Leadership Lessons Part 1: First Time Employers

Is it better to lead with an iron fist or a velvet glove? That’s a difficult question, especially for first time employers. Yet the answer is critical to the success of your business. In fact, one study reports that 52 percent of a company’s profitability is directly related to the quality of their leadership. So it’s important to discover what approach works best for you and your team, and to discover those core principles for what makes an effective business leader. Start by looking at these examples of leadership styles and consider what fits for your small business.

Here are four classic leadership styles. Each is based on a pattern of behavior exhibited by leaders. They may remind you of someone you know. Perhaps one of them describes you.

The Admiral

Leaders with this style are most concerned about getting the job done efficiently. They run a tight ship and want people to follow their rules. Direction often comes in the form of a command. And strict controls are put in place to ensure adherence to the standard. This style can be useful when the work must follow a standard process and the risk of harm is high if it is not followed—like a hazardous waste disposal business. One of its disadvantages is that it can stifle innovation since no input is sought from others.

The Buddy

Leaders with this style are more concerned with building strong relationships. For these leaders, it’s important to get along with each staff member. People come first, not the job. Their responsibility is to nurture the staff and create a bond. That can be useful with new team members or when workloads become demanding. But it can come at the expense of quality since the focus is not on job performance. And it may not challenge the team to improve.

The Autopilot

Leaders with this style have a “do the best you can but don’t bother me” attitude. Neither the work, nor their people concern them. Instead, they are content to have the staff self-govern their own work. This might be of value if you have a high performing team with the skill and experience to get the job done. It might also be used temporarily so the leader can focus on other issues like strategic planning. But it carries significant risk.

The Coach

This leader wants to get the job done by developing a winning team. Information is often shared so that team members have the knowledge to participate in the decision-making process. That develops a sense of ownership since employees have some skin in the game. It can also encourage innovation. But it can add time to the process so it may not be appropriate when quick action is needed. It also requires an investment in time for the staff to learn about the business in order to meaningfully contribute.

So which of these is the best approach to leadership? The answer is likely all of the above—at one time or another. Leadership experts suggest that the idea is for business owners to flex to the style that is needed for a specific situation or personality, and to apply formulas for success that will guide you to your intended destination. Consider these leadership styles and be ready to draw on them to meet the dynamic needs of your small business.

Need further guidance on management styles? Read, Finding an Effective Management Style for Your Small Business  for more insight on successful leadership qualities.