What’s Your Leadership Style?

5/27/2015

Everybody has different cultural preferences – that’s something we here at TMC have been teaching for years. Everybody’s individual cultural orientations vary, depending on their personal histories, upbringing, education, travel experiences, etc. And because every leader has their own individual culture, their leadership style is also individual.

Individual leadership styles can be influenced not only by a person’s cultural orientations, but also by their national and company cultures – that is, what’s expected, reinforced and rewarded within the country and company where their business operates. 

Three of the most commonly cited leadership styles are Autocratic, Democratic and Visionary. Many in the corporate and academic worlds can think of several examples for each type of leader. There are certain cultural orientations that are distinguishable in these three main types of leadership style that an individual, national or company culture could reinforce and reward.  

Autocratic – Autocratic leaders are generally hierarchy oriented and expect special deference paid to their positions. They usually have a private preference and thus insist on having an office separate from their subordinates’. They are often control and order oriented, and they expect subordinates to follow schedules and work within established systems. Autocratic leaders are not necessarily unpleasant to work with; they simply do not seek the input or advice from their subordinates and expect them to follow their rules.

Democratic – Democratic leaders, also called “empowering leaders,” are almost the opposite of their “autocratic” counterparts. They are more equality oriented, seeking input and help with decision making from their employees. They are more flexible with working arrangements and tend to follow up less, trusting that the employees will get the job done without their oversight. While democratic leaders are not necessarily constraint oriented compared to their control-oriented autocratic colleagues, they are mostly more flexible and are ready to work with ambiguity, trusting that they and their employees can cooperate to adapt to changes.

Visionary – Visionary leaders are hailed in Western business culture as the drivers of economic growth and technological innovation. Indeed, being called a visionary is one of the best compliments a leader could receive in the West. Visionary leaders tend to be future oriented, and are always looking for newer, more efficient and practical systems. They tend to be flexible, as they understand that volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity are constant forces in today’s business world. They are also systemic thinkers, in that they look at systems as a whole and try to find solutions to larger, longer-term problems.

There are many more subcategories of leadership styles, of course. But the above three are the ones most leaders feel comfortable fitting themselves into.

Leadership styles can change with changing circumstances, company structures and employee pools. In the end, each leader’s personal style is what works best for them, their employees and their companies as a whole.

Ken Belanger