A leader is a person who exerts influence on a person or a group of people. A leader influences individuals towards achievement of personal goals or the goals of a group through providing the means to best achieve the goals, guidance, motivation and an enabling environment. Consequently leadership is the process via which a leader exercises his role as a leader. There are different forms of leadership styles as advanced by Kurt Lewin, a psychologist in 1939. According to Kurt the styles of leadership are autocratic or authoritarian, democratic or participative and delegative also known as laissez-faire leadership. (Adeniyi, 2007)
Autocratic leaders make the decisions without consulting the team member’s leaving little or no room for flexibility or consultations. It is most effective where very important decisions need to be made, where there is little time for decision making, and where the people require close supervision. It is efficient as it gets things done quickly. On the downside most people feel like they are being bossed around. Participative leaders give leeway for members of the team to contribute to the decision making process by allowing them to use their creativity and enhances democracy. However the leader maintains the final say in decision making after considering views of others. (Adeniyi, 2007) Laissez faire or delegative leaders leave members to make decisions while still taking responsibility for the decisions made. It is effective in a group of people who are highly skilled or well trained as they can access a situation and decide the best action to take. It can also happen naturally where a leader is unable to maintain control over his members. During Kurt’s research he deduced that children placed under the laissez faire leadership were the least productive, those in participative leadership were less productive but made contributions of higher quality. The most productive of the three were those in the autocratic leadership.
A particular leadership style can influence a person’s career path. Different styles of leaderships are applicable to different groups of people and it is therefore imperative to try and match the two. For example as a teacher the delegative style of leadership would be mismatched as decision making cannot be left to the discretion of the students. A commander of a troop in combat on the other hand would best use autocratic leadership as many things are at stake including the lives of those he is leading. It would therefore be correct to assume that different jobs are better managed by people of different leadership styles as illustrated above.
Theories of leadership are also advanced as follows. The behavioral theory submits that people are not born with leadership skills but that those skills are developed over time. The contingency theory submits that there is no single leadership style that is perfect but that effectiveness of a leadership style is dependent on many variables. The participative theory says that the best leadership style is one that includes the subordinates in decision making while the trait theory suggests that the personal characteristics of a leader are different from those of a non leader. (Schyns & Meindl 2005)
As a manager my personal leadership style would be predominantly democratic where people are actively involved in decision making. However I would employ the other styles when the need arises. For example when an urgent decision needs to be made with no time to discuss I would employ autocratic leadership. This would enable members of staff to be motivated, creative and own their actions.
Psychological tests such as the Briggs Myers and Jung’s help to determine a person’s leadership style. The tests evaluate a person’s preference as regards certain things. The tests infer that a set of combination of certain preferences dictate a persons style of leadership. If for example a person is judgmental, intuitive, or an extrovert then the preferences tend towards a particular style of leadership.
A leader should possess predominantly a specific leadership style but should apply any type of leadership as the need arises because circumstances differ from time to time.
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