What if there was a recipe for your leadership approach? Many leaders rely on instinct to lead their team and as much as many of them accomplish a lot that way, we also fall short on the optimal positive impact we could have on our team, organization and ultimately, our clients. Awareness of the impact that each leadership approach can have, will increase your ability to act consciously and intentionally and therefore, have the desired impact and create a climate of trust, accountability, agility and engagement. Let’s look at how can use the leadership styles to create the impact you want to have on your team.


Adapt to create impact

The biggest mistake I see leaders do with regards to their leadership approach is using a ‘’one size fits all’’ approach for all situations and all people. We usually have a natural preference. We are directive when we tell people what to do, how to do it. We set the pace by being expert and have very high expectations. We are democratic when we give a lot of flexibility and freedom. Or we act as a coach and delegate, etc. Do you recognize yourself? We all have a preferred approach that makes us feel secure, safe, comfortable.

 What happens when you don’t adapt and always use the same style, regardless of the situation and the people? This one size fits all approach, is obviously very limited in terms of impact – it does not consider the situation or experience and context. Always using the same approach can create a climate of disengagement where people leave their power at the door! Your team then becomes unaccountable, always in search of your approval, and simply don’t give it their best.

I interviewed my friend Grégoire Baillargeon, Managing Director and Co-Head, BMO Capital Markets, Quebec to talk about leadership styles. Gregoire is particularly agile to adapt and empower his team through trust. During our conversation he shared that: ‘’You cannot be someone other than your true self, you are born a certain way, but you can adapt, learn, develop yourself and try different things. Our ability to adapt as humans is incredible. The first thing to do that is being conscious’’. For him, to empower a team is to ‘’adapt to people, not a single individual is the same, not everyone answers to the same things so as a leader, you have to adapt, adapt all the time, it’s fundamental’’.

Leaders must use different leadership styles in order to do that – to adapt to their surroundings and the situation. Leaders who rely on styles with solely short-term effects (i.e., the coercive and pacesetter styles), neglect drawing on other styles, and will fail to fulfil the leadership team’s needs. 


Use various leadership styles

Having a clear idea on both the situation and your people, a diagnosis, really helps you adapt – and that is the key – as a leader. The more you can adapt, the more you train your adaptation muscle, the more agile and impactful you will be!

While there is no such thing as a bad or good leadership style, some styles create a better workplace climate than others. Just as a competent chef knows how to blend ingredients in a recipe, a competent manager knows how to adopt different leadership styles to succeed. 

An effective leader can adapt and manage styles depending on the context, the objective their role, the influence needed, the personalities of team members, and team dynamics. Each situation requires choosing the appropriate style, which you should acknowledge and keep in mind. 

In a leadership position, you are certainly surrounded by intelligent and competent people. You manage a team whose mandate is to deliver projects in the short term. Your own scope of action, however, varies from short to mid to long-term. Sticking to a single style (directive or pacesetter) and perpetuating reflexive behaviors will not optimize your organization’s mid and long-term success. You need to keep that multi-level focus if you want to operate in your unique strategic contribution (USC) and have the desired impact for our team and the organization. 

Grégoire is shares how he balances to visionary and democratic while facing this pandemic we are in. He says it’s important for him to inspire vision and meaning, especially in these times: ‘’Here is what is going on and here is where we are going. We must inspire people and make them see how their tasks fit in the vision. The democratic piece is also important because people want to contribute, participate to the overall picture. Listening is important so they feel they are part of the solution’’. Moreover, in this period, he suggests we get concerned about the mental health of the members on our teams and to ask ‘’how are you really doing?’’. To him, we have an opportunity to get to know people better.


Focus on 4 leadership styles that create optimal results

Let’s explore the four leadership styles that have a better impact on work climate and their advantages when used with the right people, at the right time.  

Visionary Leaders define the long-term vision, explain the where (a shared direction) and the why, and consider context. They inspire people to innovate and experiment and create accountability and responsibility amongst their team.

Democratic Leaders solicit opinions and ideas, listen to concerns, and seek consensus. They integrate everyone’s perspective, they encourage flexibility and accountability, which leads to high engagement.

 Leader-coaches support and accompany, initiate dialogue, develop people’s potential and provide feedback.  They ask questions more than they ‘’tell’’, they listen and help others find their path toward improving performance.

Affiliative Leaders create connections and harmony, sense of belonging and loyalty. They share emotions and build trust. This leadership style—in small doses (not result oriented) with other styles—is essential.


Use ‘’my’’ winning recipe!

 We all have our natural style, a comfort zone we revert to. We take refuge in that style, especially when under stress or simply mechanically. Developing awareness of what the situation demands and the needs of our colleagues allows us to not fall back on our natural style, which may or may not be appropriate to the context.

My winning recipe for optimal leadership is alternating between, the visionary, democratic and coaching styles and using a little bit of the affiliate style at all times.

It’s not an easy recipe, I admit, and requires lots of ingredients, skill, and practice! 

In the current business environment of ever-changing imperatives, characterized by easy access to a wide range of information, the need for speed, and a desire to be both autonomous and responsible, in my opinion, combining different leadership styles, depending on the situation, is a must.


What is your opportunity to develop your malleable leadership approach?

 As always, I invite you to be inspired and inspire.