Amy beamed with joy as she walked out of her boss’s cabin. When a passing by colleague asked “what’s up with you?” she replied with a confident smile “I’ve been promoted”. The word spread fast and Amy was greeted with “Congratulations!” by her colleagues and team mates. Amy felt proud, she deserved this promotion. She had worked hard and late for weeks together delivering high quality work amidst tight deadlines. Multi-tasking amongst various projects, she had managed to win the confidence of each of her clients. And now, she was assigned a team of four under her to increase the output multi-fold. The senior management had shown a lot of faith in her potential and had high expectations of her. And all of it, felt good.
In two months of stepping into her new role, Amy realized that things were not going exactly as she had expected. The new “just-out-of-college” team member of hers seemed to take forever to understand the business. Amy spent hours with him trying to teach him how things had to be done, only to realize that he understood very little of it, and remembered ever lesser. The other senior team member of her team on the other hand was much faster and smarter at his work, to Amy’s relief. But he would “just-not-listen” to anything Amy had to say. He wanted to do things his way and did not need a manager to manage him. His behaviour displayed that he simply refused to accept Amy’s authority. The third teammate, who Amy personally liked had just returned from her maternity leave. So while she had the desire and the competency to work, she was always distracted and needed frequent breaks to attend to her child. Amy thanked her stars for her fourth teammate who was though not very quick with his work but had the time, willingness and competency to work with her. Yet, work had begun piling up and clients had started becoming impatient. Amy felt she was losing control of her team’s and her own performance. She knew she had to find some way of bringing order and motivation in her team.
Amy is not alone. There are many young enthusiastic individual performers who stumble when handed responsibilities of leading a team. Understanding some basic leadership styles can help them get a hold and the rest comes through learning by trial and error. Some of the basic leadership styles are – Authoritative, Democratic, Supportive and Laissez-faire. A fifth leadership style is Adaptive, which is a mix of two or more of aforementioned styles. As the name suggests, an Authoritative leader controls the team activities by containing the decision making power with himself. He might take into consideration the needs and aspirations of his teammates, but the final decision making lies with him. While this style helps to get work done quickly, it can lead to frustration and lowered motivation if used over prolonged time period. The Democratic leader on the other hand discusses matters with the team and makes a decision that majority of his team agrees with. This style specifically helps boost the morale of the team but it also slows down the momentum specially when there is much difference of opinion in the team.
In Contrast to the first two styles, a Supportive leader delegates or passes on the decision making power to his sub-ordinate and supports them in making the decision. This style holds tremendous value if a large team needs to be managed. In smaller teams, it helps improve motivation by making an individual feel empowered to make his decisions. This style is also very helpful in coaching an individual while preparing him for team leading responsibilities. Different from all others, a Laissez-Faire leader steps away from a situation and lets things run the way they are. As counter-intuitive as it might sound, this leadership style has its own advantages when one is working with good performers who do their job really well. Interfering with their working might even hamper their productivity. It works best when there is high level of trust with teammates. This style, however, cannot be practiced too frequently with the entire team as it can lead to a laid-back attitude in some members as they might feel that “nobody cares” about their work. An Adaptive leader uses a mix of these styles to be effective and get work done efficiently. For example, if a democratic style is leading to prolonged delays, the leader can switch to authoritative style to speed up the decision making.
If you are facing similar struggles at your workplace, hope this information is of help. And if you have any suggestions for Amy or others like her, share them with us..!