The Versatile Leader – Part 3

By Ron Pereira Updated on August 19th, 2009

So far in this series we’ve discussed the directing and coaching leadership styles.

In this article we’re going to move onto the last two leadership styles – encouraging and empowerment.

The Encouraging Leadership Style

The encouraging leadership style is similar to coaching but has a few unique characteristics.

While coaching it’s not uncommon to offer direct feedback and advice as to the performance of the individual or team.

Conversely, the encouraging leader does not offer such direct feedback and advice. Instead, they are there to offer their support and assistance when called upon… but rather than coach and guide they are more apt to encourage and motivate.

The encouraging leadership style might be best suited when an employee has the obvious ability to do the task and has proven many times to be extremely reliable.

However, and this is really the key point, this employee really excels when hearing they are doing a great job and are appreciated.

The Empowerment Leadership Style

Finally, the last leadership style I’d like to share with you is empowerment.

The empowering leader essentially shares the task and/or mission and then lets his or her people go. There is little directing, coaching, or encouraging.

Instead, the leader has complete trust and faith in the person or group they are empowering and simply turns them loose.

In Review

Throughout this series of articles we’ve learned about:

  • The directing leader who offers strong advice and guidance on what to do.
  • The coaching leader who openly listens to and shows interest in the ideas of others in an energetic and passionate manner while also providing regular feedback and constantly monitoring the performance of the person and/or team.
  • The encouraging leader who motivates and inspires without a lot of direction
  • The empowering leader who turns things over to his or her trusted team

The Versatile Leader

As the title of this series states… I firmly believe the best leaders are those that can apply the appropriate leadership style at the appropriate time.

In other words, great leaders don’t always empower when empowering would be disastrous.  For example, my 7 year old daughter needs to improve her softball skills so ‘empowering’ her to excel at this stage would be fools work.

However, I work with some people who are true experts in their trade and don’t need a lot of coaching but do like to be encouraged from time to time.

And, of course, I also know people who most definitely thrive under the empowerment leadership style of management and anything less is actually counter-productive.

Do You Agree and Final Homework

What do you think? Do you agree with me that a leader should be versatile depending on the situation and person they’re dealing with?

Finally, your last homework assignment requires some reflection.  I’d like you to think back to your “favorite boss or leader.”

Once you have this person’s face in your mind I’d like you to think of how they lead you.  Were they dogmatic or versatile?  I bet I know the answer.

  1. Owen Berkeley-Hill

    October 5, 2009 - 12:09 pm

    There is nothing to disagree with in your three articles. A good leader will be nimble and will behave in the appropriate way as the situation requires. A good leader will be passionate about growing their people, and if a few, through this coaching, can fly higher or faster than she/he can, they will be delighted.

    They will see kaizen as not just making incremental improvements, but also as a way of growing everyone’s knowledge of the very complex environment we work in today. I’d recommend Steven Spear’s new book, “Chasing the Rabbit” which develops this point and the way in which the “high-velocity” companies like Toyota, the Rabbits, outstrip their competition.

    I might disagree (very mildly) about the need for a “directive” style in some situations; you cite a situation like 9/11. Given time a good leader would need to revert to command and control in such a situation. If she or he is a truly versatile leader, his or her team would not need to be directed. They would assimilate information and make the right decisions quickly.

    I’d be careful about the term “empowerment”. Those of us with memories going back to the last Ice Age, remember how this term was abused. People were given the responsibility but not the authority to achieve certain goals, and this caused a lot of frustration.

    The real issue about leadership is whether we are developing enough really good ones. I cannot help feeling that in the West we are paying Premier League salaries for Sunday Pub League abilities (my apologies to my American audience, but this metaphor is related to the English football, sorry, soccer, scene). Perhaps it is the tyranny of Wall Street wanting bigger and better results every quarter. Perhaps our business schools have bred a species of Brahmin which does not like the mess in the Gemba or does not like getting their hands dirty.

  2. MK

    October 5, 2009 - 3:48 pm

    […] The Versatile Leader by Ron Pereira – “I firmly believe the best leaders are those that can apply the appropriate leadership style at the appropriate time.” […]

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