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Leadership Styles

In this task I will describe leadership styles and their use in the uniformed public services. I will include examples of public service situations when each style may be used.

I will also compare different leadership styles used in the uniformed public services, evaluate the effectiveness and draw conclusions about why this is the case and consider whether the styles make the team leader effective or not and why.

Leadership Styles

A leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction for a team, implementing plans and motivating people to complete a task. There are several different leadership styles, each with advantages and disadvantages. The public services are constantly changing in response to changes in public expectations, the law and the current political environment and so the styles of leadership they use change and evolve too.

Authoritarian leadership – is a very direct leadership style where the leader tells the team members what they must do.

Sometimes this style is also described as autocratic. It is often considered a classic leadership style and is used when a leader wishes to retain as much power as possible and maintain control over the decision making process. It involves the leader telling the team members what they must do without any form of consultation or negotiation. Team members are expected to obey orders without receiving any explanation. Appropriate conditions when you might use this leadership style are:

* You have all the information to solve the problem

* You are working to a tight deadline

* The team is well motivated and used to working for an authoritarian leader.

Generally, this approach is not considered to be the most appropriate way to get the best response from a team in ordinary working life, but it has distinct advantages in situations where there is great urgency and pressure to achieve, such as the armed forces. Autocratic leaders may rely on threats or intimidation to ensure that followers conform to what the leader requires. In addition, this approach could devalue team members by ignoring their expertise and input and discouraging demonstrations of initiative.

Table: Pros and cons of authoritarian style of leadership.

Advantages

Disadvantages

* The leader actively monitors the work and each individual’s performance.

* Leaders tend to be action oriented and focus on short-term tasks.

* People are motivated by being rewarded for exceeding expectations.

* Team members may not get job satisfaction because of the reward and punishment ethos.

* There is a clear chain of command.

* It has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work but remains a common style in so many organisations.

* Formal systems of discipline are in place.

* Team members do exactly what the manager tells them to do and have no authority.

* The team is fully accountable for its actions and will be sanctioned for failure.

* The team might not have the resources or capability to carry out a task.

* It ensures that routine work is done reliably.

* The style assumes that people are motivated by money and not by emotional and social factors.

* The leader could manipulate others to engage in unethical or immoral practices and control others for their own personal gain.

* It creates an environment of power versus perks.

Democratic leadership – is a style of leadership where the leader maintains control of the group, but team members’ opinions and views are encouraged and the leader informs the team about issues which may affect them.

In this approach the leader encourages the followers to become a part of the decision-making process. The leader still maintains control of the group and ownership of the final decision, but input from team members is encouraged and the leader informs team members about factors that may have an impact on them, the team and the project.

This encourages a sense of responsibility in team members who feel that they have a vested interest in the success of the project or operation. It allows a leader to draw upon the expertise and experience of a team in order to achieve the best results for all and it also helps to develop the skills of individuals in the team.

The democratic approach is viewed positively as it gains employees’ respect and it can produce high-quality work over long periods of time from highly motivated teams. Employees and team members also feel in control of their own destiny, such as gaining promotion and progressing up the ladder. However, its application in the field of public service work is slightly more problematic and the drawbacks are seen as follows:

* Democratic discussion takes time. A public service may have to respond very quickly, so gathering the views of all team members may not be a viable option.

* A participative approach may not be the most cost effective way of organising a service. The time of service officers is expensive and in terms of public perceptions and government funding it is best if the public services, especially the uniformed services, are doing the job and not talking about how to do it.

* A time-consuming approach is not appropriate if the safety of team members is paramount. Safety is not open for negotiation; a public service must endeavour to protect its members from harm wherever operationally possible. Equally, when members must risk their personal safety in the defence of others, it is not open to discussion.

Laissez-faire leadership – is a hands-off approach to leadership, where the group are trusted to complete the task by the leader.

