Tech Managers: What’s Your Leadership Style?

As a tech manager, it may seem like you either have an tech leadership styleseffective or ineffective leadership style. According to Daniel Goleman, however, it’s a bit more complicated than that. In a 2000 Harvard Business Review Study, he explained that there are actually six different leadership styles, all of which affect corporate climates differently.

As we go through Goleman’s six leadership styles, think about how you manage your tech team. Which leadership style do you have? How does it affect your team’s performance? Would you consider switching your leadership style after reading this? Feel free to share your reaction in the comments section!

Goleman’s 6 Leadership Styles

1. Pacesetting

In the pacesetting style of management, you set yourself as an example for your team. You work hard, demanding the best from yourself, and expect your team to follow suit. Mr. Goleman summarized this style of management by the phrase “Do as I do, now.”

This style of management is often characterized by micromanagement. Those with a pacesetting style expect their team to be as quick and efficient as they are, and tend to takeover when their teams aren’t meeting their high expectations.

While pacesetting occasionally works well with capable and motivated teams, it more often than not is seen as a negative leadership style. Teams are often stressed by their leader’s level of insistence on excellence, and don’t understand how their contributions are helping the company. This ultimately leads to a lack of innovation, and high levels of attrition. If you think you’re managing your tech team with a pacesetting style, it may be time to reevaluate your management methods and see if they’re a good fit for your team.

 

2. Authoritative

In the authoritative style of management, you set a vision, a goal, and encourage people to work towards it. You don’t tell people how to reach that goal; you give them room to take risks, make mistakes, and innovate, all of which will ultimately help your team to succeed. Mr. Goleman summarized this leadership style by the phrase “Come with me.”

Authoritative leadership is especially effective when you have settled on a new project vision and have a clear direction as to where it is going. It allows your team to feel like their contributions are making an impact on the company; they know what they’re doing, and how their individual actions will ultimately benefit the organization.

Authoritative leadership is seen as one of the best styles for managing teams, except for when those teams have more knowledge/experience than their manager. If you know what your company needs to do, and have a team that is capable of working towards it independently, it would do you well to consider authoritative leadership.

 

3. Affiliative

With the affiliative style of leadership, you nurture emotional bonds with your team, which helps to build a cohesive team unit. You give them positive affirmation for jobs well done, and stress communication and freedom of thought. Mr. Goleman summarized this style of management by the phrase “People come first.”

Affiliative leadership is especially effective when team morale is low, or the team dynamics are broken. By allowing people to get jobs done in the way they think most effective, they’re more likely to take risks, and innovate. Furthermore, since the team is more cohesive, which in turn increases team communication and collaboration, the potential for new ideas abounds. Everybody’s happy.

Positive feedback is key to affiliative leadership, as praise is oftentimes too rare in the workplace. While approval is a necessary aspect of effective leadership, make sure that you’re balancing the words of affirmation with constructive criticism. If you don’t, then you’re team is likely to think that anything less than their best is going to be good enough for you. Be accepting, but balance it.

 

4. Coaching

In the coaching style of leadership, you’re trying to improve team members’ personal performance. You help them to set career performance goals, and assist them in reaching these aspirations. Mr. Goleman summarized this leadership style by the phrase “Try this.”

When you use the coaching style of leadership, you’re sending the message that you believe in your team and in their individual potential. By helping them with their goals, you’re not only improving your current workforce, and their productivity, but you’re also developing a team that’s loyal to you. That’s great news for management. The only way that a coaching style can go wrong is you’re trying to help people who don’t want to be helped. You can’t force them to change. Help those that do though, and you’ll see an improvement in your workforce.

 

5. Coercive

In the coercive style of leadership, you tell your team what to do, and expect it to get done immediately. You don’t allow your team any creativity or the chance to find new ways to do something. Mr. Goleman summarized this leadership style by the phrase “Do what I tell you.”

This leadership style is seen as overwhelmingly negative. While it does have its place, say in a crisis situation, it tends to demoralize your team when used consistently. If you want a team of technical robots who resent both you and their work, this is the style of leadership you should embody.

 

6. Democratic

In the democratic style of leadership, you ask your team for their input on situations. You understand that they have a unique perspective, and try to get a team consensus before moving forward. Mr. Goleman summarized this leadership style by the phrase “What do you think?”

When you use the democratic style of leadership, you’re gaining your teams’ trust and respect by listening, and implementing, what they have to say. You’re likely to get some great, innovative ideas out of the process, too. People will feel comfortable throwing a new technique or new process out there if they know you won’t shoot them down.

The problem with a democratic leadership style, however, is that it can become a series of endless meetings that don’t get anything done. If you have a democratic style of leadership, make sure that you’re willing to step up, stop the meetings, and make your own decision if your team can’t make a unanimous one.

 

There are a variety of leadership styles out there, all of which have their situation and team dependent merits. Because of this situational dependence, however, it is important that you have several different leadership styles so that you can adapt. Only by implementing several  – for example, coaching, authoritative, and affiliative – will you be able to lead your team effectively.

What’s your leadership style? Is it effective? Tell us about it in the comments section below, or join the conversation on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.



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Thanks to calixto for the use of their respective photographs. Information about leadership styles comes from Daniel Goleman’s 13 page, March 1, 2000 Harvard Business Review article,Leadership That Gets Results.”