Management Styles: How to Lead Effectively

If you’re leading well, you won’t have just one leadership style. You’ll mix and match to engage your team and meet your goals.

This article is part one of a series; click here to read part one, “Management Styles: What’s Your Leadership Type?

There is a time and place for all leadership styles. No style is good or bad. It’s how leaders use them that determines success or failure.

Take the case of New York Giants Head Coach Tom Coughlin. Today Coughlin is a two-time Super Bowl winner. But early in his tenure, it was unclear whether he would remain as a head coach. Team members were turned off by his rigid management style. He imposed many rules to infuse discipline. He fined players if they were not in their seats at team meetings five minutes before the start time. Morale was terrible. There was no playfulness in playing.

Something had to change. The team’s general manager and the head coach had a heart-to-heart.

Coughlin not only survived but became an extraordinary head coach. His willingness to dramatically alter his thinking and behavior transformed his relationship with his players. He became more concerned about their lives as well as their performance on the field. He demonstrated his accountability for their development. He created a players’ council to improve communication between the coaching staff and the men in the locker room.

While reinventing himself as a leader, Coughlin showed perseverance and persistence and never lost sight of his goal: winning the Super Bowl. He surrounded himself with people who shared his values but did not necessarily act in the same ways. The result: His team now consistently dominates its division.

Coughlin’s example confirms an essential truth: Leadership and management styles are not fixed in place, permanently attached to an individual’s personality. While most leaders develop a dominant leadership style, the best learn to adopt elements of other styles when needed to achieve their goals. In the parlance of the eight management styles described on the following pages, Coughlin falls squarely in the -command-and-control category, but he adapted key attributes of the situational, transformational, and innovative styles. And it worked.

A Winning Formula

There is no such thing as a born leader. Leadership is an acquired attribute that begins early in school and on the playground. Some children develop take-charge attitudes, some make friends fast, while others are happy just to make the team. As time goes on, education, jobs, and life experiences shape a leader’s philosophy and psychology. How best to get the job done and work with others? How to set goals and objectives and manage their results? The answers to these questions become a leader’s winning formula for success.

But over time, a leader may find that her winning formula is not producing the results it used to. New challenges require new leadership skills, behaviors, and ways of communicating. It’s time for her to unlearn her familiar leadership approach, recognize her limitations, and adapt her leadership style to become the leader she needs to be.

Louis R. Mobley, the director of IBM’s executive school in the 1950s and 1960s, first alerted executives to the need to “wake up” to the comfortable parameters they worked in so they could better “feel” their leadership potential. His lessons still apply today.

Mobley taught that leadership is based in experience and habit, not intellect, noting that success comes 20 percent from knowledge and 80 percent from behavior. For Mobley, waking up to leadership meant being responsible for one’s impact on others. He pushed for a “radical revolution in consciousness,” believing that great leaders don’t know different things from everyone else, but they think in utterly different ways. Leadership lives in how we think, not what we think.

Consider the eight leadership styles outlined here and the real-world leaders who exemplify them. If you are aware of these different ways of leading, you can adapt your style to manage circumstances and advance your intended goals. How do you decide which styles to employ? Read, reflect, and go experiment.

(Will Woods/Digital Vision/Thinkstock)

Rhea Blanken, FASAE

By Rhea Blanken, FASAE

Rhea Blanken, FASAE, is president of Results Technology, Inc., in Bethesda, Maryland. Email: rheaz@resultstech.com MORE

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