Business Smarts: Identifying Your Leadership Style - The Edge from the National Association of Landscape Professionals

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Business Smarts: Identifying Your Leadership Style

Some individuals are born leaders. Others reach leadership positions over years of effort and others can find a leadership role almost thrust upon them.

Whichever path to leadership resonates with you, knowing what your leadership style is can help you establish your values and a vision to achieve those values.

Discovering Your Leadership Style

“Self-reflection is essential, followed by genuine feedback and mentorship from a trusted source,” says Brian McGrady, branch manager for Yard Solutions, based in Groveport, Ohio. “Life experiences also help develop leadership styles.”

You can determine your leadership style by examining the practices you employ to mobilize colleagues and get things done and consider the core motivations behind why you take certain actions.

“I first look inward and identify why I want to lead,” says Joe Lewis, COO of Yard Solutions. “Confirmation of why I am compelled to lead allows me to reflect on where I currently see myself as a managerial leader. Continuing to self-actualize what skills I currently possess, what areas I will need to strengthen, and considering what core competencies I feel are needed to achieve my future goals. Identifying why I want to lead and where I currently am as a leader will help me shape my future goals in addition to what that future role would entail.”

McGrady says he’s used leadership surveys like the VIA Institute’s Values in Action Survey of Character Strengths, Gallup’s Q12 Employee Engagement Survey, and the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator.

It’s important to also make sure the other leaders in your company are aware of their leadership style.

“Leaders are leaders,” says Scott Childers, operations manager for Yard Solutions. “The only difference in this question is that managers are required to lead horizontally (peers) and vertically (superiors and subordinates.) I feel if a leader is solely focused on his/her title, the influence will be dramatically weakened.”

Common Leadership Styles

There are numerous listings of various leadership styles, but this article will focus on authoritarian, participative, visionary and servant leadership.

Authoritarian leadership, also known as autocratic leadership, is where the leader has complete control over the decision-making. They tell their staff exactly what to do, when to do it and how they must do it without the option of employees adding their input. This leadership style is suited for smaller organizations as there are fewer team members to instruct.

Some of the pros of authoritarian leadership include faster decision-making, enhanced workplace communication as clear expectations are shared, and positive results from inexperienced teams. If you have a team that isn’t as seasoned, your competency can aid in getting them to the level of productivity you seek.

The drawbacks of this leadership style are it can lead to micromanagement, your team being completely dependent on your skills and a less-than-ideal company culture. There can be a feeling of a lack of trust, no creativity and no desire for feedback, which results in lower morale.

“These leaders are often heard complaining about being too busy doing everyone else’s job, or putting out fires, when the reality is, they failed their number one priority as a leader…Develop your subordinates!” Lewis says. “Authoritarian leaders limit the creative thinking and problem-solving of the team because the only decisions that are made come from one source. These leaders do not develop teams, nor are they concerned with culture or morale. Teams resort to doing the job/task just well enough to make the noise stop.”

On the opposite end of the spectrum is participative leadership. This type of leader engages the team to work together in the decision-making process. Everyone is encouraged to have a say in how things are done.

“This style allowed me to utilize my skills while adjusting to this industry,” Childers says. “I was able to learn from fellow leaders and subordinates while adapting my leadership style in this management role. This style also promotes creativity within the leadership team, from crew members to senior leaders. I have noticed trust and loyalty improve when teams feel they are part of the solution, not simply a ‘doer.’”

This style of leadership is most effective for situations that do not call for a quick turnaround. It can be used effectively in departments within your company to provide a forward-thinking approach that can help your team take ownership of a project.

The drawback of participative leadership is it can be a struggle to make quick decisions, leading to missed goals. Childers adds that sometimes this style can lead to a “likership” rather than leadership, as leaders delay acting because they are too concerned if their subordinates will like them.

Visionary leadership focuses on creating a vision for the future, such as growth and meeting long-term goals. These types of leaders are able to inspire employees and direct the company.

The pros of being a visionary leader is there is a clear overall goal, you are able to get everyone on the same page and you are willing to take risks to reach your goal. The cons of the visionary leadership style are a tendency to lose sight of the present and an unwillingness to accept other good ideas that aren’t part of the leader’s vision.

“Visionary leaders unfortunately tend to struggle holding others accountable,” says Zach Rohr, vice president of human resources for Yard Solutions. “The current actions of the company can be overlooked because that leader is focused primarily on the future.”

Last but not least, the servant leadership style prioritizes the growth and well-being of others. This leadership style can result in greater ownership among employees and trust-based relationships. It can help boost morale and improves pride in work.

“Our industry is a people-driven industry,” Lewis says. “Our internal and external clients are people. All employees (internal clients) must be led to succeed. Failure to understand people in this industry is failing to understand our business.”

The main drawback to this leadership type is it can be difficult to adopt if it is not your natural style. Like participative leadership, it’s not conducive to rapid decision-making.  

Tailoring Your Leadership Style

Oftentimes, it is important to be able to tailor your leadership style to meet the needs of your team and as you face different challenges. It is also beneficial to have a variety of leadership styles on your staff.

“I feel if owners and leaders within the company had the same leadership style, the leadership development within that company would suffer and become stagnant,” McGrady says. “Diversity within a leadership team promotes balance. Successful leadership teams will have diverse leadership styles; however, all leaders must align on ‘why’ they are leaders as well as the core values and vision of the company.”

McGrady says while people are authentic to who they are, experience and education will help a leader evolve his or her leadership style.

“Have the courage to evolve your leadership style,” Rohr says “It takes different types of leadership styles to create a successful team. Leadership in this industry is no different than leading in any other industry. Leadership styles must adapt and evolve with the environment. Goal attainment never changes; how we inspire and motivate people as managerial leaders will.”

Jill Odom

Jill Odom is the senior content manager for NALP.