We are currently doing home renovations, and (with the false confidence of watching YouTube tutorial videos) decided to take on installing a new front door. The next morning my father-in-law and I gathered our tools and embarked on our DIY journey. We quickly learned the value of different types of saws (cutting wood versus existing screws) and tools for leveling and inserting the door. What was intended to be a four-hour project evolved into an all-day adventure. Just like navigating the complexities of a DIY project requires the right tools, effective leaders are able to tap into different leadership styles based on the needs of others. Today, leaders are expected to manage their teams to produce successful results while building camaraderie amongst remote teams and bridging cultural differences. Leadership requires a flexible and adaptive approach that is grounded in values.
After all, leaders are meant to serve their employees by equipping them with the tools and suitable environment to achieve success.
Leaders should be in tune with their employees and organizational climate to choose the right approach under the right circumstance. This allows leaders to know how to adjust their leadership style when appropriate. The following highlights four commonly used leadership styles and when they might be applicable to public sector work.
- Authoritative Leadership
The leader provides guidance and direction with little feedback from the employee.
This style has a negative connotation that is often associated with inhibiting creativity and employee autonomy; however, I would argue this leadership style is one of the most important. Instead of the authoritative aspect of monitoring and limiting creativity, leaders must be authoritative on the organization’s shared values and mission. While everyone should act morally and ethically, leaders must lead from the front to establish a healthy culture and climate. Think: How am I valuing everyone’s voice in the room? Who is in the room sharing their opinion? How am I leading the organization in line with our shared values? Do I need to readjust our values and get input from the organization to reflect a diversity of perspectives?
- Affiliative (and Inclusive) Leadership
The leader works to develop a tight-knit environment that values the unique perspective of each employee.
Affiliative leaders do this by knowing their supervisors one level up, their employees one level down, and their peers across their organizations. How do you build relationships with your boss? Peers? Employees? The benefit of establishing relationships is two-fold. First, it shows respect for that person’s humanity and interest in their life. Secondly, it allows for honest communication amongst people because they know each other and feel comfortable stating their opinion without risk of reprisal.
Another critical aspect of affiliative leadership is its inclusive nature. As organizations implement diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) initiatives, leaders need to foster welcoming environments for all employees. Think through how you are listening to your employee’s thoughts or concerns? Which employees are you listening to or not listening to? Inclusive leadership goes beyond online mandatory training or one-day seminars designed to “check the box.”
- Democratic Leadership
The leader acknowledges the value of diversity of thought and trust, specifically in decision-making.
Industry research shows that younger generations want to know the “why” behind an operation before acting on it. P.S. This should not scare leaders or make them ponder the “good ole days” when people just acted without questioning authority – it shows that people care about their work!
Democratic leadership is a great style that acknowledges the value of the diversity of thought and trust in their own leadership development processes. Incorporating your employee’s feedback into the decision-making process creates buy-in and a sense of belonging in the workplace. Additionally, it is becoming more valuable to foster collaboration as more organizations are remote-based.
The leader creates an environment where their employees’ personal and professional development is an organizational priority.
A recent study from Gallup found that 29% of employees strongly agree that performance reviews are fair, and 26% strongly agree they are accurate. So, how do leaders inform this process? What is your organization’s perspective on the performance evaluation process? Is it solely focused on meeting the organization’s KPIs, or is that employee professionally developed and groomed for future leadership opportunities? Coaching employees creates a psychological safety climate by shifting the narrative from evaluation to development. Failure is not seen as a death knell marking the end of someone’s career, but it becomes an opportunity to learn and grow. Take Oprah Winfrey, for example; she was fired from her first job as a T.V. anchor but rebounded to become a T.V. icon and one of the most successful self-made billionaires.What do I do now?
Leadership involves tailoring your style to serve your employees and equip them with what they need to succeed. There is also a degree of self-awareness required to understand areas where you may not be as strong of a leader. Therefore, it is essential to continually build the skills necessary to lead your team in the most appropriate way. Fountainworks’ Professional Leadership Network has a comprehensive menu of course offerings that help public sector leaders learn skills to overcome common workplace challenges and foster healthy workplace climates.
There is a season for each leadership style. Knowing your employees and organizational climate will help paint a clearer picture of which leadership style to use in which situations.