The Pitfalls of Inappropriate Leadership Styles.

Leadership can make or break a company. Alyssa's journey as a founder and managing director unveils the hidden pitfalls of an intense leadership style. Understanding and adapting leadership styles can transform not just teams and outcomes, but entire organisational cultures.
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Meet Alyssa, the founder and managing director of a leading software company specialising in HR and payroll solutions. Alyssa embodies the entrepreneurial spirit and is deeply committed to her company and its clients. However, her leadership style, predominantly pacesetting, while reflecting her drive and high standards, has had a nuanced impact on her team and the company culture, which isn’t always positive.

As a pacesetter, Alyssa sets a demanding pace, often working long hours and weekends, especially during critical project phases. While her dedication is admirable, her approach of diving into operational tasks rather than delegating and mentoring creates an expectation that others need to ‘keep up’. Unfortunately, this intense pace can be difficult for her team to sustain, leading to burnout and increased turnover.

The repercussions of a pacesetting leadership style are profound:

Cultural Impact: Alyssa’s approach heavily influences the company’s culture, promoting an expectation of constant high performance that is unrealistic long-term.

Team Well-being: Continuous high-speed operation without adequate breaks leads to burnout, affecting team morale and physical well-being.

Quality of Work: In the rush to meet deadlines, the quality of work may decline, resulting in technical debt, costly long-term corrections, or a lack of understanding of customer needs.

Goleman’s Leadership Styles

Daniel Goleman’s research on leadership styles emphasises the necessity for leaders to adapt and shift between styles based on the situation, team needs, and specific challenges. Recognizing your default approach is the first step. The next step is developing self-awareness and situational awareness, which involves understanding how your actions affect team dynamics and performance.

Goleman identifies several leadership styles that can complement or serve as alternatives to the pacesetting approach:

  • Commanding / Coercive Leadership: Effective in crisis situations, demanding immediate compliance, but can dampen morale if overused.
  • Authoritative / Visionary Leadership: Highly effective during transformative phases, providing clear direction and motivation.
  • Affiliative Leadership: Prioritising emotional bonds and harmony, creating a supportive environment by valuing people and their feelings.
  • Democratic Leadership: Involves soliciting input from team members, building consensus, and fostering ownership and flexibility.
  • Coaching Leadership: Focusing on personal development, helping team members identify their strengths and weaknesses, and encouraging growth.

Effective leadership involves flexibility. By integrating other styles from Goleman’s framework, such as coaching, affiliative, or democratic leadership, you can cultivate a more balanced, resilient, and supportive work environment. This adaptability enhances team satisfaction and performance while sustaining the company’s growth by nurturing a healthier organisational culture and creating longer-term resilience.

Understanding and adjusting leadership styles is crucial for the health of the organization. Cultivating self-awareness of behavior and preferences, combined with situational awareness, helps decide which style would be most appropriate.

These skills and behaviours take time to cultivate, so start slow and be gentle with yourself.

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The Pitfalls of Inappropriate Leadership Styles.

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