Those of us who strive to be great leaders often ask ourselves, “What is the most effective leadership style to have?” Should we be directive, providing very detailed, specific direction and maintaining tight controls over others? Should we be more guiding, providing direction while encouraging involvement from the other and taking the time to answer questions and explain our decisions? Perhaps we should use an even more supportive style, collaborating with others to set goals and have others truly participate in decision making. Or is it best to be more delegating, giving maximum freedom others to do their job the way they feel they can best achieve their results?
So which one is the right one? Each of them of course can be very effective and each of them can also be highly ineffective. The main determinant of which style to use is which style or combination of styles is best for the person or persons you are leading in that particular situation.
Let’s take the same person in two different situations to see what leadership styles would be best for them in each case. Janet is a highly-experienced customer service supervisor who has worked in your company for ten years. She is very familiar with all of your products and systems and has hired several hundred reps throughout her career. You need her to hire a new rep. What style should you use? Should you give her very specific direction such as, “Create a job description with these exact responsibilities and requirements, ask these exact five interview questions, make sure I see every resume you like and don’t like…” This will likely frustrate her as she clearly knows how to hire reps. Perhaps a more delegating style would be more appropriate, such as, “Please hire another rep by next month and keep me informed of your progress and any assistance you may need.”
Now let’s put Janet in a different situation. You are taking her on a tour of your new facility that will open soon. She has never been there but you have on numerous occasions. All of a sudden, the lights go out. It is pitch black and the building is quickly filling with smoke. It is your responsibility to lead her to safety. Should you use a similar delegating style and simply say, “You know what to do, good luck?” Should you be collaborative and discuss your opinions about why the building is on fire and what she thinks the best route out should be? No. Here you should be very directive and say something like,”Do exactly what I say. Get on your hands and knees and crawl ten paces forward. Make a right turn and go another five paces. Push open the door and roll into the street and you will be fine.”
The point is that different situations require different leadership styles, even for the same person or persons you are leading. The best leaders are Versatile Leaders. These are leaders who can apply various styles based on the situation and what is needed by those they are leading.
There are two critical skills needed to be an effective Versatile Leader. The first is the ability to identify what leadership style is best for the person(s) you are leading in that specific situation. The second is to effectively apply that leadership style, or combination of styles.
So next time you are asked to name the best leadership style, particularly if it is an interview question, you will know that it is a Versatile Leadership style…One that uses the style or styles best suited for a particular person or persons in a particular situation.