THERE are several different leadership styles to choose from. Whatever the model, it is never an easy process to implement or practise a particular style of leadership and get the intended results.
Leadership is both an art and a science. The one key element that all leaders should possess is the ability to communicate their vision and values to the people they are leading and to get their buy-in.
If you want your staff's buy in, you need to review your leadership style. Find out if it is an autocratic leadership style or a consultative one.
This style is based on a top-down approach. The leader is in a position of absolute power and he can implement whatever methods he wants to get things done.
Usually, in an autocratic leadership environment, there will not be much discussion about issues as people find that their voices do not carry weight in the problem-solving and decision-making aspects of their organisation.
An autocratic leader will be the driver of his people and without his leadership the organisation will not be able to function.
Autocratic leaders may appear to delegate power but at the same time retain a stranglehold on all those under them.
They also coach their people to do things the way they want them and adopt a "my way or the highway" working environment. An autocratic leader often inspires fear in his followers.
While these qualities seem negative, autocratic leadership is not necessarily always a bad style. In fact, there are some circumstances where autocratic leadership should be the preferred style.
One instance is when the organisation is new and the staff members are inexperienced. They look to their leaders to guide them in their work.
Another example where autocratic leadership might be needed is when an organisation's people are disengaged and have no clear direction, and there is internal politicking that is disruptive and divisive.
In these circumstances, a powerful leader may be able to re-align the organisation in the right direction and whip people into shape by insisting that his directives are followed.
The downside is that an extended period of autocratic leadership can strain the relationship between the leader and his people who may become resentful at having to tow the line.
Further, when the leader becomes too autocratic, he may forget that he is dealing with humans and not machines. This can create a sense of dissonance in the work environment that will not be beneficial to the leader, the people and the organisation in the long run.
Take the cue from US President Dwight D. Eisenhower who said: "You do not lead by hitting people over the head - that's assault, not leadership."
This style is probably the ideal one to cultivate in the long run. Management guru Kenneth Blanchard said: "The key to successful leadership today is influence, not authority."
The very essence of consultative leadership is that the leader will have to develop the ability to influence people rather than impose his authority on them.
In consultative leadership, the leader involves his subordinates in the decision-making and problem-solving processes. This kind of leadership style portrays the leader as the servant of the people he is leading.
The people have the power to consult the leader and are able to make suggestions that they know will be taken seriously by the leader.
The consultative leadership style endorses empowerment rather than delegation. When a leader empowers, he is giving the person concerned the authority to do what is necessary. He may draw certain parameters for the person to work within and may require that he is kept informed of developments, but he will not micro-manage.
The consultative leader still needs to have a strong vision and a set of values that he must communicate to his people. But unlike the autocratic leader, he will administer a people-oriented management rather than a task-oriented one.
The consultative leader's role will continuously involve the development of his people. He achieves this by being aware of the needs and wants of his people.
The only way he can get this information is by having constant dialogues with his staff to clarify their goals and aspirations. When they are engaged this way, they will be more prepared to buy into their leader's vision and values.
A consultative leadership style lets a leader discover the strengths and weaknesses of the individuals under his authority. He is then in a position to bring out the best in them by working on their strengths and minimising their weaknesses.
US senator for North Carolina Elizabeth Dole once said: "What you always do before you make a decision is consult. The best public policy is made when you are listening to people who are going to be impacted. Then, once policy is determined, you call on them to help you sell it."