According to the questionnaire “Test your leadership style”, my score of 85 percent in the leadership tally strongly indicates that I tend to be a leader in working with other people. The large percentage value in this category shows a significant tendency towards a leadership role as opposed to supervisory position in a team. This fact points to an inclination towards guiding colleagues by setting common goals and by monitoring their progress. The main role of a leader is to support people and to help them grow rather than to push them to attain short-term objectives. Such leadership style helps to maintain a peaceful working environment and to achieve harmony in a team. It usually stimulates teamwork and helps to develop close relationships with colleagues and subordinates. However, the strong score in the leadership tally also has negative implications for my leadership qualities. Thus, while such strategy may be effective in the long-run, it is hard to implement in the times of crisis or in order to achieve short-term goals. Moreover, leaders may emphasize relationships and concern for people above company objectives, thus often jeopardizing profitability and efficiency. While it is crucial to find an optimal point between leadership and supervisory, it is nevertheless possible to leverage the strengths of each of them in order to address supervisory responsibilities.
One of the key responsibilities of a supervisor is to motivate employees and to provide them with an incentive to improve the way they perform their jobs. Leaders often rely on power as an incentive mechanism. However, the type of power used usually depends whether one is more of a leader or a supervisor. For supervisors it is natural to use coercive and legitimate powers in combination with rewards, which make employee fear the consequence of bad performance and respect the authority of their superiors. Leaders, on the other hand, rarely rely on these kinds of powers in their daily management of the teams. For leaders it is important to establish expert or referent power, which could serve as a mechanism to influence the behaviour of the group. Thus, leaders try to inspire their subordinates by own examples and to support them in their personal development.
The atmosphere of trust and support that is created by such attitude of the leaders is the main strength of this leadership style. It is widely welcomed within a team and creates a long-lasting effect, unlike coercion or formal hierarchy. Moreover, positive and friendly environments serve as an intrinsic motivation for employees to stay in the team and to work towards a common goal. This remains true even if other incentives, such as rewards and intimidation, are removed or reduced, since people are willing to remain in their teams because they enjoy the atmosphere and the relationships.
Another benefit of the leadership approach is the possibility to reveal hidden talents of the group members. Thus, a person, who is purely a supervisor, is merely concerned with the achievement of company objectives. He/she takes for granted the existing employee expertise and does not work on developing further competencies and skills within the team. Leader, on the other hand, are more attentive to their subordinates. They are more aware of individual aptitudes of the team members, therefore they can identify new talents and possibilities for further growth for every employee. Furthermore, leaders can recognize problems that employees have faced early on, therefore they can address issues quickly and avoid problem escalation. The possibility to grow and develop serves as an additional incentive for team members, therefore they feel more motivated to perform their tasks.
Finally, since leaders develop close relationships with subordinates, people feel to express their opinion and to communicate new ideas. Such openness helps to achieve multiple objectives. Firstly, it creates information transparency, therefore leaders are always well-informed about the problems in the team and can react as fast as possible. Secondly, the freedom and support of the leaders motivate people to be more creative, thus increasing the level of innovation and ultimately enhancing team’s productivity and success.
However, along with the positive aspects of being a leader, it is crucial to be aware of the pitfalls such management style entails. Thus, excessive focus on relationship building and emotional involvement could hamper team’s productivity and prevent leaders from addressing performance issues aggressively enough. In this case, “soft” leadership may demotivate people, rather than give them an incentive to work, since they will not expect any repercussions of underperformance. This is especially dangerous, when fast results need to be achieved, since leaders are not able to motivate employees very quickly or to take charge of a new team.
Employee motivation is one of the main responsibilities of a leader, and it can be done both by using a leadership approach and by adopting a more supervisory perspective, or by using the Leader/Supervisor Mix attitude. Each approach has its strengths as well as weaknesses, and can be applied in various situations. However, it is important to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses of each style and to make sure to leverage on the positive aspects, while to compensate for the drawbacks. Furthermore, it is hardly possible to identify a perfect combination of Leadership-Supervisory traits, since every situation and every team require a different approach, therefore a good leader should be able to appreciate situation differences and to use the leadership style appropriate for motivating people under specific conditions.
Rue, L. W., & Byars, L. L. (2003). Supervision: Key link to productivity. (8th ed.).
New York, NY: McGraw-Hill.