Effective Leadership: How to Find Yours

Effective Leadership: How to Find Yours

By Wade Pack, CPA, Managing Partner

The importance of effective leadership in an organization cannot be overstated.  It is a critical driver of desired outcomes and it ensures your mission, vision and strategic objectives are achieved.  It’s also equally important in helping support, communicate and sustain an organization’s culture.  To accomplish all of that and to make your leadership effective, you have to know the right leadership style to choose.  Given the many different styles of leadership, and that each can be useful depending on the circumstances, choosing the right one for your organization requires careful consideration.  And one of the best ways to finding the right one, or combination of styles, starts with your people.

For example, I recently asked our BRC staff to complete a survey on their preferences for different styles of leadership.  Staff were asked to pick the style they felt was the most effective for them and then to provide examples of their utilization of a specific leadership style and/or examples of leadership styles others have used that were effective.  The survey listed the following leadership style examples:

  • Autocratic Leadership – centered on the person in charge
  • Democratic Leadership – everyone participates in making decisions
  • Laissez-faire Leadership – gives authority to team members
  • Coaching Leadership – teaching and supervising followers
  • Visionary Leadership – recognizes steps and processes happen with and through people
  • Strategic Leadership – creates habits for a high-performance organization
  • Facilitative Leadership – dependent on measurements and outcomes

The results showed that by far, Coaching Leadership is the preferred choice of our BRC staff, with over half of the survey respondents preferring that style.  Next were Democratic and Visionary Leadership, and combining these top three accounted for just over 85% of the responses.  And perhaps just as important to note, not one person chose Autocratic Leadership as being effective.

Let’s expand on the earlier definitions of the styles to better understand the survey results.  Coaching Leadership provides team members with clear and challenging goals, and the leader works closely with everyone to help them develop their skills with regular feedback as they complete those goals.  With Democratic Leadership, the leader constantly solicits input and feedback from team members, leading to those members knowing their voices are heard and that what they bring to the table matters.  And Visionary Leadership is one where leaders recognize that all facets of leadership happen with and through people – i.e., everyone counts.

There are clear correlations among the top three styles:  collaboration, communication, support, and recognition to name a few.  And just as telling from the survey is the fact that no one chose the autocratic style, where one person makes all the decisions, and typically does so without much input from others.  That’s the antithesis of the top picks and in fact, there were numerous survey responses that provided examples of the autocratic style as ones that should not be used and resulted in very poor outcomes.

Quite obviously then, BRC staff wants to lead, and be led, in a team-oriented environment.  And they want to receive help and guidance, or coaching, along the way.  With the strong sense of working together to accomplish the task at hand, they expect to have the opportunity to both contribute themselves and help others contribute.

Now that we know our staff’s preferred leadership styles, we can make better decisions on how to structure our organization, how to set up workflow processes, how to train and develop staff, and how to evaluate performance.  We know we should create client-service teams, and have one or more people designated in each of those groups that can provide coaching, training, support and supervision to all the team members.  And the personal development plans each of our staff has through our BRC Academy (the Firm’s internal training and development program) should place a strong emphasis on developing coaching skills because of their importance in helping develop others and maximize our service delivery models for our clients.

So, what leadership style does your company primarily utilize?  Is it helping drive your mission, vision and strategic goals?  Does it sync with and is it fostering your culture?  Is it helping to develop your staff and to deliver your products and services to your customers?  If you’re not sure, just start by asking the people in your organization – they are your best source for finding effective leadership.