Eyes On: Leadership Styles- Part One
Today we’re going to kick off a new series of content that takes an in-depth look at some of the most popular styles of management out there, as well as a list of some of the pros and cons that come with them. It’s very rare that one single style of leadership will successfully empower all of your staff without some form of detriment - to yourself, a small number of staff, the executive team, whomever- and that’s why it’s important to take part in an exercise like this. We have to first realise that an organisation is made up of a lot of moving parts, and what works for some may not work for others.
I’m in a fortunate position where I’ve been able to witness this take place first-hand in my own organisation, Best Practice, as well as examine how this transpires in the context of other organisations across a multitude of industries. While the ingredients might be slightly different depending on your size, operations and whether or not you’re a B-2-B organisation or not, there’s some common threads, observations and lessons to take away from analysing how different management styles can both inspire and isolate certain types of people in organisations, so let’s have a look.
First up, today we’re going to be discussing one of the more common means of leadership is the strategic management style. Don’t let the name fool you- on the face of it, the name might appear to be a synonym for all types of management. However, strategic management is known as a style that is embodied by leaders that continue to focus on the long term, big picture and vision for the organisation. According to Laura Handrick, “they not only communicate that vision, but actively seek feedback on the steps necessary to get there. They involve managers, staff, and customers into their planning process and gain buy-in from them.”
In terms of proximity, strategic managers are often ‘hands-off’ in terms of their interactions with staff, so long as they’ve successfully tried to impart the organisation’s vision and the subsequent goals to help it achieve these. One of the clearest benefits of this leadership style is that employees are able to buy-in to an organisation’s goals and vision, and there is often an implicit boost in motivation and productivity levels when the employee realises what their efforts are contributing to. One of the downsides to this leadership style, however, is that for some people that require more micro details of how to operate, strategic management can often fail to hone-in on specific details that would help them achieve their daily tasks.
Elizabeth Minei, assistant professor at Baruch college and consultant with Eminei Consulting says that “strategic leadership is the most successful style for small business owners due to the high number of confusing situations in a growing organization where the meaning of certain events needs to be communicated to employees.” Minei continues to explain that “strategic leaders can assess a complicated situation and then communicate an interpretation that assists employees with making sense of the confusion without alienating them.”
Handrick’s piece also quotes Donnie Shelton, the owner of a pest control business in the States. Shelton said that “as the owner of a small business, it’s easy to get stuck in day-to-day operations. I put a lot of trust in the people I’ve hired to manage each team, and give them the authority to make their own decisions to lead their teams. This leadership style is ideal where there's a great deal of trust and when you've had the chance to hire great people. I've been fortunate to work in that kind of environment, but f I didn't trust my team or they didn't trust me, that would be a major roadblock."
In reality, Shelton raises a number of important points of consideration. Many leaders fail when it comes to strategic management because they lose objectivity and their vision, bogged down by certain aspects of day-to-day business as usual and can often become driven by emotionally-charged decision making. It’s a phenomenon that I’ve found best characterised by Doug Tatum’s book “No Man’s Land” where he unpacks the benefits and detriment of founder-CEO-types that often hold the organisation as their baby. This can be one of the most effective styles in terms of implementing a leader’s vision for the organisation and best serving its customers, as originally imagined, however it can also work against the organisation’s best interests if the leader is distracted by menial tasks and loses a clear, objective vision. It’s plain to be seen that strategic vision, when put into practice properly is a massive force for positive change in an organisation, but it needs to be carefully monitored to see if that leader’s implementations and the vision for the organisation are working in sync.
As I mentioned the beginning of this piece, this is going to be the first in a series of articles coming that analyse the ups and downs of certain leadership styles. There’s a lot to unpack, and in the coming series we’ll be talking about the servant management style, transformational management style - which I’ve covered previously - as well as leading by example, collaborative management, authentic, authoritative, autonomous, effort-based and good parent management styles.
I’ll see you in the next piece.