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Karen Dwyer: How Your Leadership Style Can Fit Any Team

Understanding your strengths and weaknesses can determine what's working and what needs to change

Employees often have similar objectives: career growth, fulfillment, getting the job done. But achieving optimal results in a way that’s agreeable to everyone can be a major challenge. Goals may align, but their successful completion is partially determined by the day-to-day interactions that form individual leadership styles.

Karen Dwyer
Karen Dwyer

What Makes a Leader?

You’ve heard the saying that leaders are born, not made, but that’s only partially true. Integrity and intuition may be inherent, but people skills are sharpened through experience.

Establishing trust, resolving conflict and being an effective listener are just a few of the many traits that can be developed through time and team-building. While some people’s skill sets are simply better suited for dealing with certain challenges, being able to handle diverse situations and personalities is part of most job descriptions.

Identifying your leadership style and understanding its strengths and weaknesses can help you decide what’s working and what needs improvement.

What’s Your Leadership Style?

The Society for Human Resource Management identifies three common styles: authoritarian, democratic and delegative. Beyond employee productivity, these varied approaches affect workplace ambiance and morale.

Authoritarian

Strengths: Organization is the main skill of authoritarian leaders. Their priorities are clear, and employees are fully informed of expectations. These leaders work best with passive co-workers.

Weaknesses: Authoritarian leaders can be seen as micromanagers instead of team players. Neglecting to seek feedback and collaborate in a personable way can isolate peers and conflict tends to arise with differing opinions.

Democratic

Strengths: Communication and creativity are strengths of these leaders. Democratic leaders want to hear others’ perspectives and welcome a variety of solutions. A sense of priority allows them to focus on the details without losing sight of the main objective.

Weaknesses: Decision-making is sometimes problematic for democratic leaders. Too many viewpoints, heightened by a desire to please all parties, can complicate the process. Impartiality also may waiver as the employee becomes more emotionally connected to individual co-workers.

Delegative

Strengths: Delegative leaders instill confidence by allowing others to manage their respective tasks with minimal input. Their leniency allows for creativity, and they work best with those who are highly motivated.

Weaknesses: Priorities sometimes seem unclear to others, as delegative leaders are often more focused on the big picture than the details of how to accomplish it. The tendency to shirk from responsibility sometimes gives co-workers the impression that they are “on their own.” Delegative leaders can seem disengaged, which contributes to a sense of chaos.

Back to Basics

Managing employees is a process unique to every organization and its corporate culture, but here are some guidelines to keep in mind:

» Be flexible: Capitalize on your strengths, but be aware of others’ needs. Although you should strive to be consistent, tailor your approach in response to each employee and his or her personality.

» Focus on the person, not the issue: Respect is the foundation of every great relationship. No matter what your management style, basic civility is always imperative. Remember that every employee is a human who deserves your respect; you are working with someone’s wife, father, daughter or friend.

» Find out what motivates your co-workers: Show genuine interest. Find out what they’re seeking in their position and do what you can to facilitate their goals, whether you’re a supervisor or a peer.

Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your leadership style will help your team achieve optimal results. True leaders recognize that communication is a two-way street. Seek dialogue with the people around you to find out what’s working and what you can improve. Ask for pointers from a mentor, and accept that all change takes time. Work on issues gradually to become the leader your team trusts.

— Karen Dwyer is owner of Express Employment Professionals, 1025 Chapala St., Suite 206 in Santa Barbara. Click here to contact her or call 805.965.6900.

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