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Leadership: What’s your style?

May 27, 2011
Filed under Dealer Consultants

Theories abound on leadership. What kind of leadership is most effective? The best answer is: It depends. You’ve probably worked for several types of leaders, and possibly have demonstrated various types of leadership skills yourself, depending on the situation.

Consider these workplace situations:

You receive a call from another dealership. They need several bikes immediately and you have them. You notify your crew to load and deliver them. This is called autocratic leadership. You made a decision without consulting anyone else and dictated the actions to be taken. Is this good leadership? It was probably completely appropriate. Team agreement was not necessary for a successful outcome. Action was taken swiftly and was well executed.

But consider another example of autocratic leadership. You notify your parts manager that you have decided to reorganize the parts department and you tell him what you want. You are sure that parts sales will improve, and you are probably right. This is also autocratic leadership, but is it appropriate in the situation? Your parts manager takes pride in his department, has given thought to its organization and has his own ideas, preferences and systems. Are you stepping on his toes and diminishing his zeal? Might another approach be more effective?

Let’s say you confer with your parts manager about finding more efficient ways to organize the parts department. You ask for his ideas. You sit down and talk with the entire parts staff to solicit input. In the end, you decide on a plan that incorporates the best of all the ideas put forward. The employees feel valued and are inspired. This style is called democratic leadership. Is it best? Again, it depends. It tends to work when team support and agreement matters. It can be difficult to manage when there are numerous participants and conflicting points of view. There is ample potential for power struggles and personality conflicts.

Now imagine that you leave your parts manager alone. In general, he has full authority over his department. When he wants to reorganize, he does so. He informs you rather than asks you. This style is called laissez-faire leadership. Good or bad? You guessed it: it depends. This approach works well when you are confident that you have highly skilled, motivated employees. But if you are overwhelmed or distracted and you are merely hoping for the best by delegating authority to your department managers, chances are good that your department will underperform.

Know your strengths and weaknesses. Know your staff’s strengths and weaknesses. Choose your approach carefully and deliberately. Don’t be afraid to adapt a style that fits the situation at hand. Leaders are made, not born, and your willingness to do what is most effective will cultivate your skills as a leader.

“I used to think that running an organization was equivalent to conducting a symphony orchestra. But I don’t think that’s quite it; it’s more like jazz. There is more improvisation.” – Warren Bennis

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