When it comes to leadership styles , they are all good

Leadership styles

I’ve been reading a number of articles and posts recently about different leadership styles.

Most of the articles split the styles into those that are good and those that are bad. I vehemently disagree. I don’t believe there are any “bad” leadership styles.

But before I dig into that, you may be wondering—if you haven’t read the same articles I have—what the different styles are. There are a few of them, and most have different names depending on who you’re talking to.

Here is the list of leadership styles I use (in no particular order):

• Inspirational: This sets a compelling vision and consistently inspires their team to reach that vision.

• Coach: This leverages the team’s strengths and motivations to both achieve the team’s goal and to help the team members improve personally and professionally.

• Authoritarian: This is a very top-down, directive and decisive style. There is little or no collaboration or discussion of decisions.

• Servant leader: This has a very “people-first” approach. It is great at setting an example, and makes a point of removing obstacles to allow team members to work effectively.

• Laissez-faire: This is also called the “hands-off” style. It is strong on team autonomy and there is very little mentoring or supervision.

• Bureaucratic: This is very rules-based. This style works on the premise there is one right way to get something done. It rests on a strong hierarchical structure.

• Collaborative: This sees decisions reached through group discussion and full team input.

As I’m sure you can guess, the authoritarian and the bureaucratic styles, and to some extent the laissez-faire style, are the ones put into the “bad” bucket. The coach, collaborative, inspirational and servant leadership styles are in the “good” bucket.

The articles I’ve read asked the reader to determine their leadership style and, if it’s one of the bad ones, encouraged the reader to change it.

There is a problem with that. It assumes all volunteers and all situations are the same —or at least, close enough that one or two styles will cover everything effectively. That’s just not the case. All leaders need to be comfortable using all the different styles, depending on the situation. And they need to know when to use each one.

The authoritarian style, for example, would be detrimental to use with highly-functioning volunteers during their regular shifts. That kind of leadership, in that situation, would irritate the volunteers and drive them away. It’s the perfect style, however, in an emergency. When the building is on fire, or if someone is suffering from a heart-attack, a leader who can make snap decisions and give specific, decisive orders will be far more effective than, say, a leader with a coach or a collaborative style, who just wouldn’t be able to make decisions fast enough. I’ve seen leaders freeze during times of crisis because they didn’t know how to be directive.

The bureaucratic style? It is great for when health or legal protocols are involved , when serious consequences can occur if specific steps aren’t followed or if “Ts” aren’t crossed.

The coaching style is great for newer volunteers and the laissez-faire for experienced ones. The inspirational style is wonderful for times of change and transformation. The collaborative one is good for for medium and long-range planning.

There are many different situations and people that a leader of volunteers needs to deal with. Having only one or two different leadership styles that you can use means you will only be effective in certain situations or with certain volunteers.

There are no bad leadership styles, only poor choices of which particular style to use at any given time. Honestly, I think some styles were put in the “bad” bucket simply because they were the only ones a leader ever used.

The best leaders use all leadership styles, at the appropriate times and with the appropriate volunteers.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Karen Knight has provided volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations for more than 25 years.

Her professional life has spanned many industries, working in both the private and public sectors in various leadership positions.

Through her passion for making a difference in the world, she has gained decades of experience in not-for-profits as a leader and a board member.

Karen served in Toastmasters International for more than 25 years, in various roles up to district director, where she was responsible for one of the largest Toastmasters districts in the world.

She oversaw a budget of $250,000 and 300 individual clubs with more than 5,000 members. She had 20 leaders reporting directly to her and another 80 reporting to them—all volunteers.

Karen currently serves as vice-president of the board of directors for the Kamloops Therapeutic Riding Association.

After many years working and volunteering with not-for-profits, she found many leaders in the sector have difficulty with aspects of volunteer programs, whether in recruiting the right people, assigning those people to roles that both support the organization’s mission and in keeping volunteers enthusiastic.

Using hands-on experience, combined with extensive study and research, she helps solve challenges such as volunteer recruitment, engagement and training for not-for-profit organizations.

Karen Knight can be contacted at [email protected], or through her website at https://karenknight.ca/.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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