What does effective leadership look like?
This might be the ultimate question. There's been study after study, theory after theory, book after book developed to help us understand how to identify, hone, and display leadership qualities. Perhaps even more common is teaching people how to identify and fix poor leadership skills. But over time, it becomes clear that many of these theories and best practices conflict with one another. Someone’s suggestion of democratic leadership directly contradicts with someone else’s recommendation of laissez-faire leadership. So what’s the real answer?
I think the reason why there’s so much variety in this answer is actually the answer itself. Each kind of leadership addresses a particular context:
- Leading from within can be effective in lower-stakes situations, but a crisis may not benefit from this style of leadership
- Delegation may work when the stakes are high or time is severely limited, but constantly being told what to do may wear people down over time
See what I’m getting at?
I think effective leadership is whatever style fits the scenario in which leadership is needed. The ultimate leader is someone who can understand what the team needs right now, and who understands how to adapt their approach to fit those needs. PMI, the Project Management Institute, has an article about how situational leadership works in a matrix environment, which is common among larger organizations.
Yes – that means that a truly effective leader may have to be competent in a number of different leadership styles. But you tell me what sounds best:
- A team who feels like they’re being micromanaged to the point that their creativity and freedom is stifled
- A team who flounders at a critical time because they don’t have the support they require
- A team who constantly has their needs met to excel at their own jobs
Okay – maybe that was a bit of a leading question. But it’s important to remember that any team, at any time, could experience any one of these scenarios. Some teams might experience all three scenarios in a year, or a quarter, or a month. And the reality is that teams change over time – growth of existing team members, new additions, etc. – and with every change comes a new set of needs. It’s up to your team leader to be ready to address those changing needs.
It’s this line of thinking that we applied to the McQuaig 360 Leadership Review: the results of our 360 directly relate back to what the team needs at that time. That’s why we recommend using a 360 leadership assessment tool at a regular cadence – maybe a year, maybe every 2 years – to re-assess what’s needed for the team, and rediscover how your leaders can hone their skills and make the most impact. You might be surprised at how the responses change over time.
McQuaig now offers a 360-degree leadership assessment that's simpler and more effective than other 360-degree feedback tools. Sign up for a free demo here!
So what does effective leadership look like? It looks like whatever the team needs it to look like at a particular point in time. The most effective leadership style isn’t a style at all. It’s the ability to adapt based on feedback from the team. The ultimate goal is to empower the team to leverage their skills and really excel at what they do – and it takes a savvy, adaptable leader to get there.