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The Complexity of Leadership Styles.

“What’s your leadership style?” This question has echoed through countless conversations, posed by diverse individuals. My consistent response? I don’t adhere to a single predefined style. Why? Because effective leadership transcends rigid categories. It’s about orchestration, adaptation, and harmonizing with the unique context.

Are you as versatile as my favourite conductor Carlos Kleiber or more of a one-track man like Riccardo Muti?

Daniel Goleman’s six emotional styles—captivating as they are—don’t encapsulate the full spectrum of leadership. Instead, let’s envision a dynamic matrix. Picture a 3x3 grid where the abscissa represents “team maturity” (ranging from inexperienced to expert), and the ordinate signifies the organizational context (stable, growth, or crisis). 

Within this matrix, nine distinct situations emerge, each demanding a nuanced leadership approach.

Navigating the Matrix

  1. Inexperienced Teams in Stable Waters: Here, a coaching style shines. Guide, mentor, and empower. Nurture growth, as saplings become sturdy oaks.

  2. Experienced Crews Amid Growth: Delegative leadership thrives. Trust your sailors; let them navigate. Freedom fuels creativity.

  3. Expert Teams Facing Crisis: Transactional leadership steps up. Clear rules, swift rewards, and consequences. The ship must weather the storm.

  4. Inexperienced Teams in Crisis: Autocratic leadership emerges. Prioritize their well-being. Be the lighthouse in turbulent seas.

  5. Experienced Teams in Stable Waters: Visionary leadership sets sail. Paint the horizon, ignite passion. The crew rallies toward the distant shore.

  6. Expert Teams in Growth Mode: Pacesetting may be necessary. Swift commands, like a conductor’s baton, orchestrate progress.

  7. Inexperienced Teams in Growth Mode: Bureaucratic structures stabilize the voyage. Rules, procedures—the compass guiding their course.

  8. Experienced Teams in Crisis: Democratic leadership invites collaboration. Collective wisdom charts the course. Unity in adversity.

  9. Expert Teams in Stable Waters: Blend styles. Harmonize culture, juxtapose experiences. Your toolbox: a symphony of methodologies.

And so, what should you be looking for in a leader?

A. Situational Adaptability: Effective leaders assess the context and adjust their style accordingly. A crisis may require autocratic decisions, while a creative project benefits from a coaching approach.

B. Strengths Amplification: Combining styles leverages each leader’s strengths. A visionary leader with coaching skills can inspire and guide their team toward the shared vision.

Team Diversity: Teams consist of diverse individuals. A one-size-fits-all leadership style won’t resonate with everyone. Adapting ensures inclusivity and engagement.

D. Complex Challenges: Complex problems demand multifaceted solutions. A blend of styles allows leaders to tackle diverse challenges effectively.

The most effective leaders are chameleons, seamlessly shifting between leadership styles. 

They recognize that leadership isn’t about rigid adherence to one approach but about adapting to the needs of their team and organization. By combining various styles, they create a symphony of leadership that resonates with their followers, achieving remarkable results.

Remember, leadership isn’t a solo performance; it’s a collaborative masterpiece orchestrated by a versatile conductor like Kleiber - the leader.

Dr Dorel Iosif

Managing Partner & CEO, LAVAUX Advisory.


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