Leading in times of change – with what style? – Part 4 of the blog series: Influencing self and others

What would be your answer to the question: "What leadership style are your using in these difficult times? And which one are you planning to use for your upcoming restructuring?" With most executives, you will first notice a slight hesitation and then hear sentences that sound something like this: "I'm trying to get the team involved. And I am doing my best to sell the changes."

And do you think that the leader will do anything different now in this new situation compared to what he/she used to do before? You guessed right: As a rule, no. Why? He or she is involved in a vast number of assignments, projects, discussions, board meetings and customer crisis talks. Just what is on the agenda when everything is constantly changing and in upheaval. There is simply no time to focus on the issues of styles.


What could and should a leader do differently?

A good start would be: Be aware that there are different leadership styles and that they should be used consciously in order to achieve the desired effects. A helpful categorization of leadership styles comes from the American psychologist and author of the book EQ. Emotional Intelligence. Goleman describes six leadership styles: the commanding ("You do what I tell you to do"), the visionary ("Follow me"), the "pacesetter" ("Do like me or I'll do it myself"), the democratic ("What do you think"), the emotional ("The person first") and the coaching ("Try that").

Most people have a preference, a style of leadership into which they have slowly evolved, perhaps based on role models or also "anti-images " in the guise of the bosses they never wanted to be similar to. Few people have every style in their quiver. Most have three. And that is a pity.


Every leadership style is neccessary

In times of upheaval, you need every single leadership style you can get your hands on! If you have less than all six at your disposal, it would be like going to New York in shorts only. Great for a walk in Central Park, totally out of place for the business meeting, the theater, Long Island Beach, the groovy bar, a friend's birthday party. You need at least six different outfits, unless you want to be very, very touristy. And of course, you must have worn each one so often that you feel comfortable in it.

Why do you need all six styles? Just take a quick look at the different situations in times of radical change: Depressed employees who need a clear vision (visionary); idea-finding meetings to see what exactly customers will need in the future (democratic); crisis solutions that you need implemented right now, exactly as you need them (commanding); the new Powerpoint Master that everyone is cursing about and that you therefore need to be the first to master (pacemaker); employees who fight with each other and need to be reassured (emotional) and employees whom you want to develop into new roles (coaching)

If you are only missing one style, you may drag yourself across the finish line, but it won't be a great run.


Is this still authentic?

Now the worry: Are you still authentic when you constantly change your leadership style? Absolutely yes. After all, situations and people are always different. So it would exactly be inauthentic if you always reacted in the same way, no matter what the situation. For example, by convening a democratic pow-wow where clear announcements are needed. Or by setting precise guidelines for creative work.

What could you do now? Firstly, regularly review the work situations you encounter and consider which style is the best to achieve your goal. Of course, you should also consider in which situations you have been successful in the past and with which style. Or, if the horse has already bolted, what you could have done differently.

On the other hand you can also watch the great movie "Money Ball" with Brad Pitt. You'll definitely find four styles - and you'll also see how Pitt embraces one of them as the film progresses. And if you even want to make the shift into strategy implementation, you can learn something decent about the wise leadership styles used by Count von Moltke in the book "The Art of Action" by Stephen Bungay.

Click here not to miss any of the biweekly blogs on influencing. In addition, every two weeks you will be able to download a different chapter of the book "24 Karat Success" for free. The 24 chapters cover different aspects of how to influence yourself and others as PDF or ePub (eReader only) version.

Have a first glance at the book as PDF or ePub (only for eReader).