How To Navigate Differences In Leadership Styles

How To Navigate Differences In Leadership Styles
Philip Steury Photography/
Summary: Without consistency between the skills of your organizational leaders, your business won't be as effective. Consider using leadership development training to level-set the different leadership styles among your managers.

Building Consistency In Leadership Skills

There are potentially as many leadership styles in the workplace as there are personality types in the world. Those differences can make the workplace, like the world, a beautifully varied and wildly inconsistent place. Although leadership styles can change from one individual to another, what should remain consistent is performance. Leaders can promote consistent employee performance no matter what leadership style they employ, but only with leadership development training to help them identify and change certain behaviors that lead to inconsistency.

Examples Of Different Leadership Styles

There are myriad leadership styles. Some leaders inform and consult their teams along every step of the process, getting input on next steps and providing feedback on minute details. Charismatic leaders use their passion and persuasive skills to help team members feel just as deeply committed to their project and performance goals as to their personal values. Some coach, some cajole, and some set the pace and trim excess fat like relentless personal trainers; others allow their teams to determine the pace that works best for them to perform.

Just as no two employees are alike, no two respond identically to the same type of leadership. Depending on where an employee is in their career, leaders can and should change up their approach from time to time. For example, inexperienced team members will need more coaching, and highly experienced professionals thrive in hands-off environments where they enjoy autonomy and self-sufficiency. On the other hand, no two leaders are identical, but the goal of every leader is the same: employee performance improvement. Leaders must facilitate consistent performance to ensure stability in their organization. So, while some variability in leadership styles can be impactful, it’s also important for an organization to maintain consistency between different leaders.

The Need For Consistent Leadership Styles

Consistency does not replace individuality! We all appreciate variety, and it’s inevitable between personality types and experiences. Variation of thought, culture, learning style, and personality are crucial components of successful business operations when dealing with diverse audiences, clients, or customer bases.

However, what can hinder success is inconsistency or unpredictability because of those variations. Inconsistent methods will lead to inconsistent results between teams, departments, or organizations. Slight differences in processes and communication styles are common, but it can be a challenge for employees to navigate working with different leaders on engagements that span multiple teams. Dr. James Brown of Seba Solutions argues, “Most work environments are very dynamic, involving a virtual whirlwind of change, and the leader must provide stability ‘anchors’ wherever possible.”

Emotionally Intelligent Leadership

If this consistency doesn’t come naturally for your leaders, don’t worry. Deploying company-wide leadership development training can help to build core competencies and shape behaviors that enable your organizational leaders to be more closely aligned, without asking them to change their leadership styles altogether.

Emotional Intelligence (EI) has become as common a phrase in leadership as work-life balance has in the break room. Daniel Goleman defines the theory he created over 30 years ago as comprising four domains [1]: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management. Nested within each domain are twelve EI competencies, learned and learnable capabilities that allow outstanding performance at work or as a leader.

Less emotionally intelligent people tend to experience more anxiety, depression, and substance abuse than those who address and appropriately manage emotions. This can manifest in the workplace as a leader not being able to address their team’s low performance, not being able to provide difficult feedback to a team member, or any number of conflict resolution scenarios gone awry.

How To Build Consistent Leadership Skills

On-the-job training for emotional intelligence can be difficult to manage, but coaches or video-training can easily create realistic opportunities to learn and practice. For instance, consider role-playing a situation where leaders must deliver bad news about a team member’s performance while applying the principles of empathy, boundary-setting, and self-control that are pillars of emotional intelligence.

On the other hand, a lack of emotional intelligence can lead to frustrated leaders repeating ineffective behaviors—only to see the same results from their teams. Expanding the tools and resources leaders can access to articulate themselves in different ways and for different audiences can provide consistency anchors for any type of leadership style. Interactive eLearning scenarios can provide a varied experience for leaders to test out different conversational skills.

And finally, sometimes watching others make mistakes can help leaders be objective about potential mistakes or missteps that create instability and inconsistency in the workplace. A short video of another leader delivering feedback to a team member can allow leaders to identify opportunities for improvement in a low-stakes, no-pressure environment before applying them on the job.

Building Better Leaders

Like any skill, leadership styles can be developed and honed over time. It’s not just based on secret internal states and personality traits. With a bit of work, your organization can build talented, consistent leaders. Professional development is important for team members regardless of their leadership style, and those anchors of consistency are crucial for team members of any experience level.


[1] Primal Leadership, With a New Preface by the Authors: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence

eBook Release: AllenComm
The experts at AllenComm solve business problems with beautiful custom learning solutions. We bring creativity into instructional design. We change behaviors and influence choices. We build better training.