There is no single way to interpret leadership and while there are many established theories and methods on the subject, a leader needs to react to influences in the workplace, understand their own approach and skills, acknowledge the positives and negatives of each leadership method and implement this into.
Factors that affect leadership
Part of my role involves project management, and having to step in to provide technical / design support if needed. As part of this ongoing process, it is important to know how much direction and support delegated staff require.
Using Blanchard and Hersey’s Four Leadership Styles as an example in conjunction with a design project different stages of that project may require implementing all four styles.
S1 Direct –
at the implementation of a new task, subordinates may require high direction in terms of what is requires, milestones and deadlines, taking into account the need for external purchasing / printing and what the point of the work actually is. This situation may for, example, also arise close to a deadline if something has fallen behind or gone wrong and a leader needs to made strong decisions for the best course of action.
S2: Coach – based on S1, the leader will be in communication with their staff to determine factors such as if the subordinates understand the relevance of the work and what the objective is, if the project can be completed in agreed timescales, if staff have relevant skills to implement and what a successful outcome is.
S3: Support – As the project is underway the leader maintains active communications with staff if there are new decisions to be made or support to be provided. For example the project may have to adapt due to unforeseen circumstances, but the leader is a position to discuss what the best course of action is instead of using purely their own judgement
S4: Delegation – When the project is underway and the leader has assigned specific tasks where appropriate, they can be in a position to entrust responsibility to their staff. The leader will need progress updates that will affect the decision to apply S1, S2 or S3 styles if needed, for example if a project is being held up I may have to provide design support or enter challenging discussions with the party causing the issue.
The individuals within a team will have their own practical and technical skills, but in addition with have differing personal characters, beliefs and values. Some may require more coaching than others, some may
Based on 1.1 a more authoritative / directoral approach can be of great benefit when applied at the correct moment, such as at the very outset of a design project, when handling unforeseen issues, or in the build up to a print deadline if the leader needs to use their authority to handle problems, but used at the wrong time or for too long will make subordinates feel their opinions are not valued, they are just being dictated to and the leader is too involved in every action (becoming a micro manager) . This would be S1 of the Blanchard / Hersey model.
Participation makes staff feel more valued in that after the initial directional decisions have been made, they can voice their opinions, highlight any issues that may have been missed, or point out if they need further skills to complete a task. It is also an opportunity for the leader to see if any staff members display any leadership abilities which may be of use in the future. The danger of this area is that it can go on for too long or risks staff being side tracked from the matter at hand. A good leader will know when to allow everyone to have their say in a reasonable time period, and look out for individuals who may not be as responsive as others in the group.
Based on the authoritative and participative processes, delegation sees the leader assigning the right tasks to the correct person, making use of specific practical skills and personal characters to handle certain parts of a project. This differs to allocation is that less thought is given to the specific abilities of the person the task is allocated to.
After discussions with colleagues at levels above and below myself and in line with the Leadership Style Questionnaire based on the John Adair Model, there was a distinct leaning towards being a ‘Hard Taskmaster’ and a very low focus towards the needs of the individual. I recognise in myself this from:
Working to strict schedules – having worked for five years in a publishing firm with production schedules determined 12 months in advance,
My employer’s structure – A public sector body that is going through a transition period to eliminate a lot of the working mentality associated with that area
Working independently – in my current role, until March 2017 I had been the sole designer for three years.
As a result, working to the practicalities of a project is of high importance to my own principles and at times I feel unscheduled work or late request are a burden. As a public body my employer also has extensive methods of recording work and processes for legal reasons, meaning everything must be clearly recorded. I also found it hard to delegate tasks when I first had a subordinate, as I felt I had to be responsible for everything.
My own manager is supporting me in trying to balance my leadership approach to the task, team and individual, while being an effective leader. This is through ways such as supplying reading material (e.g. The One Minute Manager,,,,,) and approaches to take in how to communicate with subordinates; how to check in on them without interfering, assessing development paths for those individuals and how
My manager has 2 line managers including myself under her, and from the a total a team of 12 in a department of around 25. The team works intimately on a daily basis, we have regular work updates and social outgoings
Going forward, I am now more aware of having to consider the needs, motivations and character of the individual to a greater extent. I am very satisfied with my approach to tasks at hand and want to continue this in conjunction with having a team focus.
Regarding balancing management for individuals, we do have the foundations in terms of regular meetings as mentioned but these are fairly corporate in their structure and may miss obvious signs from the individual; it will be useful to look at less formal methods to compliment this, particularly as I work with creatives who may respond better to such methods. We will look at evaluating performaces
I consider speaking to my wider team in meetings – presenting concepts, giving updates etc. – as satisfactory; a background in presenting ideas and designs has given me confidence in this area. However, these are situations I am in control of; in the future I will be more aware of obvious signs and concerns from individuals that are