Leadership in business, when searched in the books of management, can lead us into a standard definition. That is, leadership is the ability of executives with authoritative prerogatives i.e. who hold positions of power (acclaimed leaders of the organization) to lead, influence, guide people, who work under their orders, to carry out the daily operations of an organization diligently. No doubt today, we need more effective leaders to create leading change story.

Now, what is traditional leadership? Traditional leadership as its name suggests, is true to its name and nature of leadership. Historically, traditional leadership style has emerged from military regimes and it followed the top-down hierarchy approach. Psychologist Kurt Lewin and a team of researchers in 1939 further branched out three major leadership styles from traditional leadership:

Authoritative Leadership in Business

On the leadership scale, the level of authority given to the leader is highest in this leadership style. Leaders in this style dictate the policy, procedure and the guideline for performing tasks. It does not focus on or have little or no input taken from the employee. This form of leadership style mostly can get the work done through carrot and stick approach. In this the work culture developed in the workplace is very toxic and is unable to retain their working force. The workers get discouraged and labour turnover rate increases by a huge percentage.

Studies have concluded that Authoritative leadership does not have a long span of adoption. Even if an organization adopts it for a long period of time, it results in loss of creativity. Therefore, management boards of top organizations tend to avoid adopting this form of leadership style.

Participative Leadership in Business

This is democratic leadership style. In this, members of the project group provide productive input and the leader is a participative leader. The leader has more of a guiding role than that of authoritarian superior. The leader encourages members’ suggestions and participative management.

The people management skills allow employees to work while utilizing their full potential and gives them chance of growth and development. This leads to healthy work culture and mitigate issues of loss of creativity and also reduces labour turnover rate. This is the most used and successful leadership style in modern times.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

In this leadership style, the leader provides very little guidance to the group members. The group members take and finalize the decisions, the leader primarily only provides tools and resources to the team. Group members have total freedom to carry out the operations in their own way. Although in theory, it may seem like a garden of roses but on closer look, it will be the thorns.

The members demand more and there are issues on lack of cooperation among the team members. Also the tasks usually require more time than normal expectations. This is not a very prevalent leadership style used by top organizations. Rather it is seen in small start-ups. The difference in the level of hierarchy among the limited workforce is very small there.

Traditional Leadership is still prevalent because of its following benefits:

  • It gives clarity to the hierarchy of job designations. This helps the management understand and plan on how to carry out the various work operations.
  • Many studies on the traditional leadership styles concludes that it makes the decision making process easier. The management can adopt the leadership style that best suits to their organization.
  • Leaders can complete tasks by using their influencing power and exercising their authority.

But, there are various reasons why Traditional leadership does not work anymore:

  • Traditional leadership encourages decision-making but with very few invitation to the subordinates’ input and suggestions. This makes the work culture very toxic and the workplace becomes the graveyard of creativity.
  • Even if the business leaders go with the democratic leadership style, there still may be problems of clashing egos. It occurs between the members and even between the leader and the subordinates. The workplace becomes a battleground for gaining the upper hand in order to exert influence over the other.
  • Traditional leaders use the blame model approach. The appreciation and larger pool of incentives is siphoned to their way even though the success should be accredited to the whole group. While if the project fails, the traditional leader resorts to pushing of blame towards the direction of his subordinates even though the failure may actually be due to the leader’s bad decisions and choices.
  • Traditional leaders may adopt unhealthy work practices in order to complete the task at hand. They often resort to pressuring, lashing out and even manipulating their subordinates. This leads to a breeding ground of unresolved work tension and sheepish workforce. Irritable environment and loss of creativity and development opportunities for the employees are other drawbacks.
  • The leaders might become greedy or self-centered due to their large pool of incentives. Also their personal job safety and eventually compromise the interests of the other group members.

In this scenario of drawbacks galore, do we have any alternative leadership styles that can effectively replace Traditional leadership? Yes we do, the future is not very bleak. Even though Traditional Leadership has become primitive and obsolete for a modern Organization of the 21st Century. We do have a few prospective leadership styles.

Inclusive Leadership in Business

Inclusive leaders exhibit three main behavioral traits. Adaptability, ability to discover and develop diverse and fresh talent, ability to build healthy and inclusive relationship with their subordinates. This leadership qualities can surely help the organization. It increases motivation, productivity and performance and also sense of loyalty among the members of the Organization.

Holocracy by Zappos

Zappos is an E-commerce company and it has developed their own leadership style called Holocracy. In holocracy, there are no job titles. They hire on basis of cultural fit and hold the principle that ‘Everyone is a leader. They believe their employees should pick up authority on their own and traditional leaders should let go of their authority. Limiting hierarchy structure have been effectively torn down. HR director of the Company has said that they have seen the employees grow by leaps and bounds. Zappos has over 1500 employees. They have effectively practiced their own leadership style on a large scale and have borne the fruit of great results.

Coaching Leadership Style

In this leadership style, the leader strives to guide employees for their development and growth within the team. The leader acts like a coach to the group members and is responsible for the development of workforce. The leader prioritizes achievement of professional goals by individual group members. In this leadership style communication is key, because it is based on the foundation of true partnership.

The leader encourages the feedback from the group members, carefully assesses the feedback and develops a game-plan for better results. Coaching leadership style is one of the very effective leadership style for the modern workplace settings.

There are many more leadership styles that emerge every day.  The highly practiced traditional leadership style has become obsolete and primitive as per today’s standards and management.

The business leaders and leadership folks through young leaders program must keep researching and developing effective leadership styles. This participative management will not evolve over the time but can also benefit the whole organization. A successful organization is laid on the foundation of healthy work relationship. The leadership in organization and effective control mechanisms are the most important resources of the organization to be looked upon.