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What are the Different Methods of Effective Leadership?

By Jeremy Ruch
Updated May 16, 2024
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Effective leadership requires a balance of different qualities and methods that inspire followers to achieve a common goal. There are many different theories and models pertaining to effective leadership. Earlier studies of leadership placed a heavy emphasis on the traits and qualities of individual leaders, but more recent models have placed a premium on methodology and the development of effective communication skills. The different methods of effective leadership include focusing on the goal, focusing on the group, focusing on individuals and being flexible enough to utilize these areas of focus alone or in combination at different times.

An early study by Kurt Lewin focuses on the leader’s behavior. Lewin’s model introduces three different methods of leadership: authoritarian, participative and free rein. Lewin concludes that effective leaders make use of all three methods but favor one in most situations. By contrast, less effective leaders are able to use only one of these styles.

A similar theory of management is called situational leadership, conceived by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard. This theory identifies four methods of effective leadership that can be applied to different situations. According to the situational leadership theory, a telling leader issues instructions and ignores feedback, a selling leader works to persuade followers of the wisdom of a given decision, a participating leader works to develop decisions together with followers, and a delegating leader allows followers to make decisions and execute them without direct guidance. The theory suggests that an effective leader must be able to utilize each of these styles based on the needs of a particular group.

Another study of leadership by Robert Blake and Jane Mouton analyzes leadership on two different scales: concern for people and concern for production. According to the managerial grid model, there are five different leadership styles on a grid: “country club,” “impoverished,” “middle-of-the-road,” “produce or perish” and “team.” This model posits that the most effective leadership method, the team style, gives priority both to people and production, resulting in a healthy work environment.

Other models place more emphasis on the process of leadership rather than techniques used by the individual leader. John Adair's functional leadership model suggests that effective leaders work to meet needs in three different areas: the team, or directing and improving group discussion; the task, or working towards a common goal; and the individual, or working to improve the performance of particular members. Each team member can participate in bolstering the group’s performance in these three fields, and effective leadership demands that an individual focus on all of them.

A more recent model, transformational leadership, developed by James Burns and Bernard Bass, focuses on team members and their evolution. According to this model, effective leadership inspires followers not just to contribute to the success of the group and the task at hand but to grow individually, eventually becoming leaders themselves. Transformational leaders are concerned both with the development of their organization and with the members who comprise it.

There is no consensus about the individual traits that comprise an effective leader or the most effective leadership styles. Some leadership styles might work in certain situations or with some people but will be less successful in other situations or with other groups. Still, several theories on leadership and methodology provide insight into different methods that are used by effective leaders on a daily basis.

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Discussion Comments

By anon941648 — On Mar 23, 2014

One could get dizzy studying the leadership styles reported all over the Internet. As an experienced HR professional, I’ve looked at a number of different models, but I’ve found that over time, what works best is the leader-as-coach method. It may be closest to the transformational leadership model that you list above, but it goes deeper than that.

Leadership skills must be developed and practiced continuously for measurable, profitable results.

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