The laissez-faire approach can also be called the hands ‘hands-off’, ‘free-reign’ or ‘delegative’ approach. This style differs from the others in that the leader exercises very little control over the group and leaves them to establish their own roles and responsibilities. Followers are given very little direction but a great deal of power and freedom. They must use this power to establish goals, make decisions and resolve difficulties should they arise. This style is difficult to master as many leaders have great difficulty delegating power and authority to others and allowing them to the freedom to work free from interference. It is also a difficult approach to use with all teams as some people experience great difficulty working with a leader’s direction and projects or goals may fall behind schedule or be poorly organised.

In general, a laissez-faire approach is most effective when a group of followers are highly motivated, experienced and well trained. It is important that the leader can have trust in their followers to complete tasks without supervision and this is more likely to happen with a highly qualified team or individual.

However, there are situations where a laissez-faire style may not be the most effective style. An example of this would be when a leader lacks the knowledge and the skills to do the job and employs this style so that the work of the followers or employees covers the leader’s weaknesses. This is not the same as a leader who brings in outside expertise, such as a scene of crime officer, to complete a task they are not qualified to do. In addition, it would be inappropriate to use this style with new or inexperienced staff who may feel uncomfortable if the direction of a leader weren’t readily available. For instance, a commanding officer would not approach the training of new recruits in a laissez-faire manner, but as an individual progress through a rank structure they will become more skilled, experienced and trustworthy and may encounter this style more often.

The laissez-faire approach is a good one to use when dealing with expert staff who may know a great deal more about a subject than the leader themselves on a specific issue. In a public service context, a good example of this would be a murder enquiry where the supervising officer would employ a laissez-faire approach to a scene-of-crime officer or a forensic investigator. The experts know what they are there to do and can be safely left to get on with it, leaving the supervising officer free to attend to other tasks.

Transactional leadership – is a very direct style of leadership and uses rewards and punishments to motivate the team.

This is similar to autocratic but not as extreme, even though transactional leaders, like autocratic leaders, are direct and dominating and spend a great deal of time telling others what is expected of them. Transactional leaders are very common in businesses where people receive rewards such as bonuses, training or time off if they demonstrate good performance.

Transactional leaders use conventional rewards and punishments to gain the support of their team. They create clear structures whereby it is obvious what is required of the team and what incentives they will receive if they follow orders (salary, benefits, promotion or praise). Team members who perform adequately or accomplish goals will be rewarded in some way that benefits their own self-interest. Those who don’t perform or meet the standard required will be punished by the leader through the ‘management by exception principle’, whereby, rather than rewarding work, they will take corrective action against those who don’t work to the required standards.

Table: The advantages and disadvantages of transactional leadership.

Advantages

Disadvantages

* The leader actively monitors the work and each individual’s performance.

* Leaders tend to be action oriented and focus on short-term tasks.

* People are motivated by being rewarded for exceeding expectations.

* Team members may not get job satisfaction because of the reward and punishment ethos.

* There is a clear chain of command.

* It has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work but remains a common style in many organisations.

* Formal systems of discipline are in place.

* Team members do exactly what the manager tells them to do and have no authority.

* The team is fully accountable for its actions and will be sanctioned for failure.

* The team might not have the resources or capability to carry out a task.

* It ensures that routine work is done reliably.

* The style assumes that people are motivated by money and not by emotional and social factors.

* The leader could manipulate others to engage in unethical or immoral practices and control others for their own personal gain.

* It creates an environment of power versus perks.

Transformational leadership – style is a form of leadership style that focuses on team performance as a whole by encouraging team members to think of the group rather than themselves. It is about moving forward as a team rather than individuals who just happen to be on the same project.

Transformational leaders aim to make team members better people by encouraging their self-awareness and helping them to see the bigger picture of what they do. They want team members to overcome self-interest and move towards achieving the common goals and purposes that are shared with the group.

Transformational leaders are often charismatic with a clear vision. They spend a lot of time communicating and gaining the support of the team through their enthusiasm. This vision may be developed by the leader or the team, or may emerge from discussions. Leaders will want to be role models that others will follow and will look to explore the various routes to achieve their vision. They look at long-term goals rather than short-term goals. They are always visible and will be accountable for their actions rather than hiding behind their team. They act as mentors and demonstrate how the team should behave and work together through their own good practice. They listen to the team and often delegate responsibility – they trust their team enough to leave them to grow and solve the problems through their own decisions.

