Some entrepreneurs are natural leaders. They have always been the most outspoken person in the room and the team member with the greatest skill for rallying the troops and keeping things organized.
Other entrepreneurs are visionaries first and foremost. They have great ideas and stellar business strategies . . . but they cannot escape the reality that running a company means guiding a team.
Leadership is an inevitable aspect of entrepreneurship. And whether or not this skill comes naturally to you, you will almost inevitably run into moments when you question your own methods. Maybe you’ve launched your startup and find yourself completely at a loss when you try to get the best out of your employees. Or perhaps you’ve been in business for a while, but you haven’t seen the growth you hoped to see and think it’s time to re-evaluate your methods for inspiring your team.
No matter the reason, it’s always worth it to consider whether a few adjustments to your approach might serve you well. After all, objective self-evaluation is one of the most valuable traits in an authority figure, so you’re off to a good start.
Here are some options to keep in mind when deciding the best leadership style for your organization, your staff, and yourself.
Factors to Consider When Choosing Your Leadership Style
First, it’s important to note that there is no one perfect leadership style. While some have higher success rates than others, each option comes with its own pros and cons. When deciding what your own approach will be, consider factors such as:
- The current needs and objectives of your organization. Are you hurting for structure? Need to see results more quickly? Hoping to innovate? Trying to inspire loyalty and motivation in your staff?
- The experience level of your employees. How much support do they need? Would your team benefit from a little more mentorship or a little more freedom to think for themselves?
- Your relationship with your employees. How much do you trust your team members? What type of relationship do you want to have with your team? Do you want a collaborative relationship or one in which they carry out the tasks they are given?
- What leadership style meshes with your personality? If you find that your company’s needs can only be fulfilled with a leadership style that doesn’t really sound like you, how can you develop the necessary skills and tweak the approach to ensure you can succeed in your role as a boss?
Keep these questions in mind as you consider the following options.
Leadership Styles for Growth and Commitment Among Employees
Many leaders believe in putting significant effort into serving the needs and potential of their staff members. Their approach comes from the philosophy that when you give your best to your employees, you get their best return.
If you hope to see more professional growth within your team and greater drive and loyalty throughout the organization, you might try one of these two approaches.
The coaching leadership style is exactly what it sounds like: You coach staff members through continued professional development. The most successful coaching bosses are excellent at identifying strengths, weaknesses, and potential within their team. They draw attention to their team members’ victories, they find opportunities for employees to use their greatest talents, and they help each person set professional goals. Along the way, the coaching leader offers feedback and guides employees toward resources that will help them excel.
This is one of the most successful approaches to running a business, as it strengthens the team and provides workers with a sense of responsibility for the success of the company. There is of course one major con, and that is that coaching leadership takes time. A lot of time. If you’re in the four-hours-of-sleep-a-night phase of nurturing a new business, this approach may not be realistic for you.
Like the coaching style, servant leadership focuses on taking care of your workers’ needs. But in this method, the emphasis is less on mentoring employees and more on listening to their needs and setting company policies that ensure a nurturing work environment. Servant leaders tend to be warm, generous, and attentive. They cultivate a sense of loyalty and belonging by emphasizing a collaborative work environment and offering their team the best wages and benefits they can reasonably manage.
The servant leadership style helps you get the best out of your employees by making them feel seen and valued. It is also less time consuming than the coaching leadership. The downside? Because the servant leader typically promotes the belief that all team members deserve an equal voice, decision-making takes a little longer.
Leadership Styles for Inspiring a Team
Sometimes your primary goal as a boss is to get your team on board with your vision. You might be in this situation because you’re building a brand new organization or because you’re shifting the company’s direction. Whatever the reason, these methods can help you spark excitement in your staff.
We don’t have to tell you that being a visionary comes with risks. We don’t have to tell your team, either. Any staff involved in a startup or navigating a company change knows that they’re wandering into uncharted territory. The visionary leader’s primary goal is to earn the trust of their team and inspire their workers to believe in and push for the same progress you hope to achieve. This style of management requires you to be positive, personable, and trustworthy. You must know how to sell an idea and foster a spirit of unity as your team tackles this new challenge together.
This leadership style is a blending of coaching and visionary. Transformational leadership focuses on spurring the entire time on toward your chosen mission, but it takes a more concrete form than visionary leadership as it relies on goal-setting and motivating workers toward reaching specific objectives. The difference between coaching and transformational leadership is that transformational is less about mentoring the individual and more about promoting the growth of an entire organization or smaller teams within the company.
