THE MANY FORMS OF LEADERSHIP AND HOW TO FIGURE OUT YOUR OWN
Leadership is the ability to guide and motivate others to act toward the realization of a goal, and it has been extensively researched in the fields of sport and business performance. Many theories and concepts have emerged in the leadership literature, including popular topics like the nature versus nurture debate, personality traits of leaders, leadership emergence, and leadership styles. Ultimately, the body of research about leadership has revealed how complex of a topic it is, and that there is no secret recipe for predicting, selecting, or cultivating great leaders.
Through the years of research some important terms have been developed to classify, define, and describe leadership tendencies. A few of them are summarized here:
Autocratic Leadership – leader holds absolute decision-making power without participation of group members; allows for quick decisions and efficiency; group members lack autonomy
Democratic Leadership – leader shares the responsibility and considers members' interests when making decisions; allows for member autonomy and discussion to find the best solution to suit the group; values participation and inclusion over efficiency
Task-Oriented Leadership – focuses on meeting objectives, goals, and standards in order to reach target outcomes; mostly concerned with technical aspects of production and performance, emphasizes skill development, requires a skillful/expert leader
Relationship-Oriented Leadership – focuses on relationships of group members with special attention to their satisfaction and well-being; considers aspects such as communication and interactions within the group; concerned more with group processes and their efficiency rather than production output
Assigned Leadership – leaders who are elected or appointed into the role, often by some predetermined process and formal criteria
Emergent Leadership – leadership qualities become clear over time as a result of group interaction, often through informal criteria and intuition of group members
Transactional Leadership – style which is characterized by an exchange of services, whereby the leader focuses on organization and supervision to give members direction; performance is compensated with rewards and/or punishments; consistent systems in place, effective for short term production, and allows members and roles to be easily replaceable
Transformational Leadership – style in which leader works closely with group members to identify needs and guide change; approach changes and adapts to members; encourages members to take ownership, and enhances their quality of motivation; effective for development of individuals, yet more sensitive to changes in personnel or roles
Each of the terms above is paired with an opposing leadership style. While a leader may have tendencies toward a particular style, their true leadership identity could be more accurately depicted in a continuum where leadership styles differ based on many factors. For example, a sports coach may be more democratic with regard to decisions made on the training ground, whereas competition day he/she takes a more autocratic approach. These decisions are often made due to situational and contextual constraints, such as time. Process losses from a democratic decision-making process in competition may be costly for performance and outcome, and benefit the training environment by promoting inclusiveness and enhancing motivation. Effective leaders are able to adapt their strategies depending on the leader individual characteristics, group characteristics, and leadership environment.
Leadership styles can have a profound effect on the functioning and performance of the group, as well as satisfaction and enjoyment of the members. Leaders should engage in self-reflection to gauge which of their behaviors may be useful or not for performance and getting the best effort from their followers. Two practical activities for leaders to increase self-awareness are journaling and video review. Taking the time to reflect, evaluate, and review one's own leadership performance is movement in the direction of self-mastery.
a. Journaling – Set aside time to reflect. it requires deep contemplation to formulate words. Focus specifically on aspects of self-mastery that you can improve, as your own management of thoughts, emotions, and behaviors will reflect in your followers
b. Video Review – Record and watch video of your performance as a leader and look out specifically for things like body language and tone which are not always apparent during performance. Are these things aligned with the message you want to convey to the group?