Collaborative working environments have become the norm in the 21st century. Google, Facebook and other Fortune 100 corporations have embraced the open concept office, the team approach to creative problem solving and other working models based on the concept of group collaboration. According to Forbes’ 2014 list of the top 25 places to work worldwide, at least 14 of the 25 use a collaborative working environment.
Whether you are consciously aware of it or not, you have worked in groups all your life. From being partnered with your best friend during a second-grade field trip to the zoo to working out the school carpool schedule for your son and his friends each September, you have navigated the give-and-take needed for an effective group dynamic.
But what if it is time to take the lead in your group and guide the decision-making process? What kind of leader are you?
Here are examples of the five most prevalent leadership styles. Which one are you, and which one do you want to be?
The laissez-faire leader, or “You guys have this, right?”
This leader takes a very “hands off” approach to group projects. Instead, she is more inclined to hand-pick group members for their expertise and exceptional skills, and then sit back and trust her group members to use their talents to solve the problem. While this approach may work for group members who have significant expertise and require little supervision, it actually hinders those who need supervision and regular feedback to perform the task the group has been given.
Examples of Laissez-Faire Leaders: U.S. President Herbert Hoover, England’s Queen Victoria, U.S. entrepreneur Warren Buffett
The autocratic leader, or “It is my way or the highway.”
This leader is the polar opposite of the laissez-faire leader. Instead of trusting the members of the group to work together and make their own choices, the autocratic leader sees himself as being completely in charge, and the group should follow his instructions with no questions asked.
This leader may be effective with group members who need close supervision or when a quick decision needs to be made, but they are never popular with members who would like their voices and ideas heard in the decision-making process.
Examples of Autocratic Leaders: U.S. entrepreneur and celebrity Martha Stewart, German leader Adolph Hitler, French general and leader Napoleon Bonaparte
The participative leader, or “I have heard your thoughts. Here is what we will do.”
Sometimes referred to as the democratic leadership style, while this leader asks for and values the input of team members, she knows the responsibility of making the final decision rests with her. Participative leadership boosts team morale because members feel as if their opinions matter, and they know where the accountability lies.
The downside of the participative leader is the possibility of burnout and fatigue. If you have ever seen a photo of President Obama when he first took office in 2009 and compared it to a photo from 2016, you can literally see the toll his participative leadership has taken with every grey hair and line in his face.
Examples of Participative Leaders: U.S. president Barack Obama, U.S. entrepreneur Steve Jobs, U.S. President Jimmy Carter
The transactional leader, or “Performance is everything.”
Transactional leaders delegate certain tasks to team members to perform, tells them how to perform them, and rewards or punishments are provided based on their performance results. After setting predetermined goals together, team members agree to follow the leader’s direction to achieve them.
When team members fail to meet goals, their leader must review their actual results and plan for retraining or correcting mistakes. Employees receive bonuses or other types of rewards when goals are met. Transactional leadership only works if both the team members and the leader fully commit to their parts of the bargain and have “skin in the game.”
Examples of Transactional Leaders: U.S. president Dwight D. Eisenhower, U.S. entrepreneur Bill Gates, Green Bay Packers coach Vince Lombardi
The transformational leader, or “Let us think about the bigger picture.”
If the transactional leader is about “telling,” the transformational leader depends on “selling.” These leaders motivate employees and enhance productivity and efficiency through communication and high visibility. They focus on the goal’s “big picture” within an organization and delegate smaller tasks to the team that contributes to the goal. Proactive and focused on prioritizing the group’s progress, this style of leadership requires the involvement of higher management to meet goals.
Examples of Transformational Leaders: Saint Joan of Arc, U.S. entrepreneur Walt Disney, England’s Queen Elizabeth II [