The transformational approach can be highly effective only if your staff members are self-driven and skilled at what they do. Transformational leaders look at the big picture, which means they have to be able to count on their workers to take ownership of smaller operations.
Leadership Styles to Spur Creativity and Motivation
If you hope to succeed, you must innovate. And in order to innovate, you need employees who are driven and inspired to do new things. Never underestimate your ability to nurture these qualities. If you want to spark a little more initiative on the part of your staff, try one of these methods:
Under this leadership model, all team members are given a voice and invited to participate in decision-making. For you, this would mean encouraging feedback and actively asking for input and ideas from your employees. The democratic leadership style is often very successful because it inspires the staff to take personal responsibility for the advancement of the company. They are likelier to share new ideas and think creatively when they believe their ideas are genuinely wanted, and they bring the best version of themselves to the job. Not only does this result in quality work, but it also helps you discover talent within your company that you may not have been aware of.
The downside? Well, once again, the more say your team members have in company decisions, the more time it takes to actually make those decisions. But many leaders who practice this style of leadership still have the final word, and employees understand you sometimes have to move forward without their opinions for the good of the company.
Also known as “hands-off leadership,” this approach allows you to focus on your own projects while giving your staff the freedom to do their own work without much supervision from you. If you just felt a wave of panic reading that sentence, this style of management is probably not right for your company.
Yes, laissez-faire can have its benefits. Similar to democratic leadership, this method ignites a sense of personal responsibility and creative initiative among employees. Not to mention, it frees up a lot of your time so you can work on advancing your company in other ways.
But in order for laissez-faire leadership to work, you have to have a very special team. Your employees must already be highly skilled in what they do, you have to trust them fully to maintain focus and productivity without your supervision, and if it’s a larger company, a few of those workers should have leadership skills of their own. Otherwise, you’ll wind up with a lot of fires to put out.
Leadership Styles to Get Things Done Quickly
While there is a lot to be said for productively that comes of motivating employees on a deep level, there are certain situations where you just need the work finished pronto. If that’s you, you might consider these approaches.
In autocratic leadership, you’re in charge. You might have a right-hand man or woman, or maybe a small committee of advisors, but generally speaking, all decisions are made by you with very little input from employees. Because there is only one person making all the calls, things happen quickly. You can change company policies or decide on a new campaign in an instant. And if you’re a startup with a couple workers who are still pretty green, you spare yourself the risk of offering a say to professionals who don’t quite know what they’re doing yet.
The downside of autocratic leadership is that it dampens creativity, your workers don’t feel a strong sense of commitment to the company, and you’re more likely to lose them if they find a more compelling opportunity at another company.
Transactional leadership is also designed to make sure things get done, but in this case the leader motivates staff with incentives. Awards, recognition, bonuses . . . any technique that might drive workers toward meeting a predetermined goal. The “transactional” aspect can also be applied as disciplinary action when staff fails to meet your reasonable expectations.
Once again, this approach makes things happen, but it’s not a great option if you dream of running a company staffed by forward-thinking innovators. If you just want to make sure you’re hitting your sales target every month, this works. If you want your brand to grow into a market leader, you probably want to skip this option.
Leadership Style for Organization and Consistency
You can already guess by the name of this next leadership style that this is the approach most likely to extinguish the go-getter spirit of your bright-eyed employees. Nevertheless, there are highly regulated industries like healthcare and finance that benefit from the structure this method provides, so we’ll include it.
This style is exactly what it sounds like. Bureaucratic leadership is when you manage employees through an extremely specific system of policies and procedures. There is a “correct” way to do everything. There are rules to follow, forms to fill out, and terminology to use. All team members know their ranking and they work according to a clear list of duties specific to their job title.
Not great for employee satisfaction or idea generation, but you may need to apply some bureaucratic leadership if you have to worry about adhering to industry regulations or legal concerns.
Only You Know What’s Right for Your Company
The one thing we can tell you definitively is that your leadership style should be chosen based on careful consideration of who you are, what your employees need, and what your company requires in order to reach current objectives. You may even find yourself creating your own blend of the options above.
Whatever you do, remember to maintain that self-examining trait that brought you to this article in the first place. Odds are, your leadership style will need to evolve along with your business, and the more adaptable you are, the better your chance of succeeding.
You can also discover more entrepreneurial insights from some of the guests by listening to our podcast, “The Leading Mindset.”