Effective Leadership Styles For the VUCA World

Five Inner Voices for Agile Leaders

With new technologies and work methods, more than ever, the workplace is more fluid and ever-changing. The expectations of leaders have increased. That is why adopting a range of leadership styles matters.

You might currently have a preferred leadership style. Each leadership style comes with pros and cons. Depending on your personality and preference, you might find different styles effective in certain contexts.

This article will discuss and compare some of the most common leadership styles you can consider. Evaluate the needs of your team members as you decide which leadership style to develop moving forward. Read on to find out more.

Leadership in VUCA World: Understanding How VUCA Affects Organizations

Business is all about risk-taking and managing uncertainties and turbulence.”

Gautam Adani, Indian billionaire industrialist, founder, and chairman of Adani Group

Organizations across industries face the challenge of thriving in a VUCA world. VUCA stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, and Ambiguity, describing the disruptive forces that leaders encounter daily. Navigating a VUCA environment can be challenging in leadership as nothing is certain and everything is constantly changing.

As a leadership coach and consultant, I have witnessed firsthand the profound impact VUCA has on businesses, often leading to missed opportunities, organizational paralysis, and diminished performance. Most of all, the increased pressure on leaders erodes their well-being and performance.

However, I have also seen how leaders with suitable leadership styles can navigate this disruptive landscape and thrive amidst uncertainty.

By understanding the VUCA context, identifying relevant leadership styles, and then implementing suitable strategies, leaders can effectively guide their organizations through disruptions.

Listen to our podcast interview with Sunil Mundra, Author and Agility Consultant as he shares how VUCA affects organizations.
Listen to the episode here. Timestamp 04:00-05:08.
Check out this article too. Defining Good Leadership in an Uncertain Future of Work

man wearing brown suit jacket
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The Importance of Your Leadership Style and Brand

As a leader, identifying your preferred style to help you lead better and more effectively in any given situation or context. Your leadership style is like a guideline and compass. This will help you build a consistent, trustworthy leadership brand and experience more ease and authenticity in the process. Trust in leadership is associated with positive company culture. Creating a trustworthy leadership brand then is the cornerstone of your success as a leader.

6 Common Leadership Styles

Leadership comes from the ability to judge the situation and then apply the leadership style that best fits the given circumstances.

Here are the common leadership styles people use. As you compare the pros and cons, begin to form a view about your preferred leadership style.

1 Visionary Leadership Style

Visionary leaders are focused on creating and delivering a vision for their organization. This is, in our opinion, one of the ways to embrace transformational leadership. The visionary style entails communicating an ambitious future to employees and stakeholders while connecting its current state to its desired future state.

To be successful with this approach, visionary leaders focus a lot of energy on articulating where their company has been and where it will go. They likely are great storytellers. They might be democratic leaders or autocratic leaders – how the decision was made is secondary; the communication effectiveness of someone practicing the visionary leadership style is evident.

Pros and Cons of the Visionary Leadership Style

People are easily united toward a common goal, and this helps unite stakeholders under one vision. However, over-emphasizing the vision risks leaders being overly ambitious or idealistic, creating a disconnect from reality and the challenges faced on the ground.

Want to add leadership storytelling to elevate your communication effectiveness?
Check out our Leadership Storytelling course here.

2 Charismatic Leadership Style

The charismatic leadership style is a subset of the visionary leadership style. It is often associated with the transformational leadership style and can inspire changes and growth in many people.

The goal of the charismatic leader is to overcome resistance and unite people’s motivation so that the intention to achieve the change collectively – hence is a characteristic of transformational leaders – is undeniable. They are often optimistic and passionate about their vision, and they can inspire employees to share their vision and work towards it. Storytelling is a key commonality, as well as personal confidence, strong charisma, and high self-assurance.

Charismatic leaders often also need a servant leadership style. According to SHRM, servant leaders move beyond the transactional aspects of management, developing and aligning an employee’s sense of purpose with the company mission.

Pros and Cons of the Charismatic Leadership Style

The charismatic style helps to inspire change and growth in people, leading to better performance and results. It also creates a strong sense of purpose and motivation within an organization.

It can be very demanding for certain personalities, putting a lot of performance stress on the leader. The need to have superior public speaking skills is also high. Maintaining momentum and keeping people excited about the vision can also be difficult over a long period.

3 Authoritarian Leadership Style

The autocratic leadership style involves clear and direct instructions, with authoritarian leaders expecting their orders to be followed without question or debate. It can be useful when quick decisions are needed, often associated with military-like environments. It can be effective, especially in times of crisis. Those practicing to be autocratic leaders today might generally face more resistance.

