4 Leadership Styles that every leader should exercise

Marianne Slotboom
Mar 30, 2022

In this article you can read about how you can exercise the right leadership styles to motivate your team members, stop micromanaging and give them autonomy in their work in a comfortable and safe way.

About exercising the right leadership styles and giving your team members more autonomy.

At Yellow, before we start off with our leadership workshops, we conduct a quick self-assessment on 10 leadership principles that are key to motivate your team members. One of these principles is the skill to give autonomy to team members and help them grow in their tasks. This is an aspect of leadership well known as a strong motivator for performance, but frequently mentioned as an improvement point in our surveys.

Many leaders tell me that they find it difficult to stop micromanaging or to find the right way to delegate tasks.They are afraid of losing track, of the mistakes people might make, and of not being informed at the right moment.

For a step by step (and safe) approach towards giving more autonomy and delegating, there are 4 different leadership styles needed.

In this article we will explain the differences between the styles and which leadership style to use when.

The Situational Leadership Theory

This theory was created in the seventies by Dr. Paul Hersey, author of the book "The Situational Leader", and Ken Blanchard, author of the best-selling "One-Minute Manager", among others, and is still a great guideline for leaders.

The theory states that instead of using just one style, successful leaders should change their leadership styles based on the situation of the team members. They use two different aspects to define this situation: the level of competence of the team member, regarding the task and the level of motivation of the team member for this task.  

Based on these two aspects, leaders should be able to place more or less emphasis on the task (if competence has to be improved), and more or less emphasis on supporting the person, if motivation has to be improved.

Leadership styles you should know | Yellow Training
Leadership styles you should know | Bright leadership

4 Leadership Styles to motivate your team members

According to their theory, there are four main leadership styles: 

1. Directing - (competence low, motivation high). Leaders give the team member clear instructions, telling the team member what to do and how to do it. This style is used when the team member is well motivated, but new in the task. Specifically clear instructions and stand-by support from the leader are needed to perform well. This style is also called the "Instructing" style.

2. Training - (competence medium high, motivation low). The leader provides information and direction for the team member. This style is used when team members are a bit more competent in the task, but feel frustrated in their efforts and therefore might drop in their motivation. The leader has to give clear instructions, ask questions to understand the level of knowledge of the team member, and at the same time has to increase the motivation of the team member by giving positive feedback if things go well. This style is also called "Convincing" style. 

3. Participating - (competence high, motivation low). The leader focuses more on the motivation of the team member, as the level of knowledge and competence for performing the task are rather high. The name "participating" refers to the fact, that it is important to make team members share their ideas. The leader has to listen well, ask for input and solutions of the team member and "coach" them towards a higher level of motivation and security in the task. In this situation it becomes more important to give autonomy, as - if the leader continues to give instructions - the team member might become very insecure or even more demotivated. This style is also called "Coaching" style.

4. Delegating - (competence high, motivation high). The leader passes most of the responsibility onto the team member. The leader monitors progress, but is less involved in decisions. This style is used when the team member has a high competence in the task and is highly motivated as well. In this case the team member needs the freedom and responsibility to perform tasks in an autonomous way. If in this situation, the leader does not give autonomy, it probably harms the level of trust and demotivate the team member. 

Based on this theory, you can define where to start as it comes to giving more autonomy and what to do to bring your team members to the maturity level where you can delegate tasks in a confident and safe way.

In our article "Different leadership skills for different dialogs", we explain in depth the specific skills that you need for these leadership styles.

Marianne Slotboom
The author
Marianne Slotboom

Marianne is a strategic partner and practical developer of human behavior that helps leaders, teams and organizations become more focused and effective, elevating their value to customers. In 2015, Marianne founded Yellow Training to answer the call for more inspirational and creative leadership in the modern workplace.

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