Let’s admit it: There aren’t any one-size-fits all styles of leadership. Everything is contingent upon the situation you are present in. With this in mind, here are a few factors which can help you decide which leadership persona is the best fit for the situation you are facing.
Leadership Style to the Moment
1) Long Term, Short Term or Crisis?
Time favors different types of leaders. Different project durations demand different leaders.
Long term projects are ideal for transformational and democratic/participative leaders. These leadership styles inherently need time to bring out their full potential. If given a long term project, favoring a combination of these two styles may be preferable.
On the other hand, short term projects and crisis situations would crumble if left to the hands of a soppy and spineless leader. Here, a more strict and direct approach may be necessary to get things on track again. Autocratic leaders flourish here. However, short term projects can still be guided by a transformational approach. As long as clear deadlines and expectations are set, the project should proceed smoothly.
2) What Field of Work?
Creativity-based jobs are ideal, once again, for the democratic and transformational duo. These leadership styles are better at engaging with employees who are required to give creative output. It creates an intrinsic incentive to work hard. This is because both forms of leadership encourage worker autonomy and highlight individual accomplishment.
Mechanical-based projects are unmistakably for an autocratic or transactional leader. There is little to transform and hardly anything to be discussed. Instead of wasting time to decide the work process, these leaders go directly to the work. Hard deadlines and retribution for mistakes make repetitive processes somewhat more efficient.
3) What Kind of Employees?
If possible, try to identify the personality of your followers. For transformational leaders, this is a pre-requisite for being a transformation leader to begin with. For others, it’s a bit more work. By doing so, you can pick a leadership persona that best resonates with the follower.
Some employees value critical thinking, independent thought and the ability to control their circumstances. Transformational leadership would connect best with these workers as it panders to their values. When in their ideal environment, these workers are most likely to contribute genuine and sincere work you may find useful. Simply put: They are happier this way.
On another note, some employees are plain lazy. They require a leader to whip them into action and get things started. They need someone else to be pro-active for them. As you may have guessed, an autocratic leader fits this bill. You may try to go all transformational on them, but if they are in a sluggish and non-receptive culture, your attempts are less likely to work. Being strict and having the thought of retribution in the air just may do the trick with these workers.
When dealing with people who are reward-motivated, transactional leadership is best to engage with them. Some employees want quick fixes. They want to climb up the corporate ladder, feel appreciated and squeeze a bit of cash out of you. Carrots just might do the trick, metaphorically speaking. It gives them a constant feedback which they desire.
Finally, some individuals have a high self-worth. They feel empowered when their viewpoint is taken into consideration. A democratic and participative approach is necessary as to not hurt their feelings, and thus, their productivity.
Try not to treat each leadership style as a separate entity. Instead, recognize them as parts of yourself. Ideally, a leader should be able to adapt to the demands of the workplace fluidly. Remember, the right approach will make things a lot easier for you.