Leadership & Communication: Situational Perspective

In my second entry on Leadership & Communication, I want to focus on the Situational Perspective. Essentially, this theory (as our book suggests) begins with the premise that we alter our leadership style based upon the environment, context, and people in which we find ourselves. In any case, we focus on three types, each outlined below.

Democratic Leadership
Take aside the concept of political affiliation–it isn’t necessary to complete this concept. Rather, you need to focus on the idea of leadership in which we encourage and foster others having a voice. Those in my class may recall how we discussed supportive & defensive environments in our last unit–this stems from the same concepts. We typically see democratic leadership as a supportive style, one that encourages participation and free-flowing information from others.

But my caveat to this area: it works best when we have (relatively) equal stakes in the outcome and (relatively) equal knowledge on the decision being made. Unfortunately, when others impose a decision on others but remain unaffected themselves, well… that’s not equal stakes. Similarly, if you have five experts in a field and five individuals with no prior knowledge, it’s hard to trust the those with no prior knowledge to have equal say in the decision.

Autocratic Leadership
With autocratic leadership, we focus on the idea that someone may have to make decisions hastily or because they are the expert. Within this idea, we need an autocratic leader from time to time. I don’t ever want a democratic leader when I’m in a burning building, ladies and gents…

Laissez-Faire Leadership
This is probably the most confusing leadership style because of its premise of being somewhat detached as a leader. We presume that best leadership must be hands-on. But what about the situation that a group of immediate subordinates are the experts? Do you want a micro-manager when that happens? I certainly wouldn’t!

Ultimately, this style of leadership may be used when we are thrown into a leadership position, but aren’t ready or comfortable for the material. We may have to rely on the expertise of others to take control and guide us through decisions for a while. You may even consider this a reverse-leadership, in which the subordinates take hold of a lot of power.

How is this leadership then? Well, I open that to you–share your experiences. Sometimes it works beautifully. Other times, well… not so much.

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