Leadership Styles and Perception

Figure 1: Perception on Styles

Figure 1: Perception on Styles

A common question during interviews as well as performance reviews is: what is your leadership style? Although this is a pertinent issue for a variety of reasons, one of the core, underlying issues of leadership style pertains to how well a leader can adjust his or her style to maximize the results from those he or she supervises.

The leader’s repertoire of styles provides a collection of different approaches and styles that can be drawn on depending on the situation, environment, or needs. Alan Murray sums it up well in the Wall Street Journal Guide to Management: “Leadership is less about your needs, and more about the needs of the people and the organization you are leading. Leadership styles are not something to be tried on like so many suits, to see which fits. Rather, they should be adapted to the particular demands of the situation, the particular requirements of the people involved and the particular challenges facing the organization.”
As the market returns to some form of normality, talent will be harder to attract and retain. Consequently, as employees have more options outside of their current employer, a greater burden will be on managers to accommodate different preferences and needs. While the recession afforded managers less accomplished at using different approaches the opportunity to continue with more singular approaches, expectations have changed.

With that idea in mind, I recently reviewed a survey by HCS on the use of multiple leadership styles. I was curious about to what degree do managers possess this critical trait of a repertoire. Figure 1 summarizes the results of their 2015 survey of 1,500 employees, managers, and executives in multiple industries. The survey asked employees to identify the number of styles used by their supervisor, supervisors to rate themselves, and executives to rate the supervisors that report to them. As expected, the results differed by level.

More than 80 percent of respondents indicated that their manager possessed one style, while two styles equated to less than ten percent of respondents. Across industries and organizations, respondents agreed that most supervisors have one style. The self-responses from the supervisors were more generous in assessing styles. Approximately 25 percent of supervisors felt that they possess more than three styles.Similarly, managers that oversee the same supervisors signified that roughly 22 percent utilize three or more styles.

What do these results mean? There are several things to consider:
• We need to make sure that leaders recognize the importance of utilizing multiple styles;
• The lack of recognition of style use and effectiveness may result in managers not self-selecting for development; and
• Like many areas, perception differs from reality depending on level.

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