Leadership styles – OPEN

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Topic 10.1: Leadership styles

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Just as there is no single, universal method for managing projects, nor is there one perfect leadership style.

In fact, it is not just different projects that require different styles; your style will, can and often should change depending on the individual or group you are engaging with.

Authoritarian leaders provide clear expectations to group members on what should be done, when it should be completed, and how it should be accomplished. 

These leaders make decisions without input from group members. 

Authoritarian leadership is best used in situations when there is little time for group decision-making or when the leader is the one best equipped to solve the problem or give directions.

Overuse of an authoritarian style can be construed as bossy and controlling. 

Worst-case examples of this style can be seen when leaders use bullying techniques such as yelling, abusing power, or demeaning group members.

Participative leaders accept input from one or more group members when making decisions and solving problems, but the leader retains the final say when decisions are made. 

Group members tend to be encouraged and motivated by this style of leadership.

This style of leadership often leads to more effective decisions, since no leader can be an expert in all areas. 

Input from group members with specialised knowledge and expertise creates a more complete basis for decision-making.

Delegative leaders allow group members to make decisions.

This style is best used in situations where the leader needs to rely on qualified employees. 

The leader cannot be an expert in all situations, which is why it is important to delegate certain tasks out to knowledgeable and trustworthy group members.

It is important to note, though, that successful delegation depends on the person you are assigning work to being both capable to complete the task and willing to do the same. 

People who lack the necessary context, skills or enthusiasm will require a more direct management style – see the discussion of this in the previous Unit.

That said, we all naturally tend to a particular leadership style; good leaders use a mix of styles depending upon the situation.

In general, you should use an authoritarian style if a group or team member lacks knowledge about a certain procedure; you should use a participative style with group members who understand the objectives and their role in the task; and you should use a delegative style if group members know more than you do about the task.

Great leaders adapt and change their style according to the project objectives, needs of group members, and situational factors.

Now here’s a different perspective…

An orchestra conductor faces the ultimate project leadership challenge: creating perfect harmony without saying a word.

In this TED talk, Itay Talgam demonstrates the unique styles of six great 20th-century conductors, illustrating crucial lessons for all leaders.


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