Leadership styles

Let me ask you a question, what is the reason for you to quit your job? One of the common reasons for leaving is because people don’t like their boss. I got interested in research on the topic of leadership because I had a really bad boss.

It was four years ago. On the first day of my new job, I was very excited to join an international IT consulting firm working as a junior software engineer. I met the director of my team, his name is Mr Lau. His background was very impressive, with years of work experience in the industry and with a high educational degree in EMBA. He seems to be a nice person, and I was very happy to join the team with great leadership.

Until later on, I realised something went wrong. I met with my colleague for the first time, and I said, “Hello my name is Victor, today is my first day joining the team.” Then my colleague said to me with a weird smile, “Welcome on board, Victor, and good luck with the new role. You know, three managers resigned recently before you joined, and everyone here is scared of Mr Lau. You better be careful.” I started to worry.

According to my research on leadership, there are six different types of leadership styles. In the book written by Daniel Goleman, who is a famous behavioural science journalist, the six styles are 1. Coercive, 2. Authoritative, 3. Affiliative, 4. Democratic, 5. Pacesetting and 6. Coaching leader. Mr Lau’s leadership style falls into the first two styles: coercive and authoritative.

One day, while I was sitting at a corner doing my work, I heard someone far away at the pantry yelling. I was shocked. It was the voice of Mr Lau. He was blaming my colleague Johnny, “WHY ARE YOU SO STUPID? The project is now delayed because your proposal was all wrong!” Then it was a series of swear words, starting from sex organs to asking about the health of Johnny’s mother.

He has the first leadership style as coercive leaders, demanding immediate compliance. Top-down decision making is the least effective. His power works sometimes. When Mr Lau was pissed off about something, it got fixed at a pace I have never seen… people reacted that fast out of fear.

He has the second leadership style as authoritative leaders, mobilizing followers. By making clear to people how to work in a large organization, this is the most effective style in most situations. However, this approach fails when the team members regarding Mr Lau as arrogant.

His leadership styles were the reason why people in the team resigned. We tried to escalate Mr Lau’s problem to more senior-level regional directors, but it did not help. Because Mr Lau’s boss has the same style. He treated Me. Lau the same way by yelling and blaming him with no dignity.

Luckily, the CEO of the company stepped in, replace Mr Lau with Mr So. Mr So’s leadership style was affiliative and democratic. As the third leadership style, affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony. It has a positive effect on communication as people like one another. Mr So motivates by providing lots of positive feedback for recognition and rewards.

As the fourth leadership style, he is democratic. He built consensus through participation. By spending time to reach a decision collectively, he builds trust, respect and commitment. He is willing to listen to our concerns to keep the morale high and realistic about what can be accomplished. I was very happy with this change of leadership.

Outside of my day job, I also met with leaders of other styles. For example, the fifth leadership style is pacesetting leaders, who expect excellence and self-direction. This type of leader sets extremely high-performance standards and exemplifies them himself. I also met the sixth leadership style as coaching leaders, who develop people for the future. They identify our strengths and tie them to our personal and career aspirations. They encourage us to establish long-term development goals and help them to achieve a plan. Coaching brings a positive effect on our performance.

In conclusion, according to my search, there are six different types of leadership styles. Coercive, Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Coaching. Now I have been promoted from junior software engineer to an engineering manager, trying to learn these leadership styles. I wish you all become better leaders so that people don’t quit their job because of you.

Originally published at http://victorleungtw.com on July 3, 2021.