Exploring leadership styles to be an effective leader – Part 1

Know your leadership style and when to utilize different styles for success, such as the dictatorship and laissez faire leadership styles.

Youth involved in Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Youth Development program are often introduced to their first formal involvement of being part of a group when they join a 4-H club. Working as part of a group offers youth the opportunity to develop leadership skills and try on many different leadership styles. “4-H Backpack to Adventure: Youth Leaders in a Global World” (4H1643) describes four different leadership styles: dictatorship (authoritarian), laissez faire, democratic (participative) and servant leadership. One leadership style is not better than another, but what is important is to understand each style as well as know when each style is needed and effective. Let’s examine the dictatorship and the laissez faire style leaders.

Dictatorship leadership style

The dictatorship (authoritarian) leadership style offers no opportunity for participant input. This style leads to less creativity in problem-solving as compared to other leadership styles. It is often present in situations where there is a power struggle in which members believe they have a higher status than others and believe they must give orders in order to get things done.

The dictatorship leadership style is often seen in military groups or within facilities where individuals are incarcerated. This style of leadership is often effective in an urgent decision-making situation like when a decision has to be made for either safety purposes or to move something along quickly.

Laissez faire leadership style

Complete opposite of the authoritarian style leadership is the laissez faire style leadership. This is a hands-off leadership style. It encourages group members to make decisions often through a process where everyone gives input. This style of leadership generally is much slower and can lead to lower productivity among group members.

The “leader” of the group gives very little guidance and offers the group complete freedom to make decisions. This style of leadership can be very effective in groups where the team members are highly committed to the process and are highly skilled and motivated to work.

Each leadership style has its strengths and weaknesses. Understanding what they are will help individuals be effective leaders as well as be part of an affective group. No matter what type of leadership style you have, be an engaging leader that understands the group and the needs, and helps bring everyone along in the process.

More information on the democratic and servant leadership styles can be found in “Exploring leadership styles to be an effective leader – Part 2.”

If you are interested in more information or activities to explore your leadership styles, contact the MSU Extension Leadership and Civic Engagement work team at 4-hleadership@anr.msu.edu.

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