MRO Magazine

Check Your Leadership Style

In days gone by, leadership seemed like such a simplistic enterprise: Move to a position of authority, get to know the people and the goals, make decisions and then get the results.


September 1, 2004
By Richard G. Ensman, Jr.

In days gone by, leadership seemed like such a simplistic enterprise: Move to a position of authority, get to know the people and the goals, make decisions and then get the results.

But today, as we learn more about the qualities of great leaders — and as the business and work environment becomes more complex — we know that leadership is much more complex than that. More significantly, many different styles of leadership abound, each with a unique mix of beliefs and practices.

What’s your leadership style? Scan this glossary and find out.

Leadership by Coaching. The coach sees himself as a combination of trainer and motivator. He places a high priority on employee development. Practice and simulations may be high on his weekly agenda. He’s quick to encourage employees when they’re having difficulty picking up new expertise. Words you might hear from a coach: “Let’s walk through these two problems and use what we’ve learned to solve them.”

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Leadership by Competition. The competitive leader motivates by fostering overt or subtle competition among employees — challenging them with contests or publicly discussing individual performance, for example. Words you might hear from a competitive leader: “John did a great job pulling down his quota last month and may be able to offer some tips to all of us.”

Leadership by Data. The data guru uses information to guide his actions. He’ll frequently lead off staff meetings and conversations by summarizing current performance figures. He’s willing to give employees latitude in their activities as long as they can produce the results needed to achieve concrete goals. Words you might hear from a data-oriented leader: “We only achieved 82% of our production goal last month. What must we do to get to 103% next month?

Leadership by Empowerment. The empowering leader is interested in fostering initiative and leadership skills among employees. He may place a high priority on giving employees information, technological tools and authority — and a mandate to lead the way in getting things done. Words you might hear from an empowering leader: “Perhaps you should convene a committee of your colleagues to address the problem we’re facing.”

Leadership by Example. The role model leader is highly concerned with personal and professional habits. This leader remains visible to the entire group and consciously and strategically displays the habits he wants others to follow. When they’re not followed, he’s quick to spend even more time with his people in the hope that his actions will inspire imitation. Words you might hear from a role model leader: “Watch how I do it.”

Leadership by Exception. The exception leader often stays in the background. He’s able and willing to let employees manage their jobs — and even set goals — as long as things are going smoothly. This leader, however, wants to be informed and to become involved whenever problems occur or when predefined benchmarks aren’t met. Words you might hear from an exception-style leader: “Good luck on this project. Just let me know a week in advance if we’re in danger of missing the first deadline.”

Leadership by Model. The model-oriented leader often relies on a decision-making process to arrive at a course of action. The process might be simple (for example, covering eight sales and marketing points in a brief meeting whenever a new product is introduced) or complex (working through a multi-step ‘decision tree’ with employees to map the pros and cons of various choices). Words you might hear from a model-oriented leader: “Let’s examine matrix number one as the first step in arriving at a good conclusion here.”

Leadership by Objectives. The “objective-oriented leader” is most concerned about the concrete aims laid out for him and his team. He’s the kind of leader who will spend considerable goal-setting time with employees, and who will monitor achievement toward goals on a regular basis. Words you might hear from an objective-oriented leader: “Let’s look at the specific progress we made toward objective number two over the past week.”

Leadership by Process. The “process leader” is interested in building an efficient operation. He wants to be sure things are done right. He places a high priority on the development of workable procedures that guide the entire team. Words you might hear from a process leader: “Let’s reexamine the inquiry procedure in light of the problems we encountered last week. We might be able to make some changes in the procedure that will prevent a recurrence of the problem.”

Leadership by Relationship. The “relational leader” attempts to build strong, positive connections with employees. He develops his own interpersonal skills so that he can create bonds that motivate his people. He’s often known as an affirming leader, deeply interested in the concerns and lives of the people around him. Words you might hear from a relational leader: “I heard about your child’s illness. That must be putting a lot of pressure on you.”

Leadership by Service. The “servant leader” is committed to doing whatever he can to help his people do their jobs. He fosters their professional development, makes himself available to employees whenever he’s needed, and is always ready to offer guidance and support. Words you might hear from a servant leader: “What can I do to help you with this problem?”

Leadership by Situation. The “situational leader” doesn’t adhere to a specific leadership philosophy or style. Rather, this leader remains keenly attuned to the needs at hand, and adjusts his approach to the people and circumstances. Words you might hear from a situational leader: “Help me understand the conditions and needs around us today.”

Leadership by Teamwork. The “team leader” attempts to foster strong interpersonal relationships among his people. While the relational leader is most concerned about his own relationships, the team leader is concerned about the entire network of relationships among his people — and will do almost anything to deepen them. Team leaders are known for group-building exercises, after-hours activities and consensus-building activities. Words you might hear from a team leader: “Let’s figure out how we can best work together on the issue facing us.”

Leadership by Vision. The “visionary leader” sets out broad, rousing goals for his people. And by inspiration, charisma or sheer force of will, he motivates others to recognize the importance of these goals — and work toward them with passion. Words you might hear from a visionary leader: “Three years from now, we will have revolutionized this entire product line.”

Richard G. Ensman, Jr., is a regular contributor to Machinery & Equipment MRO.