If I were to judge my leadership style, I would most definitely agree that it is participative in nature. Why I say so is because I believe that two or more brains is better than one, and so, to overcome any contingencies that may arise during operations, I look at the collective views of the feedbacks from my team members that are discussed before taking any management decision-making. Of course, there are other styles of leadership management that are equally effective, but I am happy giving my team members the privilege to involve in decision-making. By inculcating a collaborative process, it is easy to understand the difficulties certain members of my team had, and this could only be highlighted by my participative leadership style. Once I manage to understand the difficulties these team members have with existing or planned strategies, it is easy to ask them for recommended changes based on their views for which they will take accountability. This minimizes my managerial concerns and enhances the role of the members as they know their way of doing things better.
Leadership is complex, says Grimm, and leadership can be defined as “a multifaceted process where goals are achieved by motivating people to function collectively, a mutually negotiated goal, says Porter-O’Grady, in Paterson (2013) Leadership Styles and Theories. There are a number of leadership styles in practice in the corporate world, and some of these include transactional leadership, transformational leadership, and situational leadership. My style of participative leadership comes under transformational leadership where, such leaders recognise the value of self-esteem, and in Maslow’s (1987) theory of hierarchy of needs, will do anything to achieve their desires. Vinkenburg, van Engen, Eagly & Johannesen-Schmidt (2011) suggests that transformational leaders could inspire their team to act beyond their responsibilities by acting as mentors. In other words, to enhance production, leaders need to develop a strong belief and relationship between them and their employees by accelerating progressive changes to create that difference.
When one talks about participative leadership qualities, it has, as others, a number of positive and negative strengths and weaknesses. The two eminent strengths that come to mind is, one; the development of oneness and a healthy business relationship among the major stakeholders of the organization, and two; the development of personal accountability and responsibility. When there is oneness, there is every possibility of bringing unity among all the workers in the organization, and so, the better the understanding, the better the teamwork. There is an increased air of high morale and retention. When employees are actively involved in discussions, their involvement becomes even more personal, and their active participation is tied to their productively. Thus, we see that participative leadership style can play an important role in improving workplace policies, and bring about positive operational changes. There is also a belief in ownership; ownership for their action and ownership of the company.
Once employees show high morale, they produce better results, and they tend to stay focused while working. Morale is also closely linked to decision-making, and so, when more members get involved in decision-making, they become more indebted to the company and their actions. When employees engage in such ownership situations, it is difficult for them to abdicate their responsibility to the company’s growth. However, there are weaknesses to the participative leadership as well. One of the major drawbacks of participative leadership styles is that it shows weakness in leadership qualities in the leader. It would mean that the leader banks on the collective effort of the team members to achieve success, and that the leader has no power to dictate terms to the team members. The second point is that for participative leadership to succeed there has to be trust between the leader and his or her team. If a team has trust in their leader, they will do whatever their leader envisions of them, says Bach and Ellis (Paterson, 2013). However, if there are differences of opinions between the leader and his or her team members, the organizational operations take a beating.
However, different situations may require leaders to use different styles of leadership to handle the situation based on the circumstances. Along with transformational leadership style is transactional leadership and situational leadership. Participative leadership, also referred to as democratic, allows employees who are part of a team to participate in discussions to find solutions to problems. It also helps develop new strategies for the development of the organization. “Encouraging employee communication can help overcome potential problems, and ensure that they are handled much more efficiently by employees. This will reduce complaints and develop better interpersonal communication,” says Befus (2004). The leader has to have the power to influence and motivate his or her team members and also get them completely involved in executing organizational goals. The team lead would be someone who is popular with all the members within a team, has the power to articulate and give orders, and is respected by all. In comparison, transactional leadership styles focuses on what the organization needs. The leader does not share or allow others to participate in decision-making. This style is in complete contrast to participative or transformational leadership style. Transactional leadership style is authoritarian in nature, and such leadership practitioners avoid group decision-making. Transactional leaders retain complete control of decision-making. There is a definitive line between the leader and the followers, as the leader usually enjoys complete control over operational proceedings. They are therefore seen as being bossy or as a dictator. Authoritarian leaders are usually very clear about their objectives, when it is expected, and how it is to be expected. It is difficult for these leaders to switch over to other forms of leadership styles because of the power they have.
These leaders are generally from the old school of thoughts and find changes hard to accept or adopt. However, a transactional approach is task-orientated and can be effective when meeting deadlines (Paterson, 2013). Since organisations face constant changes due to competition, certain leader have to use their ability to motivate their team members to accommodate or change to different situations. This is where a situational leadership approach is required. The success of situational leadership according to Grimm is “based on a relationship between a leader’s supportive and directive behaviour, and between his or her team’s levels of development.” In a situational leadership approach, the effectiveness of leaders can be judged by their leadership style to manage their team and situation. The core competencies of situational leaders are their “ability to identify performance, competency, and commitment of their team members, and their flexibility, says Lynch, McCormack & McCance, in Paterson (2013) Leadership Styles and Theories. Situational leadership can also known as Delegative Leadership or Laissez-Faire, where results are directly linked to the influence the leader has on his or her team members. Therefore, it can be considered to be the least productive leadership style among the three. In this leadership style, the team members are those who have the dominant hand. In most cases, the members are usually very demanding of the leader and do not cooperate and have difficulties working independently. Even if the leader has a team of highly qualified personnel, because of the lack of guidance or defined roles, the group members tend to lack motivation. As this form of leadership is relationship based and the leader tries to influence his team through relationship-building exercises, certain members of the team may not cooperate or accept the change. In evaluating the three leadership styles, a participative leader has the ability to make employees feel valued and held in high-esteem because of which team members elucidate high morale and confidence. Transactional leaders are dynamic go-getters, but they fail in relationship building, while situational leaders base their success on relationship building and cooperation.
