and motivate them to achieve organizational rather than merely personal goals. Transformational leadership is effective in organizations that value team building and information sharing.
Compare and contrast three forms of leadership - democratic, autocratic, and laissez-faire. Which style would you prefer to use yourself? Which would you prefer your boss to use? Explain your answers in both cases. Next, compare and contrast the transactional-leadership style with the transformational-leadership style? Which style would you adopt as a manager, and why?
This text was adapted by Saylor Academy under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 License without attribution as requested by the work's original creator or licensor.