Much has been written on the styles of leadership and how they are applied in given situations. Five styles of leadership are generally recognized:
Telling (or ordering). Here the leader alone identifies the problem, makes the decisions, and directs the activities. The style appears autocratic and may or may not involve the opinions of the group members.
Persuading (or selling). In this style of leadership, the decision is still made by the leader. Having made the decision, he must sell it to his group to get cooperation.
Delegating. Here the leader identifies the problem; sets certain guidelines, boundaries, or rules; and then turns the problem over to the group or one of its members. The leader accepts the decision of the group if it falls within the boundaries and guidelines established. While his authority may be delegated, the responsibility must remain with the leader.
Consulting. Here group members participate and provide input. The leader may suggest tentative decision or plan and get the group’s reaction. Having consulted with the group, the final decision is still made by the leader, usually based on the group consensus. If consensus cannot be reached, the group is encouraged to note and follow the desires of majority.
Joining. Here the leader steps down as leader and joins the group. He agrees in advance that he will abide by the group’s decision. It’s important to remember that “joining” the group is still leadership. Before deciding upon using this style, the leader must carefully consider the resources of the group. If necessary, he can change to a more direct leadership style.
It is important to recognize that not single leadership style is “best”. Each depends on the situation, experience of the group members, and tasks to be done. As leadership styles move from “telling” to “joining” the leader’s authority appears to diminish and the group’s participation increases. Selecting the appropriate style of leadership is an act of leadership based on the nature of the situation and the ability and experience of the group members. Leadership is a dynamic process, varying from situation to situation with changes in leaders, followers, goals, and circumstances.
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