Workplace Rights

Weekly (8/1/11)

Topic of the Week  Not Horrible Bosses: Adapting Your Leadership Style

  • Directing.
  • Coaching.
  • Participating.
  • Delegating.

Read about most CEO's and leaders and you quickly learn one thing, leaders have a distinctive style: decisive, collaborative, strategic, whatever. But I believe the key to effective leadership today is to combine a variety of styles. Which reminds me of when the News of the Weird described a theme park near Mexico City in where potential emigrants to the U.S. could test their survival skills in an obstacle course imitating what would be involved in actually crossing the border. And for those not interested in traveling to the theme park there is "Smuggle Truck," a video game where players compete to drive a pickup of illegals over rocky terrain.


Managing today is like an obstacle course, but unlike the examples above, you seldom get the chance to practice your skills. That's why I've included three Do's and one Don't that focuses on the four main approaches to managing below. If you're a leader you should have all four of these leadership styles available to you based on the circumstances you face. For more, check out Marc Dorio's book, "Complete Idiots Guide: Boosting Employee Performance" (Alpha, 2011).


Directing. This is the way most people think of leadership, telling people what to do and how to do it. The best part of this approach is that it is often efficient. The biggest con, it often doesn't give the people actually doing the work the chance to contribute their expertise and thoughts. So if this is your exclusive style of leadership, you might want to take notes on the three additional styles below.  


Coaching. The coaching philosophy often sets up the parameters for a task, but allows the managee some room to make decisions along the way. Or it can be even more hands off where the person is given a much longer leash to problem solve and learn along the way. Coaching is great because it gives the person a safe space to learn and grow. But it is important as a leader to remember that there is often a point where the coaching relationship should turn into even more autonomy for the people involved.


Participating. This approach is much more inclusive. The boss often doesn't even act like a boss, they are just another member of the team. Participation is often excellent for getting a variety of opinions involved in the process. The downside is that it often takes more time to get from point A to point B. But over the long haul it can actually save time because you can learn new approaches and your people will gain confidence and expertise.


Delegating. This leadership approach gives more control to the people on the front lines. The leader points in a certain direction and the people have latitude about how to get there.


The most effective leaders utilize all four leadership styles so that workers don't feel like they're stuck in a smuggle truck, but they feel like they are participating in the process of getting their job done.



About the Author: Bob Rosner is a best-selling author and award-winning journalist. For free job and work advice, check out the award-winning Check the revised edition of his Wall Street Journal best seller, "The Boss's Survival Guide." If you have a question for Bob, contact him via



Thought of the Week

"By working faithfully eight hours a day you may eventually get to be boss and work twelve hours a day."

–Robert Frost

Blog of the Week

Top Five News Headlines

    List of the Week

    from Alliance for Board Diversity

     White Men Still Rule: Who Serves on Corporate Boards Today

    • Men held nearly 85% of all board seats.
    • White men hold 74.5% of board seats.
    • White women held 12.7% of seats
    • Minority men held 9.9% of board seats.
    • Minority women held only 3% of seats


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