What is your leadership style? Have you ever asked yourself that question? Recently, I have asked myself that same question not realizing my leadership style either.
Currently, I am a participant in a formal leadership program with the government, so I thought this would a great opportunity to determine my style. I want to gain a better sense of my strengths, weaknesses and communication to become a better leader.
Leadership style is a behavior used when leading a group to achieve set goals and objectives. There are eight common leadership styles, but I will concentrate on three that resonate with me as a finance professional.
Democratic leadership invites participation from all members of the team, especially during the decision-making process, to solve problems. It is an opportunity for the leader to build consensus, ask pertinent questions and consider each person’s opinion before taking final action. You may ask yourself, what are the skills required for this leadership style?
- Effective communicator
- Ability to gain trust and respect
- Creative and innovative
- Empowers participants
- Ability to brainstorm ideas
This leadership style has been successful for me when managing smaller teams. Not only that, it has given me the chance to build interpersonal relationships with team members. Often, I have gained trust and respect among members and encouraged creativity. When using this style, I tend to ask many probing questions to get members involved, especially introverts who have valuable ideas to share.
With everyone taking part, it is easier to identify the vision, specific roles and responsibilities for tasks at hand. Members actively participate in decision-making, plus show a sense of job satisfaction while fostering closer work relationships. As a thought, you may want to give this style a try and be pleasantly surprised how successful it can be with bringing people together.
Situational leadership was created by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in the late 1960s as the life cycle theory of leadership, then later introduced as situational leadership. This style focuses on the environment and the situation, which incorporates four primary leadership concepts.
- Telling involves giving people direction on what to do while showing enthusiasm. The people receiving direction are considered novice or apprentice and lack specific skills.
- It is effective when you need to get assignments done quickly and usually provide detailed steps to accomplish the mission. Afterward, validity checks are done to make sure everything was complete and accurate.
- Selling involves a heavy influence on convincing people to buy into certain ideas, and people usually lack enthusiasm.
- It is effective when you need to crank out the same results, using repetition to get work accomplished, such as producing widgets.
- Participating involves team members who play an active role in decision-making but lack confidence or willingness to do the job.
- It is effective when you know individuals want to do well but need a little push to prove the work can be done. This approach gives the leader the opportunity to build stronger work relationships, trust and respect among team members.
- Delegating involves team members who can work independently and are able to make most decisions on their own, without supervision.
- It is effective when you know that you can depend on workers to follow up on tasks with the clear understanding that milestones must be completed without lag time.
Transformational leadership was first introduced and coined by sociologist James V. Downton in the early 1970s. The concept was developed by James MacGregor Burns, who was a leadership guru. Bernard M. Bass, a scholar in the field of leadership and organizational behavior, later expanded the concept. Leaders who use this style are interested in making a personal investment in others to perform at their highest level.
This leadership concept falls into four main categories which leaders can place in their toolbox to transform followers – The Four I’s of Leadership:
- Idealized influence (II) – Consistent. Purpose-driven. Role model. Honors commitments and keeps promises related to the vision of the organization. Goes above and beyond what needs to be done. Follows through on commitments, and is well trusted.
- Inspirational Motivation (IM) – Connects emotionally. Provides feedback in a positive and honest manner. Finds out what makes people tick and connects at every level. Encourages team spirit to fulfill goals and objectives of the organization.
- Individualized Consideration (IC) – Fosters working relationships. Acts as mentors and coaches for team members to reach specific goals for the organization. Recognizes contributions of each follower. Communicates effectively to allow followers to freely share ideas.
- Intellectual Stimulation (IS) – Encouragez creativity. Promotes critical thinking. Explores new ways of doing things. Discovers new opportunities to learn. Innovative thinking. Knowledge sharing.
It appears that I closely align with this leadership style more than any other. I am naturally passionate about what I do and enjoy bringing others along the path of success. Almost like paying it forward to get the mission accomplished.
As a finance leader, I challenged my team to reduce payables from 100% to less than 2% by end of fiscal year amid COVID-19. That aggressive goal was in support of my organization’s focus on audit readiness. We created new processes and streamlined existing ones to track progress and connected with other sites to validate work completion. Along the way, I held appointed meetings to ensure we remained motivated to achieving our goalkeeping the end in mind.
I ensured that each team member was engaged and felt a sense of ownership by individual and group communications. Sometimes there were challenges – dealing with complex financial issues, long work hours, shifts in work priorities, plus balancing family responsibilities. But we continued to press on. We overcame these challenges by inspiring one another through positive feedback and staying committed and accountable to each other as a team by reviewing milestones.
As a mentor, I provided them with continuous training and guidance as we worked closer towards meeting our goal. We upheld high work standards and became role models for other regions. We worked hard and celebrated as a team. This transformative and significant achievement resulted in recognition for the team and more importantly, we lived the vision by achieving our goal.
There are many transformational leaders who impact our lives today. If you possess qualities related to transformational leadership, then jump on the band wagon with me to change the world which can be as simple as collecting outstanding payables. Also, I encourage you to research your leadership style to further develop yourself as a leader within your organization. You may be surprised that your preferred leadership style blends with another.
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Wanda Dandridge is a subject matter expert on financial management systems for the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Energy located at Fort Belvoir, Virginia. Her government career spans over 15 years starting as an Army Intern in financial management, then subsequently emerging as a transformational leader with DLA specializing in budget analysis, logistical support, and employee development. Wanda’s greatest career accomplishment is receiving the Federal Employee of the Year Award with DLA Energy Pacific in 2012. Her philosophy is to lead by example while fostering others for their desired purpose. She is a Certified Defense Financial Manager (CDFM) who enjoys volunteering in her local community.