At the very top level there are two styles of leadership. The more authoritative approach, the command-and-control style of leadership; and then on the other end of the scale is the facilitative approach. Let’s break these down.
The authoritative approach to leadership, on it’s own, is dying out somewhat, especially amongst progressive business., Think of the traditional idea of leadership; it basically relies on a ‘them’ and ‘us’ approach to business models where the leaders or senior management dictate the rules and procedures and staff follow them. There is not a lot of focus on seeking out ideas and creativity of the workers, they are there to simply perform their jobs.
The more progressive style of leadership takes a more facilitative approach, valuing the ideas and emerging data that can come from the collective business, with ideas and creativity encouraged at all levels of the organisation. This style of leadership has a focus on listening and extracting the thoughts, skills and ideas of the people.
Balance is key
The truth is, businesses today need to embrace a little bit of both types of leadership styles. There are certainly times where they need to be authoritative, to show a clear direction and communicate specific outcomes. But a leader who is too authoritative will not create effective and productive workplaces. These people become stifled and there is a big discount between the leaders and the workers. They become out of touch and technology and workplace expectations are changing too rapidly for that kind of leadership style on it’s own, to be sustainable.
On the other hand, any leader who never gives a strong directive, who only listens and facilitates, who shares but never holds any real power, will also fail to be effective. People lose sight of the big picture, become disoriented and lack direction.
A good leader has a balance of both authority and facilitation. They are deeply connected to ideas and work of their team and create collaborative work cultures but step in to show direction when needed.
The right style of leadership in difficult meetings
A great example is how a leader might lead their team through a brainstorm meeting where may ideas and conflicting interest come into play.
Very often in meetings where there are a number of stakeholders in the same room, there’s
a sharing of opinions that can result in a certain degree of heated tension. Leading people through such meetings can be a challenge. A good leader needs to recognise that tension is natural and it is OK for there to be discomfort in the meeting.
These break-through conversations need this level of tension and a good leader should navigate everyone through this discomfort without “collapsing the space”. Because by diffusing tension, you are very often extinguishing the opportunity to really get to the good bit. In any tension, there will naturally come a point whereby a commitment to move forward is reached. In order to get to this stage though, you have to have collectively allowed everyone to be hard, and moved through the uncomfortable tension, the “we cant’s”, the “we shouldn’ts”.
A good leader “holds the space” to navigate through tension. Leaders in this situation need to keep the group focussed on an issue at hand and be comfortable with the tension that will naturally occur. This requires a degree of authoritative leadership (to keep everyone on track and keep the outcome top of mind) and facilitative (to listen to everyone and gently guide everyone back on track without stifling the conversation and the tension).
Generally, a leader in this particular situation has taken a facilitative approach. They recognise the meeting is designed to gauge the collective input of the team and to collaborate and move forward and this style of leadership suits the situation perfectly.
Now think of a crisis situation. A good leader needs to step up and take control of the situation; to cut through any overwhelm people might be feeling. They need to be effective in telling people exactly how they are going to move through the crisis to get to the other side. People need clear direction to move forward and without an authoritative leader they lose focus and direction and the business becomes disconnected and fragmented.
Good leadership today needs to embrace the traditional, old school ‘command and control’ principles but also listen to their people and be more facilitative. How do you find the right balance in your leadership approach?
Could your leadership team benefit from one of my tailored workshops in 2023?
Please get in touch today . I’d love to help!