In understanding the three different leadership styles, I can change my style of functioning based on the situations facing the organization. It would be prudent to suggest that I can use one of the three at all times to accomplish my organization’s goal, but yes, given the situation it warrants, there is no harm in trying the different styles. I have also understood that role of leading from the front. At no point of time should I show myself to be a weak link, or else, I will lose all respect and become a pawn. There has to be a balance in the way decisions are made and the decision to use a particular style depends wholly on the situation under which it has to be made.
Two problems that I could encounter in the workplace due to differences in leadership styles is, one; my decisions or orders not taken seriously by my team members who feel that the decisions are against their practices, and two; they absent themselves from work due to the pressure exerted on them at the workplace. As their leader, they should be able to set an example for the others. This does not mean that whatever one does is always right. In a group, difference of opinion can occur among members, and as their leader, it is his or her prerogative to be open to ideas and suggestions, and act according to merit. Since acquisition of knowledge is a continuous process there is no harm in learning new things from others. A true leader identifies him/her with his/her group and stands by them at all times. Exerting oneself or firing someone for their lackadaisical attitude will only make things worse than they are. It’s easy to pinpoint a person’s mistake and initiate an action against him or her, but a true leader will try to correct the mistakes and make that person(s) understand the implication of their actions on the organization. As a leader, it is important to maintain cordial relationships with team members, as this will not only encourage them to approach you for suggestions and ideas, but will also help keep a constant record of what is happening within. Loyalty cannot be bought, it is intrinsic, and so, to instigate loyalty, leaders need to have the interests of their team members in mind during decision-making. This will not only instil confidence in them, but will ensure their loyalty to you and the organization.
The three potential advantages that may be created between the leadership styles is that in transactional leadership style, when there is little time for group input or the leader is the most knowledgeable, this form of leadership can work well. These leaders command respect and obedience, and they have complete control over situations and decisions. Participatory leadership creates leadership and ownership among team members. As all team members actively become involved in decision-making, they are bound to show their solidarity and loyalty to all that the organization professes. A participative leader can understand and act in accordance to a member’s strength or weakness, thus plugging any weakness there may be in organizational operations. In a situational leadership approach, the effectiveness of leaders allows leaders to explore different ways to motivate teams. It also gives leaders the opportunity to understand each member of the team closely and identify their weaknesses or strengths. If there are trouble makers in the team, the situational leadership style can help understand the possible causes and correct them at the grassroots level itself.
Considering the above advantages mentioned, each leadership style has its advantages. Therefore, in understanding these advantages, it would be possible to capitalize on these advantages to increase productivity. For example, in my current position as a supervisor, I walked into an atmosphere where morale was at its lowest and the tension in the air could be cut with a knife. The root cause for this was because the earlier supervisor took a laissez faire approach to make employees support his initiatives. He had no rules to follow back on and this played into the hand of a few members who had a commanding role in team decision-making. Because of this, there was complete chaos. As a first, I would invite all the team members for a discussion and raise the issue of positive participation. This being a part of the participative or transformational leadership style, the disillusioned and directless team members would be able to express their grievance so that a common ground can be worked out that satisfies both parties to the decision-making exercise.
While a majority of members would participate in the discussions and express their concerns, there are sure to be a few who disagree with whatever is being discussed. At this point of time, I would have to change my leadership style and ‘counter’ these trouble makers with an authoritarian hand. I need to show them who the boss is how they should mend their ways in the organization’s interest. Ultimately, in order to truly be an effective leader, I must understand the different leadership styles and tendencies to become an effective leader. Therefore, by introducing the transactional leadership style at that point of discussions, I will be able to weed out the trouble makers and segregate them from the rest till they see reason. Once this is accomplished, I can introduce the situational leadership style to deal with these few trouble makers. I will relinquish my leadership role and talk to them on a personal level to understand why they are revolting or challenging the changes made by me. The personal rapport will help them open up and discuss their grievances. Once I understand this, I will be able to troubleshoot their concerns and bring them in line with the other team members. This way, by using the three different leadership styles, I will be able to give the organization the cutting edge to personnel management.
Transformational, transactional, and situational leadership styles are extremely good tools in managing teams and team members. However, they all have their have their strengths and weaknesses, and it is for leaders to recognize what suits their needs to introduce these styles in their management of labor. Used astutely, these three leadership styles can enhance production and the reputation of an organization.
Befus, E. (2004). Employee Turnover: Tips for Attacking an Enduring, Expensive Property Management Problem. Multi - Housing News, 39(8), 22.
Paterson, J. (2013). Leadership styles and theories. Rcnpublishing.com. Retrieved 21 December 2014, from http://rcnpublishing.com/doi/pdfplus/10.7748/ns2013.06.27.41.35.e7565
Vinkenburg, C., van Engen, M., Eagly, A., & Johannesen-Schmidt, M. (2011). An exploration of stereotypical beliefs about leadership styles: Is transformational leadership a route to women's promotion?. The Leadership Quarterly, 22(1), 10-21. doi:10.1016/j.leaqua.2010.12.003