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Why Faking Leadership Is Doomed to Fail

Being an authentic leader requires self-reflection, an understanding of the expectations of your subordinates, and a firm grasp of your context. Different leadership styles can be effective in particular circumstances. For example, a drill instructor is expected to intimidate his or her recruits through an aggressive leadership style. If a schoolteacher used the same methods, he or she would be out of a job.

Part of the challenge of leading from a place of authenticity is understanding which approach is best for a given situation.[1] If you’ve ever witnessed a manager offer a tone-deaf response, you know that a leader’s style can have major impacts on company culture.

There are many ways to classify leaders, but Daniel Goleman’s [2] designations provide a valuable framework for our purposes.[3] You may see yourself in one or more of these styles.

Here are the 6 types of leadership styles.

Pacesetting leader

This type sets a rigorous standard for others to follow. Pacesetters work alongside their team with the intention of executing a specific objective. They have no tolerance for team members lagging behind.

Pacesetting leaders excel in the military. In this case, the team’s ability to perform as a unit affects the success and safety of the mission. Ambitious entrepreneurs and high-level leadership also have this level of urgency and insistence upon meeting high standards.

When your team is adequately prepared and you need something done quickly, this approach is most effective. This style is more concerned with forward motion than heaping on praise, which means that team members will need to be confident in their duties. Continual use of the pace-setting leader model without including other approaches can cause employee burnout. Inexperienced team members may become frustrated by limited opportunities to receive positive feedback.

Authoritative leader

Sometimes known as the visionary leader, this style is firmly grounded in a vision. Some of the most recognizable innovators, such as Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs, and Oprah Winfrey[4] count themselves among the ranks of authoritative leaders.

This position is helpful if you are pioneering an approach. Your vision represents your values and those of your company. In the face of uncertainty, you stayed grounded in your vision. This leadership style is not effective when your team members have more experience than you.

Affiliative leader

If you consider getting to know your employees to be an important part of your leadership style, then you likely possess the qualities of an affiliative leader. This style necessitates compassion and good listening skills. These leaders see workers as people first.

If your organization has experienced an upheaval, this caring approach can put your culture back on track. The manager that has regular one-on-one meetings with staff members and takes the time to listen to their concerns embodies this style. This approach breeds loyalty because it provides encouragement and makes employees feel understood.

If your style is too soft, you risk breeding apathy. To prevent slacking performance, you will need incorporate other leadership styles to help you demonstrate the importance of high-quality work outputs.

Coaching leader

Even though coaching requires a greater time commitment for leaders up front, the rewards are a major return on investment. Coaching creates a positive work environment in which people use feedback and support to improve their performance.

Employees and leaders who approach their work with a growth mindset[5] are more likely to feel affirmed and buy into the organizational mission. This collaborative approach does not work well if you need results in a hurry, and it is not effective if workers are unwilling to engage.

Coercive leader

The coercive leader, like a drill instructor, does not leave room for debate — they simply want their workers to follow instructions as quickly and effectively as possible. Using this approach for extended periods of time will have a negative impact on morale.

Despite the potential for negative impact, there is an appropriate context for this leadership style. During an organizational crisis or emergency, workers need a leader who can act decisively. Employees who refuse to respond to collaborative approaches may fare better with a commanding leader.

Democratic leader

When you solicit the buy-in of others, you empower them through democratic leadership.[6] Leading through votes or by committee can foster a positive work environment because workers feel that their concerns are taken into consideration.

This style can avoid the conflict among groups in which people wish to voice their opinions, but there are contexts in which this style will not be effective. A committee full of aggressive communicators might spend more time arguing than fulfilling their duties. If employees lack access to all the information necessary to make an informed decision, then this approach is unlikely to yield the best results. For projects that require a quick turnaround, you will need to exercise a more authoritative style.

A strong leader can always apply the right leadership style depends on situations.

A strong leader will need to be able to embody different leadership styles depending on their circumstances. Consulting this flowchart can help you understand which styles you identify with most and which aspects of your personal brand of leadership will require refinement.

With so many considerations for how one can lead, finding your authentic voice as a leader can seem overwhelming.[7] So here’s what you can do.

Call in the SWOT team to help you lead best.

SWOT analysis can help you understand the best leadership style for you. SWOT, an acronym for “strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats,” [8] helps you understand your gifts and mitigate deficiencies. Knowing which leadership styles work best for you gives you a greater capacity to inspire workers and respond to challenges in the workplace.

  • S – Strengths: What are the things that you can do better than anyone else? What are your greatest accomplishments? Based upon these strengths, you can narrow down the types of leadership that resonate with you the most. For example, if you are a patient, asset-based thinker, then you may find that you are most comfortable as a coaching leader.
  • W -Weaknesses: Are there certain types of interactions that you seem to flub every time? Do you have tasks that you avoid because you don’t think that you do them well? In the context of finding your leadership style, this can help you understand the types of leadership that do not resonate with you. If you hate telling people what to do without providing lots of feedback, then a coercive style is going to be uncomfortable for you.
  • O – Opportunities: After you have a clear understanding of your strengths and weaknesses, look for opportunities. Where are the places that you can use your strengths? Which leadership styles exploit your best characteristics? What can you do to improve your weaknesses? Can you attend training or find a mentor to help you improve?
  • T – Threats: External threats can impose limits on your leadership. Threats include prohibitive policies that prevent you from expressing your best leadership talents. Does the hyper-competitive environment prevent you from using coaching, affiliative, or democratic leadership techniques, which require greater time investments? Comparing the threats you face to the strengths and limitations of the leadership styles can help you find the strategy that maximizes your strengths in your environment.

Amplify your strengths, always.

After you perform a SWOT analysis, you’ll have a good idea of your individual gifts, and you’ll be more cognizant of your weaknesses as a leader. Knowing your weaknesses can help you avoid leadership styles that make you come off as disingenuous.

Mind your mentors.

Picture a person who epitomizes strong leadership style for you. Analyze their style using the SWOT model, and pinpoint what types of leadership they most closely represent. Acting as an observer can help you understand your own values as leaders.

And know thyself.

To be an authentic leader, you have to be yourself. Leslie Stein eloquently illustrates the gains that come from owning your truth.

If you try to adopt a style that doesn’t fit your personality, it will be difficult to function in a leadership capacity. Workers can always spot a phony, and if they know that you don’t believe in the way that you are leading, they will be less likely to respect you. Your authentic self is your greatest leadership asset.

As a leader, you will be faced with situations that require you to adopt specific approaches. With some self-study and a strong vision for your team, you can be yourself and take charge.

Reference

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About Mysterious Everythings

Le Minh Hieu is a national-level weightlifter and a Singapore Weightlifting sports performance coach. Hieu's biggest passion is helping everyone find confidence, happiness, and health through fitness.