Free article: Leadership styles: What’s yours?

Published: Wednesday, 06 June 2018
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Louise Wingrove outlines different approaches to leadership and considers how and when they could be used.


  • Dental practice managers who are responsible for a team need to be both leaders and managers.
  • The Blake Mouton Leadership Grid looks at two important aspects of leadership – concern for the task and concern for people.
  • It identifies four personal leadership styles:
    • country club
    • authoritarian leader
    • impoverished leadership
    • team leader.
  • Ken Blanchard's situational leadership puts forward a practical model, adapting leadership style to the knowledge, skills and expertise of the people we are leading and the task they are working on.
  • The Blanchard model also outlines four styles of leadership:
    • directing
    • coaching
    • supporting
    • delegating.

When you think of good leaders, who do you think of? Thatcher, Branson, Gandhi, Jobs, Mandela? We put our trust in leaders and we hope that they take us in the ‘right’ direction. But styles of leadership vary massively. After all, if we are to be leaders, by very definition we have to have followers. But what is the difference between management and leadership?

Stephen Covey (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People) believes that there is a fundamental difference between leaders and managers. He suggests that the leader is the person who climbs to the top of the tree, surveys the jungle and, while managers are busy cutting a path through the trees, shouts, ‘Wrong jungle!’ The leader is the person who looks strategically at where the business is going and ensures that it is heading in the right direction.

In organisations we do not usually have the luxury of doing only the strategic stuff – we also need to get stuck in to the day-to-day management of cutting the path through the jungle. We need to be both leaders and managers.

So, what’s the right leadership style? And what kind of leader are you?

The Blake Mouton Leadership Grid

A useful way to identify your personal leadership style is by looking at the Blake Mouton Management Grid (see the handout in the Toolkit). It looks at two important aspects of leadership – concern for the task and concern for people – and helps you to plot where your focus is.

Country club style

Too much focus on people (the ‘country club’ style) can mean that the leader creates a fun, informal environment but doesn’t provide enough direction and control, so ‘production’ suffers.

Authoritarian leader

The ‘authoritarian leader’, on the other hand, is the leader who sees the task as all-important and employees simply as a means to an end. This type of leader takes a sticks and carrots approach to leadership, often creating fear and resentment along the way.

Impoverished leadership

The third style of management is called ‘impoverished leadership’. Here, there is little concern for the task or for people. This leads to a workplace that is unproductive and has little recognition of or harmony for employees.

Team leader style

The fourth style of leadership is called the ‘team leader’ style – a healthy balance of focus on both task and people. This means that there are clear structures put in place to support the organisation and that an environment is created where people feel valued and supported. So it’s a leadership position where the leader is ‘present’, available to deal with issues, approachable and trusted. It is clearly the best style to use!

Situational leadership

Situational leadership, the model put forward by Ken Blanchard, gives us a practical approach to leadership. He suggests that in order to be a successful leader we should adapt our leadership style according to the knowledge, skills and expertise of the people we are leading and the task they are working on. In other words, we need to focus more on either the task or the people, depending on what is necessary to get the job done. It also depends on the time available. So we may need to use the ‘directing’ style, for example, in an emergency or when the deadline is tight.

The Blanchard model has four styles of leadership

  1. Directing: When someone is new to a task , they may be unsure of details and lack confidence. In this instance it would be appropriate to use the ‘directing’ style of leadership – giving clear direction on how to do a task and providing lots of supervision and support.
  2. Coaching: As the employee becomes more experienced, the leader needs to begin to stand back a bit, while still working on the development of the employee’s skills. The leader needs to employ a more ‘coaching’ style of leadership.
  3. Supporting: For employees who have the skills but not necessarily the confidence to complete the task, the leader needs to use a ‘supporting’ style of leadership, giving less direction and supporting the employee to develop his or her expertise and confidence in the task.
  4. Delegating: The final leadership style is called ‘delegating’. This is when the leader is able to hand down decision making for the task to the employee. The employee has the skills, confidence and motivation to take the task forward themselves.

Most leaders use one, or at most two, styles of leadership. We tend to find a leadership style we are comfortable with and stick to that. Imagine, though, the dangers inherent in using a directing style with an employee highly experienced in the task – the leader will be seen to be micromanaging or undermining. Or using a delegating style with an employee new to the task – this unsupportive approach is likely to undermine the employee's confidence and motivation.

We need to think about which leadership approach we use with our colleagues, depending on the task they are working on. A good leader will use all four styles, depending on the skills and experience of each member of staff.

In some circumstances you may use different styles with the same employee. So, when a member of staff is working on one task, you can adopt a delegating style, because they have expertise and confidence. When the same member of staff takes on another task, you may need to direct them because it is a new task for them. This may seem obvious, but most leaders do not do this!

Good leaders are adaptable. They need to assess the task and their people’s ability to carry it out, and then adopt the best style to get the job done. If we are to be great leaders, we need to remember the old mantra that ‘people are our greatest asset’.


Use the following item to put the ideas in this article into practice:

About the author

Louise WingroveLouise Wingrove has been a trainer and coach for over 20 years and has led training teams in companies in both the public and private sectors. She is director of training consultancy Funky Learning This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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