From time to time, people ask us what the best leadership style is to promote better employee engagement. Unfortunately, there isn't a cut and dry answer to that question.
To be sure, leadership style has an effect on employees, but it's more a matter of finding the leadership style that will best mesh with the personalities and needs of the employees.
There's also the question of the fit of any given leadership style within a company's culture. For example, leaders with a laissez-faire style will have difficulty within more autocratic organizations. Furthermore, certain roles and responsibilities may demand a particular leadership style.
In some organizations, there may be several different leadership styles present, depending on the needs and tasks associated with different departments. What might be useful is to have a closer look at some leadership styles and examine what kinds of employees might most benefit from them.
An autocratic leader is one who asserts his or her authority and makes all decisions of any significance. Autocratic leaders tend to use strict policies, procedures, and guidelines for their employees. This particularly authoritarian approach may be effective with employees who prefer guidance and supervision, but creative individuals and those that seek autonomy are more likely to become disengaged under an autocratic leader. While autocratic leadership styles are comparatively rare in corporate settings, it is the leadership style that is most often associated with the military.
A leader who favors a democratic style involves employees in the decision-making process. A democratic leader tends to delegate authority more willingly while still maintaining the ultimate responsibility.
Greater two-way dialogue is a common feature of a work environment with a democratic leader. Employees who value autonomy and taking an active role in the decisions that affect their work flourish under a leader with a democratic style.
A manager with a laissez-faire leadership style tends not to provide guidance or supervision to employees, granting them the authority to do their work as they see fit instead. While this leadership style may work with highly trained and self-motivated employees, it can hinder those that require some supervision. Another potential drawback laissez-faire style is that feedback on performance tends to become more infrequent.
With a focus on change and improvement, a leader with a transformational style collaborates with his or her employees to identify what changes are needed. A transformational leader can also inspire the team and create a vision that will help to see the change through.
Transformational leaders can be seen as valuable assets within an organization to help it grow, adapt, and improve. A leader of this kind can serve as a role model to inspire subordinates and challenge them to take greater ownership of their work. It stands to reason, however, that individuals who are averse to change are less likely to be engaged under a transformational leader.
Under a transactional leader, team members have specific tasks and goals to achieve and are rewarded when those objectives are met. It's a leadership style that is entirely focused on performance results.
Some of the advantages of a transactional leadership style include frequent feedback, clear expectations, and opportunities for corrections. However, while a transformational leadership style can promote growth and improvement within the organization, a transactional leadership style tends to favor status quo. This form of leadership can achieve very good employee engagement with those who are motivated by receiving rewards like bonuses.
Clearly, there isn't a single employee engagement leadership style that stands above the rest. But, if you're armed with an understanding of the different approaches and styles to leadership, perhaps you can adjust your own to achieve greater employee engagement in your workplace.