How To Choose a Leadership Style

Dr Katie Best explores how to adapt your leadership style to best suit the individuals you are managing.

5 min read

Employee retention has recently been on the decline and with leadership being one of the primary reasons people change jobs, it’s more important than ever to learn how to adapt your leadership style to best suit the individuals you are managing. Our partners, Santander, spoke to Dr Katie Best, Head Tutor on MBA Essentials, to find out her top tips on how to choose a leadership style.

What makes a good leader?

“If you’ve ever asked a group of people the question, ‘Who was the best leader you had, and why?’ you’ll no doubt receive a very wide range of answers. This happens to me when I ask this question at the start of my leadership workshops and classes. I receive a really varied range of responses; from leaders who are assertive, to those who listened, to leaders who feel very genuine, even in their imperfections.

Thus, rather than people all sharing one view on the ideal way to lead, there are big differences in opinion between people on what makes a great leader and different circumstances call for different leadership styles.”

What is the importance of having different leadership styles?

“Hersey and Blanchard’s revised Situational Leadership model is an excellent example of how adapting our leadership styles to the situation can create much better outcomes. This model establishes that different team members will require differing levels of support and direction from their leaders. An inexperienced team member will need a lot more direction than an experienced one. And a team member who is keen and motivated to work will need less support and encouragement than one who is not so motivated.

Requiring high or low support or direction can be combined into four distinct leadership styles, according to Hersey and Blanchard. They say you should pick the leadership style based on a team member’s characteristics, to get the most out of them.”

What are the four different leadership styles?

  1. Directing 

“When a team member is keen you need a leadership style that is low in support and high in direction. Hershey and Blanchard call this a directing style of leadership. The team member won’t need much encouragement or emotional support because they are already motivated to complete their work, but instead need you to focus your time with them on helping them to know what to do and guiding them in how to do it.”

  1. Coaching

“A coaching leadership style should be used when a team member is low in skill and will. They need direction and support to complete their work. The coaching style involves a leader both persuading why a task is worth doing and explaining how to do it.” 

  1. Supporting

“A leader should use a supporting leadership style when a team member has the knowledge to complete the task but lacks commitment. The supporting style is high in support but low in direction - time with the team member is focussed on motivating them, encouraging them and developing their enthusiasm.”

  1. Delegating

“Where a team member is experienced and enthusiastic, a delegating style which will allow them to largely get on with it is relevant. Leaders should use observation or monitoring as they deem appropriate, but aim to only step in to provide guidance and support where it’s shown to be required.”

So, in summary, what are the main things leaders need to be aware of?

“It is important, as a leader, to recognise the situation in which you are leading, and choose models, approaches and leadership styles which fit the context. Engage with research on leadership, but don’t assume that everything will work for you in your situation. Remember instead that it is good practice to make sure that the leadership approach you are thinking of will fit the person you are leading and the situation you are leading in.”  

Watch the full learning pill on the Santander website.

Further information