If you only have a hammer…

hammerThere’s a saying, “if you only have a hammer, then everything looks like a nail”

As leaders we need to have multiple leadership styles in our tool kit, or else we will see all problems as the same, and try and solve them using the same style which might not be appropriate, or the best approach.

There are multiple leadership styles, such as:

  • Pacesetting leader        –  do as i do
  • Authoritative leader    –  mobilising and inspiring
  • Coaching leader            –  supporting and developing
  • Delegating leader         –  leave decision making to the team
  • Coercive leader             –  directing/demanding
  • Democratic leader        –  seeks consensus on decisions

Depending upon the circumstances we may need to use any one of these styles:
if we have an immediate issue that needs dealing with now, we might go with the coercive approach demanding immediate action; or if we need everyone to move forward we may take a pace setting approach; or if we have more time we then we may take either an authoritative or democratic approach.

All of these styles are valid, and each of them have their place, and as leaders we need to not only master them all, but we also need to understand when to use them.

Often, what we perceive as bad leadership is nothing more than a leader who has only mastered one or two of the styles, and the one they are using is inappropriate for the situation in hand.

I once worked for a boss who only had two styles, and these were pace setting also known as “do as i do” and coercive, a “do as i say” style. These worked fine when we were dealing with crises or when we needed immediate action, but when it came things where we had much more time, such as developing strategy, then these styles just didn’t work.

We had all the time in the world to develop the strategy, but the only opinion that mattered was his. He lacked the democratic style which would have allowed him to get a bigger buy-in, as they say “no involvement, no commitment”.  Or he could have used a delegating style and trusted his team to come up with a viable strategy.

So at the end he had a strategy which only he fully believed in. This was a strategy that was doomed to fail.

It’s also true that in times of crises when immediate action is needed, that a consensus building style, which takes time, might not be the best approach either.

As leaders we may be stronger in some of the styles than others, but we need to become proficient in all, or at least have managers around us that we can delegate to who have the required style, in order to ensure that we can apply the best style needed for any given situation.

As I mentioned at the start, if you only have a hammer then everything looks like a nail, but a hammer will not help if you have to remove a screw!