Table: The advantages and disadvantages of transformational leadership.

Advantages

Disadvantages

* People will follow transformational leaders because of their passion, energy, commitment and enthusiasm for the team and their vision.

* The team may not share the same vision if they are not convinced by it.

* They add value to the organisation through their vision and enthusiasm.

* I the team do not believe that they can succeed, then they will lack effort and ultimately give up.

* They care about their team and work hard to motivate them – this reduces stress levels and increases well-being.

* Followers need to have a strong sense of purpose if they are to be motivated to act.

* They have belief in others and themselves.

* Leaders believe their vision is right, when sometimes it isn’t.

* They spend time teaching and coaching the team.

* Large amounts of relentless enthusiasm can wear out the team.

* Leaders see the big picture but not the details.

* Leaders can become frustrated if transformation is not taking place.

Bureaucratic leadership – is a style of leadership that focuses on rules and procedures to manage teams and projects.

A bureaucratic form of leadership is one in which authority is diffused among a number of departments or individuals and there is strict adherence to a set of operational rules.

This is also considered to be a classic leadership style and is often used in organisations that do not encourage innovation and change, and by leaders who may be insecure and uncertain of their role. It involves following the rule of an organisation rigidly. People who favour using this style of leadership are often very familiar with the many policies, guidelines and working practices that an organisation may have.

If a particular situation arises that is not covered by known rules and guidelines then a bureaucratic leader may feel uncomfortable as they like to ‘do things by the book’. They may feel out of their depth and will have little hesitation in referring difficulties to a leader higher up in the chain of command.

This approach is commonly found in many uniformed and non-uniformed public services. Often the public services are very large and bureaucratic themselves and, although it may seem unlikely, there are several situations where the bureaucratic leadership style may be useful, for example, when:

* A job is routine and doesn’t change over a long period of time.

* A job requires a definite set of safety rules or working guidelines in order to comply with the law.

However, if the bureaucratic style is used inappropriately it can have negative consequences, leading to a lack of flexibility, an uninspired working environment and workers who do what it is required of them but no more.

People-orientated leadership – style focuses on participation of all team members, clear communication and supporting and developing the individual in order to improve skills.

The people-orientated leader is focused on organising, supporting and developing the team. They are competent in their role and inspire others by unlocking their potential. They allocate roles based on a person’s strength and individual skills.

This style of leadership is participative and encourages good teamwork, loyalty and creative collaboration and helps to avoid work-based problems such as low morale, poor communication and distrust. The style has a human element and good relationships are crucial to success. The key to this style is people power – the organisation is made successful by utilising the knowledge, skills, abilities, life experiences and talents of the individuals and groups. A people-orientated style also looks to develop a person’s skills and help them acquire new ones through continuous and regular training. A disadvantage of this is that it can focus so much on the well-being of the team that the job they do is neglected.

Task-orientated – style is about getting the job done. The completion of the task rather than the needs of the team is the key goal.

Task-orientated leaders focus mainly on getting the task done, whether it is structured or unstructured. They will define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, plan, organise and monitor with little thought for the well-being or needs of their teams. This approach can have many flaws, such as difficulties in motivating and retaining the team.

This style of leadership is the opposite of people-orientated leadership. In practice, most leaders use both task-orientated and people-orientated styles of leadership. As an example, a police inspector organising crowd control at a football match may use a task-centred approach, but back at the station, when dealing with junior police officers, she might employ a people-centred approach.

Appropriate style for the situation

The public services receive their strategic plans either directly from a government ministry or they must draw up their own plans under the prevailing political will of the time. This means that even very senior officers often have no input into the goal setting of the organisation but are given authoritarian dictates that they have to impose on their employees. Despite this a public service leader must be ready to respond to the challenges and changes that they may arise in society with a whole range of leadership techniques that can be deployed singly or all at once. Public service leaders must be highly adaptable and comfortable using all styles of leadership.