Pros and Cons of the Authoritarian Leadership Style

The response as an entity can be synchronized and rapid. Still, it is also important not to lean too much towards autocratic leadership, as over a prolonged period, this can stifle innovation and creativity, important for organizational progress and engagement. In workplaces where people increasingly want a say, exercise this style cautiously. When it is necessary, be sure to explain why you need to take this leadership approach.

4 Consultative Leadership Style

In leadership, the consultative management style is a much more bottom-up approach that listens to views from the ground. Unlike autocratic leadership (top-down), leaders don’t decide things on behalf of employees. This style is also similar to participative leadership, laissez-faire leadership, and democratic leadership, where team members are actively involved, and their opinions are sought. This leadership style requires managers to understand what their employees want and need from work before deciding which direction to take.

Consultative leaders and laissez-faire leaders encourage employees to develop creative solutions themselves because it’s important that everyone feels like they are included.

Pros and Cons of the Consultative Leadership Style

People feel like they’re part of the process and their ideas matter. This is great for employee engagement. Also, it can be very effective in times of change since the leader is more likely to get support from employees when they feel like they’ve had a hand in shaping the change. On the downside, it can take a long time for employees to come up with solutions to problems, especially if managers are not very experienced in this leadership style or the topic requires an immediate decision.

Sometimes leaders of this style can be seen as indecisive. Leaders practicing democratic leadership could also be overwhelmed by the variation in opinions common in increasingly diverse workplaces.

5 Coaching Leadership Style

The coaching leadership style is all about helping people grow and develop. It is also one of the most effective types of leadership that motivate, coach, and teach employees to do better work and gain new skills with minimal direction or coercion.

Rather than just telling employees what to do, a leader using the coaching leadership style will work with team members to explore solutions in an open-ended way. True to what it means to coach, it is not about “knowing the answer” but about “cocreating solutions.”

Coaching leaders and managers don’t only play the role of coaches. They must also be facilitators and advisors sometimes, so facilitation skills are useful here.

Need to equip your managers with facilitation and coaching skills?
Talk to us. Click here.

Pros and Cons of the Coaching Leadership Style

It encourages employees to be creative and come up with their solutions. Employees feel like they are being heard and that their ideas are valuable.

Like the consultative style, overuse of the coaching style or trying to coach when the employee is not ready (like lacking experience or knowledge), can be slow to produce results. This can be frustrating for the leader as it requires more time and effort, especially at the beginning. Employees may not feel like they are being productive and become disengaged.

When using this style, it is important to understand the difference between coaching style as a leadership style vs. being a professional coach, as they are vastly different in practice.

Curious to learn the difference between professional coaching and coaching as a leadership style?
Contact us at enquiry@acesence.com.

6 Transactional Leadership Style

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With transactional leadership, a team member is often regarded as an instrument that will achieve results. It can be cold and transactional, with most work conversations focused only on work and not the person. It is not unusual to find team members describe transactional leaders as task-oriented, results-oriented, and sometimes, give unreasonable deadlines to achieve the goal.

Listen to our podcast interview with Chan Earn Meng, HR director as he shares about the balance between tasks and people.
Listen to the episode here. Timestamp 04:05-05:43.

Pros and Cons of the Democratic Leadership Style

The transactional leader is a high achiever as he can ensure that deadlines are always met. There is likely a high level of structure within the team because he is very clear about his expectations. However, unlike democratic leadership, team spirit and morale can suffer if leaders ignore the sentiments of team members.

Choosing the Most Effective Leadership Style in a VUCA World

After learning about the leadership style types, do you already notice a preference?

Turning the lens to the VUCA world, it is wise to consider what your role or industry needs.

You could be motivated to become a transformational leader and want to be true to your own leadership style. Be aware of what it takes to lead in the VUCA world, and have the leadership skills to handle continual, unpredictable changes while retaining good mental health and well-being.

The Agile Leadership Style – A Style that Future-proofs Your Career

In our vast experience supporting senior leaders across industries, we observe leaders who are highly effective today need to wear many hats – they need to be agile leaders. One of the many ways to fight ambiguity is through agility.

For instance, an agile leader can be transformational by being an autocratic leader in times of crisis, a consultative and open leader when the solution is unclear, allowing space for more bottom-up leadership from experts on the ground. Agile leaders are always in touch with sentiments because they know that people are the most crucial resource. As a result, agile leaders are dynamic, nimble, and pragmatic.

