For many world leaders and business executives, the COVID-19 pandemic put leadership skills to the test. The pandemic placed leaders in the spotlight and asked the question, “which leadership styles prevail in times of crisis?”
Leadership is demonstrated in how people communicate, approach problem-solving, inspire change, and connect with others. Learn more about what differentiates good leadership from great leadership and how you can develop leadership qualities to incite positive change in your organisation.
What Are the Different Types of Leadership Styles?
There is no one right way to be a good leader. People possess different strengths and weaknesses. The right leadership style allows managers to capitalise on their strengths while enlisting outside help to support areas of vulnerability.
According to Masterclass, eight effective leadership styles motivate teams and allow organisations to reach goals, including the following:
- Democratic Leadership: A democratic leader is someone who values the input of everyone and runs a team using the majority of its members. Democratic leaders will rely on “majority rules” to make organisational decisions.
- Autocratic Leadership: The autocratic leadership style is used to make quick decisions without the mixed opinions of others. This leadership style is more independent than the democratic method.
- Laissez-Faire Leadership: “Laissez-faire” translates from French to English as “let it go”. This leadership style is a “hands-off” approach that relies on self-motivated team members to accomplish tasks with minimal direction or supervision.
- Transactional Leadership: The transactional leader uses incentive programmes and disciplinary penalties to encourage better performance. These leaders may create benchmarks to motivate employees.
- Charismatic Leadership: A charismatic leader has a big personality and leverages their communication skills to charm and influence their team. These leaders are known to motivate action through inspiration.
- Transformational Leadership: Transformational leaders are change-makers who focus on organisational growth. Rather than focussing on minute details, these leaders will prioritise the big picture and remain agile in the face of change.
- Servant Leadership: Leaders who adopt the servant leadership style will consistently put their team before themselves. These managers believe that fulfilling their team’s professional and personal development will translate into better work and a better organisation overall.
- Bureaucratic Leadership: Bureaucratic leaders are traditional and rarely sway from the rules. These leaders abide by company policies and follow a systematic formula to lead people and businesses.
6 Leadership Qualities That Make a Great Leader
The most influential leaders in history have demonstrated leadership qualities that set them apart, from Margaret Thatcher’s decisive and resolute approach to Winston Churchill’s charisma and strategic foresight. The following six leadership qualities allow leaders to perform under pressure, prepare for unexpected detours, influence people, and positively impact the world around them.
Integrity and the Desire to Have a Social Impact
Consumers want the businesses they support to be socially responsible. Since the start of the pandemic, 60% of consumers reported making more environmentally friendly, sustainable, or ethical purchases.
The push for conscious companies and leaders is evident in the UK’s top leadership results. The CEO with the highest approval rating in the UK, according to anonymous staff reviews conducted by The Glassdoor Employees’ Choice Awards, is Peter Simpson, the CEO of Anglian Water.
Simpson is an environmental advocate who understands that water is “our most precious resource” and addresses water scarcity directly through Anglian Water initiatives. In 2020, Anglian announced the development of a Strategic Pipeline Alliance (SPA) — a water infrastructure project that promises to transfer water from one part of the region to the next with ease.
“By being smarter, more integrated and even more collaborative we can rise to this, the greatest of challenges, to do the right thing for our customers and the environment,” says Simpson. Simpson is a leader who embodies integrity by leading an ethical organisation that enacts meaningful change in the world.
Skilful communication is a timeless quality that leaders have used to enable success throughout history. McKinsey & Company released a guide “Leadership in a crisis: Responding to the coronavirus outbreak and future challenges” and reports that one of the essential ways to communicate during a crisis is by maintaining transparency and providing frequent updates.
Despite the need for clear communication, the consulting firm pointed out that leaders often resort to two maladaptive communication styles in times of crisis:
- Leaders tend to be overly optimistic and overly confident during the early stages of uncertainty.
- Leaders may suspend announcements for long periods while they wait for more information to emerge.
Transparency and responsiveness are always valuable, but these habits are particularly beneficial during times of unforeseen change.
Effective communication also involves inviting everyone to the conversation. The former General Secretary of UNI Global Union, Philip Jennings, said: “Those who have come through this crisis best have listened to their workers, have had dialogues with their labour movements and civil society, respected them and relied on them for advice.” Real leaders understand that they work for their team, not vice versa.
Leaders can demonstrate self-control and impressive calm under pressure. Composure is not always an innate trait — it’s possible to learn how to be calm in times of crisis. A study found that 81% of senior leaders said, “they were often placed in situations where they found it difficult to remain calm and clear-headed.” In these high-stress situations, leaders report difficulty preparing their thoughts (36.5%), maintaining eye contact (30%), and speaking slowly (26,7%).
Business leaders can anticipate and improve their confidence, body language and composure with each challenge they face. Being deliberately calm requires self-awareness to identify nervous habits and correct stance, language, and demeanour to display control and composure.
Strategic foresight involves using a systematic plan to explore, anticipate, and impact future events, especially in an organisational or political setting. Leaders who effectively engage in strategic foresight can anticipate trends, prepare for potential challenges or opportunities, create strategic plans, and act with agility.
Foresight is about imagining possible futures and crafting the best plan for each possibility. Business leaders can use Big Data and data analytics to observe patterns and forecast future trends. Programmes such as a Masters in Business Analytics teach professionals how to strategically and thoughtfully apply data analytics to decision-making and management practices.
Ability to Adapt
Leaders with foresight are more equipped to adapt when faced with sudden organisational changes. Agile companies have an advantage over the competition. The managing director of Accenture’s Talent and Organisation and Human Potential, Andrew Young, told WIRED:
“In fast-changing conditions, agility really matters. You need to respond quickly, but you also need to have a stable core of leadership and talent and culture. To deal with the challenges going on outside the organisation you need to make changes inside.”
WIRED also reports that a key indicator of agility is a company’s level of software development and task management capabilities. Agile leaders constantly look to the future and develop a multi-stage plan to achieve widespread internal change at great speed.
The chief executive of ITV, Carolyn McCall, decided to forego her bonus in 2020 and take a 64% pay cut during the COVID-19 crisis. McCall is not alone in her decision — one in four chief executives at the largest UK companies have taken pay cuts amid the pandemic. The leaders who decided to sacrifice personal gain for the benefit of others are demonstrating empathetic leadership.
Empathetic leadership is the ability to understand the needs of others and use these insights to make decisions that benefit individuals and organisations at large. Empathetic leadership requires emotional intelligence, awareness, and connection. Research shows that empathy in the workplace contributes to better job performance, more effective communication, and positive outcomes.
Become a Leader with a Leading Business School
In a competitive business world, why not stand out and build your reputation with a school that has already established itself internationally? The Aston University fully online MBA gives working professionals access to a world-class education that is practically applicable, relevant and specialised.
Enrolling in an online MBA from Aston gives the needed flexibility to continue full-time work whilst you build essential leadership skills like collaborating with others, building your network, crafting an organisational strategy, leading complex organisations, and more. Taught by esteemed academics, you can refine your unique leadership style in a supportive educational environment as you gain the skills and confidence to succeed in the evolving world of business.
Aston University is a globally distinguished university that is proudly recognised by numerous education authorities, including:
- Triple Accreditation from EQUIS, AACSB and AMBA
- University of the Year, The Guardian 2020
- Outstanding Entrepreneurial University, Times Higher Education 2020
- 30th Best University in the UK, The Guardian University Guide 2021
Start your leadership journey with an online MBA from Aston University.
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