Before we look at the next two leadership styles I just what to do a quick recap.
Leadership is a combination of management strategy, people skills and an almost religious commitment to a simple idea of what you want your company/department or team to become. Leadership is not about seniority or rank or entitlement. True leadership does not care about any of those things.
In the context of a business, leaders are required to create effective engagement with employees. Teams need effective leaders. The leader knows the destination and communicates it to the team, helps everyone understand where they’re going and gives everyone the tools to get there. To do all of this the leader uses a leadership style and the skill is to understand the team and use the leadership style that will motivate the team to deliver.
Laissez-faire leadership - More commonly used to describe economic environments, laissez-faire literally means “let them do” in French. This is typically translated to “let it be”. Laissez-faire leadership gives authority to employees, departments or subordinates as they are allowed to work as they choose with minimal or no interference.
This can be effective in creative jobs or workplaces where employees are very experienced. However, it is important that leaders monitor performance and effectively communicate expectations to prevent work standards slipping.
Although laissez-faire leadership can empower employees by trusting them to work however they’d like, it can limit their development and overlook critical company growth opportunities. Therefore, it’s important that this leadership style is kept in check.
According to research, this kind of leadership has been consistently found to be the least satisfying and least effective management style.
Retail buyers and merchandisers are great examples of those who often work well under laissez faire leadership. Within fast-moving markets, promotional and purchasing decisions will be based upon fluctuating factors, such as price increases, supply chain bottlenecks, consumer trends and severe weather patterns. Product managers working under laissez faire leaders are provided with the autonomy to decisions quickly without waiting for some time for approval.
However, this does not mean these leaders can be blasé or reckless, but must reward their people for any success and hold them accountable for any mistake.
Democratic leadership - Also known as participative leadership, this style – as the name suggests – means leaders often ask for input from team members before making a final decision. Unlike autocratic leadership, this headship is centred on subordinates’ contributions. The democratic leader holds final responsibility, but he or she is known to delegate authority to other people, who determine work projects.
The most unique feature of this leadership is that communication is active upward and downward. With respect to statistics, democratic leadership is one of the most preferred leadership, and it entails the following: fairness, competence, creativity, courage, intelligence and honesty.
Workers usually report higher levels of job satisfaction in these environments and the company can benefit from better creativity. On the downside, the democratic process is normally slower and may not function well in workplaces where quick decision-making is crucial. It does not work where less skilled workers are used or in factories.
Being a democratic leader does not mean you do not install discipline and do not push hard to achieve deadlines. These leaders also recognise that they cannot be the master of everything and staff often understand their departments better and can have better solutions for problems.
John Quincy Adams said- “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”
The writer is a Kigali Based business consultant and strategist.
This article is the seventh of a series on leadership by the author and will run exclusively on Business Times for the coming weeks