Our proposition is for you to thrive as a leader in the future of work; it means you will not depend on only one style but a range of styles. In a world where work is constantly changing, leaders need to be flexible. We recognize that a person cannot be everything all at once, so understanding your natural style first will help you begin to stretch and flex and become effective in a broader range of contexts.

Ultimately, it’s striving to achieve the agile leadership style. In my work, I define leadership agility as the “ability to be flexible and navigate through uncertainties and complexities while maintaining a sense of ease and authenticity.”

Agile leadership style will allow leaders like you to maintain authenticity while working with diverse, globally dispersed, and constantly changing teams. This style balances the need for order with innovation by making changes incrementally instead of all at once or not at all, ultimately leading to more sustainable growth than other styles may provide.

Start your agile leadership journey with Leaders People Love, the ultimate resource guide for leaders in today’s complex workplaces.

Developing Agile Leadership Using ACESENCE’s Framework

Using our Agile Leadership Framework, you can raise your agility as an effective leader by developing your competency across the five pillars, creating highly motivated employees, and achieving the best results. With the framework, you will have a blueprint to establish the necessary influencing skills and gain leadership qualities that are much needed in today’s workplaces.

Here is an overview of our framework, the Five Inner Voices.

The Captain

Personal mastery is the focus of the captain. He believes in developing strengths and is skilled in creating high-performing teams where team members complement one another. Leading with high emotional intelligence, he also builds an inclusive team culture by ensuring psychological safety and leads with empathy.

The Captain is the foundation of what it means to be an agile leader.

The Developer

This includes the coaching style, where the leader helps others think and perform better. Team members who value career growth and development will love the Developer.

The Developer is also skilled in facilitating generative and inclusive conversations, enhancing the psychological safety needed to encourage innovation.

The Visionary

This leader understands that effective change only happens when all the team members are on board. They individualize and tailor their message to meet the needs of their people and communicate the same idea in a range of ways.  Storytelling is a core competency for the visionary.

The Visionary pays attention to voices from the ground and provides actionable steps forward to the goal.

The Strategist

Getting more with less is a big idea that motivates the Strategist. This leader focuses on high-yielding activities that will drive results for the organization. Instead of being confused and distracted by other ideas, the strategist cuts through the noise and helps others prioritize, making work manageable and sustainable while achieving excellent outcomes efficiently.

The Strategist also leverages resources carefully, be it people, talent, time, connections, or opportunities. The Strategist is motivated to help people do meaningful work and draw out the best potential in people by achieving big, audacious dreams.

The Agilist

This leader values learning from past experiences and acts with intention. With a futuristic lens, he leverages the effect of high-performance habits compounded over time to continuously upgrade his skillset, elevate his mindset, and improve his results. Relevance is top of mind for the Agilist. He embodies the principles of agile leadership – the ability to lead and navigate complexities with a sense of authenticity and ease. He is changing and constant at the same time and is well aware that the risks of staying put outweigh the risks of moving forward and making mistakes.

Listen to our podcast interview with Ronnie Lee, General Manager of Lenovo Singapore, and his take on leadership agility.
Listen to the episode here.

All leaders have a preferred style. It’s like your special formula for success. Want to discover your agile leadership superpower?
Take the quiz now.

Matching The Needs of Millennials as Leaders in the Future of Work

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You’ve learned how the primary leadership styles work and how they apply in different contexts.

The key to success is understanding when leadership styles shine most and when they might not work.

Different leadership styles are effective for various purposes. Whether you’re managing a small team or a team of thousands of employees, there is always a style that best suits your needs.

Knowing your natural leadership styles now helps you determine how to adapt and gain different leadership styles to meet the challenges in any situation.

Given that millennials and Gen Zs will soon comprise the majority of the workforce, it is essential to understand what motivates employees and how to lead them. It will help attract and inspire them.

According to 2021 Fortune Best Workplaces for Millennials, millennials are looking for:

  1. Fair pay and personal meaning; 
  2. Leaders who support a diverse and inclusive workplace, including benefits that go beyond parenthood;
  3. Ethical leaders who are open and transparent;
  4. Employers who care about their well-being.

Evaluate your environment and determine what people in your ecosystem need from you as their leader because one thing is clear – you are a leader only when people are willing to follow you.

Ready to Take the Next Step?

Take advantage of Chuen Chuen’s extensive experience coaching leaders worldwide and her deep expertise in designing agile leadership corporate training solutions for your teams. No matter which stage of leadership you are at, we can partner with you and meet your business needs. Explore our executive coaching programs, and corporate training coursesor hire Chuen Chuen as your speaker so that your organization will become agile and adaptive.

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