A leadership style is a method by a person or organization to provide direction, implement plans, and motivate other people. Leadership is commonly defined as the process of motivating a group of people to act towards the accomplishment of a common task. As there are several ways of motivating people, there are also several styles of leadership according to experts.
Leadership and leadership styles
Leadership is a significant trait for project managers to have. It spells the difference between average and superior performance of a project team. Great project leaders can effectively influence others with minimal use of authority. They can also transition from one leadership style to another, depending on a need or circumstance.
Over the years, experts have identified different leadership styles. Some experts identify three major styles that produced variations, while others identify six different styles.
Three major leadership styles with variations
- Directions go from top to bottom
- Roles and tasks are defined without question
- Ideal for organizations with new, unskilled, or unmotivated workers
- Effective on short-term projects or during crisis.
- VARIATIONS: authoritative, persuasive, paternalistic
- Promotes sharing of responsibility
- Everyone is involved in decision-making although the manager makes the final call after listening to suggestions
- Team members given responsibility tend to become more enthusiastic and get more involved
- Timeline to decide expands due to consultation
- Has the potential to get nothing done.
- VARIATIONS: consultative, participative, collaborative
- Gives little to no guidance to the team
- Allows them to make their own decisions
- Ideal for flat or decentralized organizations, suited for teams composed of highly qualified members or highly trusted by the manager
- Opportunity for increased innovation
- Risks of lack of focus and poor productivity and coordination
Six specific leadership styles
- Coercive or Directive – Immediate compliance, “Do what I tell you.”
- Authoritative or Visionary – Provide long-term direction and vision, “Follow me.”
- Affiliative – Create harmony by connecting people to each other, “People come first.”
- Democratic – Build commitment and generate new ideas, “What do you think?”
- Pace-setting – Accomplish tasks to a high standard of excellence, “Do as I do, now.”
- Coaching – Long-term professional development of others, “Try this.”
Books for different leadership styles
1. The Power of Project Leadership
Author Susanne Madsen is a veteran project manager and internationally recognized project leadership coach. The second edition paperback has 330+ pages divided into four chapters. Chapter 3 details the seven keys to project leadership, discussing topics that include the importance of being authentic, leading with vision, and improving and innovating, among others. Readers describe it as a great, inspiring, and actionable book on leadership.
2. Leaders Eat Last
Author Simon Sinek is a best-selling author who wrote about great leaders and high-performing organizations. This 2017 book is divided into 8 parts and 27 chapters. It discusses why it is important not only for good leaders to have professional competence, but to truly care for those who are entrusted to their care. The book details the different elements and challenges that leaders face and how certain practices in organizations enable them to succeed in good and bad times. Customers describe it as interesting, informative, and easy to read.
3. The Leadership Playbook
Author Nathan Jamail is an author, executive coach, and motivational speaker. This 2014 book discusses the differences between managing and coaching. It is divided in 3 parts and 12 chapters. It covers topics like the principles of coaching, how to be an effective coach in an organization, and ways to create a coaching culture. Readers praise the book for its great examples, action items, and being an easy read.
4. Dare to Lead
Author Brené Brown, PhD, is a research professor at the University of Houston and University of Texas at Austin. This 2018 book focuses on how organizations of all sizes, from small startups and family-based businesses to Fortune companies are trying to find the answer to cultivate daring and courageous leaders. The book is divided into four parts, but the content is from Dr. Brown’s over two decades of research into hundreds of organizations to give practical advice how to be a daring leader. Customers describe the book as amazing, honest, inspiring, and provocative.
5. Turn the Ship Around!
Author Captain David Marquet (Ret.) is a former commanding officer of the submarine USS Santa Fe, an international keynote speaker, and Wall Street Journal best selling author. The book is divided into 4 parts and 29 chapters. It tells the story of Captain Marquet while he served as the commanding officer of the Santa Fe. He transformed a team of sailors with poor morale with poor performance into a fully engaged, high-performing, award-winning group of leaders. Readers describe it as an easy and excellent read about empowering the workforce and specific mechanisms about how leaders should create other leaders.
Resources for different leadership styles
The following are helpful sites and links to learn more about the different leadership styles:
Questia is an online library that includes thousands of academic books and millions of journal, magazine, and newspaper articles.
SHRM is a membership-based community that offers professional HR assistance, tools, educational offerings, and networking.
IMD is a provider of management and leadership courses.