Sounds like a rather lazy interview question that we have all been asked at some stage … or worse, that we have asked others!
Why is it such a trite question? Because we ALL use different styles in different contexts …. albeit not always as skillfully or appropriately as we might like, at times.
Very helpfully and clearly Daniel Goleman has identified six leadership styles springing from different aspects of emotional intelligence.
Each style has a different impact on the culture and results of an organisation. The best leaders do not rely on just one or two styles. Just as a golfer is proficient with a selection of clubs, the most effective leaders switch flexibly between the styles as needed by the situation. The best leaders may use all six leadership styles effectively within a single meeting.
The challenge is that some of the styles will be quite foreign to your personality. And it takes courage to step out of your comfort zone.
The best leaders adjust their styles to get the best results. Look at the Board Table below and work out where you most frequently sit.
In a crisis, or to kickstart a turnaround, the coercive style may come into play. In most other situations, or used as a dominant style, it will have negative effects.
When people need a clear vision the authoritative style of ‘come with me’ is very positive.
To heal rifts in a team or to motivate folk under stress the affiliative style creates harmony.
The democratic style builds consensus and encourages participation.
Pacesetting works best with highly motivated and highly competent people. For others the relentless drive can be demoralising.
Asking people to ‘try this’ is the core script of the coaching style and helps build long-term strengths.
Let’s ask some different (and perhaps better interview) questions:
- What is your most natural, dominant leadership style?
- Which style have you really had to work on, but have now got to quite a good level?
- Which of the six styles are you particularly focusing on currently?
It’s good to be clear and intentional when you are thinking about these six styles. So just to create some fun and get the discussion going, if 10 people share their answers, then I’ll share mine!