Changing Leadership Styles

3 min read · 7 years ago



The idea of changing leadership style can be a daunting one. It may be a monumental shift of how business leaders handle everyday topics and issues. They may have identified the value in adopting a democratic or autocratic style, or perhaps a more hands-off approach.

Regardless of the desired style, business leaders will have several steps to take and questions to ask themselves. Here are a few tips on getting started.

Identify the reason

When the concept of a leadership-style change hits, a business leader can’t have a knee-jerk reaction. There are questions to ask and personal analysis to be done. Jeff Boss explores this in a story for Forbes. Here are three questions he recommends pondering before acting on a style shift:

  • “What does ‘right’ look like? Is my definition of winning the same as everybody else’s?”
  • “What objective am I trying to achieve? What objective are we trying to achieve? Why the discrepancy? (if applicable)”
  • “What and who will be impacted the most? Is this impact in accordance with our intent?”

Seek feedback

This is one of the trickier ideas to attempt. The “360” evaluation, in which your employees or peers can opine on your management skills and overall approach, may make some business leaders (or anyone, really) wince. But constructive criticism can be of great benefit, even to a top dog in the company. Lou Dubois writes about this for, and he quotes consultant Jon Picoult on the matter. Seeing a disengaged staff may be the biggest clue that something isn’t working, Picoult says, and so employee feedback is especially important.

“The most effective way to figure out if a change is needed is to solicit feedback from those you’re leading or partnering with” Picoult says. “I’m a strong proponent of reverse evaluations and 360 feedback, but it comes down to the environment the business is operating in.”

Among Dubois’ list of questions for business leaders to ask themselves:

  • “Are you prepared to adapt your style to become a more effective leader?”
  • “Is a change needed to drive business or can it function as-is?”
  • “Are you willing to ask your staff for more feedback on how to lead them more effectively and then listen to their thoughts?”
  • “What short-term changes can be made?”
  • “What alterations in style will need a more long-term approach?”
  • “Who inside and outside your organization can you enlist for support in this change?”

Appreciate diversity

An office atmosphere comes from its people, and its leader. The diversity of the staff — primarily meaning work experience and background in this case — can be an indication of how certain employees respond to management styles. Samantha Hanly writes about this for Demand Media.

“Leave any preconceptions or prejudices at the door, and observe how your staff members relate to one another and to their jobs,” she writes. “Workers with more skill will most likely respond well to democratic and laissez-faire leadership styles; those with less experience will likely respond more to a more autocratic style.”

Be open with your staff

Beyond the employee feedback, it can also be beneficial to aim for a transparent approach in making a style switch. Avery Augustine writes about her experiences in doing just that in a story on

Her team was skeptical of the changes she was attempting to make, she writes, “When I scheduled individual bi-weekly meetings with each of them, they complained. When I asked to do some shadowing to pinpoint inefficiencies in their workflows, they grumbled. They were used to the way I’d been handling the team for the past several months, and they didn’t understand the need for anything different. Now, the way you respond to their questioning is completely up to you. You don’t have to make a big announcement that you’re trying to change the way you manage — but a little explanation can go a long way to get employees on board. I answered my team’s questions honestly, but simply (e.g., ‘I want to meet every two weeks just to check in on your workload and make sure I know what you have going on, so we can be on the same page and I can make sure the entire team is successful as possible’). Whatever change you’re making, there’s a logical reason for it — so don’t let your employees’ questions make you doubt yourself or your new style.”

This article was syndicated from Business 2 Community: Changing Leadership Styles

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