Are You Using the Right Leadership Style?

Paul B. Thornton I believe there are three basic leadership styles. DirectingDiscussingDelegating You use these styles when assigning tasks, coaching, providing feedback, leading meetings, and conducting performance appraisals. You may have a preferred style but it’s important you know when and how to use each style. Using the right style provides people with what they […]

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Paul B. Thornton

I believe there are three basic leadership styles.

  • Directing
  • Discussing
  • Delegating

You use these styles when assigning tasks, coaching, providing feedback, leading meetings, and conducting performance appraisals.

You may have a preferred style but it’s important you know when and how to use each style. Using the right style provides people with what they need to get the job done, and they learn new skills in the process. 

Directing Style

You tell the individual or group what changes are needed and why they’re necessary. Specifically, you tell people or show people what to do, how to do it, and when to have it done by. 

Communication is predominantly one-way, from leader to employee. The only feedback you look for is, “Do you understand the directions?”  

It’s important to provide the right amount of information. Don’t overwhelm people with data dumps. When you provide too much direction, people get overwhelmed and confused. Not good! 

On the other hand, don’t under-communicate and leave out important details. When that happens, people aren’t sure what to do. If the directions are complex, put them in writing.      

The directing style is appropriate when people lack experience and don’t know what to do. They need and want direction!

When you use a directing style, people learn to listen, follow directions, and ask for more information when needed.

Discussing Style

You ask questions that involve people in discussing the problem or opportunity. How do you define the problem? What options do you see? What are the costs and benefits of that alternative?      

You act more like a facilitator helping people clarify their ideas and work through a logical process to establish goals and make decisions.   

Certainly, the amount of discussion required on a topic is influenced by several factors including priority, complexity, people involved, and time constraints.

But, don’t over-discuss it. We’ve all been in those meetings when the discussion goes on far too long. Not good!      

On the other hand, don’t cut off the discussion off too quickly. This results in people not feeling heard, which may impact their commitment to the goals and plan.

The discussing style is appropriate when a people have some ideas and are motivated to contribute.

When you use the discussing style, people learn to present their ideas, build on the ideas of others, collaborate, and work in a team setting.      

Delegating Style

You empower people. I am giving you full control and authority on the ABC project. And, you affirm people. I know you will do a great job on this project!

You want people to use their own approaches and methods to get the job done.    

On big change initiatives, it’s important to schedule meetings for periodic updates to ensure appropriate progress is being made.

Don’t over-delegate to your superstars. Your A-performers will do a great job but if you keep adding tasks to their plate, it can lead to burn-out. 

At the other extreme, don’t under-delegate.  Some leaders think they must be directly involved with every problem and decision. You don’t.  

The delegating style is appropriate when people are highly capable and energized.

When you use a delegating style, people learn to take the initiative, be responsible, solve problems, and work independently.    

Unusual and Complex Issues  

Most of the time it’s fairly easy and straightforward to determine which leadership style to use. However, it some situations it requires a more thoughtful analysis.

When faced with unusual, complex, and uncertain situations, it’s helpful to pause and do a more in-depth diagnosis.  Consider these factors: 

  • The Context—the bigger picture. What relevant things are going on inside and outside of the company or the team that you are assessing.
  • The Task—what are the unique feature of the project, issue, or opportunity that you are dealing with.
  • The People—consider their knowledge, skills, and experiences as well as their emotional and stress levels.

Each of these factors will influence your decision as to which style will be most effective.

In some situations, it’s appropriate to use a combination of styles. For example, you may use a directing style when establishing a goal and a discussing style when creating the plan. Another example, leaders sometimes use a discussing style to “define a problem” and a delegating style to assign someone the task of conducting research and recommending a solution.   

Action Items 

At the end of each week, think about the leadership styles you used. Access your performance by reflecting on these questions.

  • Did I diagnose each situation correctly?
  • Did I use the most appropriate leadership style in each situation?
  • Did I provide the right amount of direction, discussion, or delegation?
  • Did employees become more confident and motivated as a result of the leadership style that I used?

Identify one thing you will work to on to improve your effectiveness as a leader.  

______________________________________________________

Paul B. Thornton is an author and speaker. His latest e-books include:

  • Leadership-Perfecting Your Approach and Style-($1.99) Amazon Kindle. 
  • Leadership Case Studies-($4.99) Amazon Kindle.

Paul has produced 28 short YouTube videos on various management and leadership topics. In addition, he frequently posts his views and opinions about leadership on Linked-In.  

He can be contacted at pbthornton67 @gmail.com

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