Higher Education

The Different Types of Leadership Styles in Higher Education Institutions

In higher education institutions there is no one size fits approach to leadership. Effective leaders develop and adapt their style to meet organizational outcomes.

Organizations that work towards leadership development tend to outperform those that don’t. Leaders in profitable companies typically put culture management and employee engagement at the top of their lists.

As a leader in higher education, it means you’re setting an excellent example for others and motivated to do so. Your actions and behaviours will motivate and inspire the people you lead. All the while you’ve got your finger on the pulse of the organization’s performance. As a leader, you support everyone to achieve collective goals. And an effective leadership style helps you do this. 

What is a leadership style?

Leadership style is the way you behave. It’s your unique way of making decisions and interacting with others. It’s how you use your time. As a leader in college or university, it’s the way you take action, direct, inspire, and manage others that matters

Your style has an impact on how you plan and work with stakeholders, students, faculty, as well as your team. The way you lead has an impact on those around you. By developing your leadership style you understand how to create the impact you want. You’re better able to know how you’ll approach tasks and support others to get things done.

There’s a process to finding your leadership style, and it’s different for everyone. There are some key things to know as you continue to develop yours.

There are four primary styles of leadership in business. They have been widely accepted and understood since the emergence of Lewin’s Leadership Styles in 1939. Social psychologist Kurt Lewin identified 3 styles of leadership: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire. The transformational style of leadership has since been adopted as one of the core styles.

There’s a style that suits you best. Next, we’ll take a look at four common leadership styles. The common traits of each leadership style will inform your approach as you develop yours.

4 Leadership Styles in Higher Education Institutions

Each of these styles has its own strengths and weaknesses. The best leaders are those who are able to identify when to use each style to achieve the best results.

Autocratic Leadership Style

The autocratic leadership style is characterized by a strong focus on control and authority. Other words for this style may be authoritarian, coercive, or commanding. This style is most effective when there is a clear and concise vision that needs to be followed, and when there is little room for error. Autocratic leaders carry out strategies with precise focus. They have a clear direction and this can lead to high performance. However, this style can also be seen as overly authoritative and inflexible, creating an environment of fear and mistrust.

Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic leadership style is characterized by a more collaborative approach. This style is most effective when there is a need for buy-in from all stakeholders. However, this style can also be seen as too consensus-driven and slow to make decisions. Leaders make decisions in board meetings. There may be discussions about the topics the leader presents. The leader will hear the board’s thoughts and feedback and then consider them. In the democratic style of leadership, they may also vote.

Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

The laissez-faire leadership style is characterized by a hands-off approach. This style is most effective when the leader is dealing with a highly-skilled and self-motivated team. With this style of leadership, employees are accountable for their work. Often, employees are incentivized to do their best work. The laissez-faire leader embraces a relaxed company culture. Creative businesses and those with highly skilled teams do well with this leadership style

Transformational Leadership Style

The transformation leadership style has a focus on change and innovation. This style is most effective when there is a need for radical change. However, this style can also be seen as too risky and disruptive. This style works in settings where leaders can inspire their teams to be independent thinkers and drive change. This style of leadership helps organizations to improve productivity and profitability. It’s a leadership style that supports employee satisfaction, team morale, and motivation. 

Leveraging Your Strengths as a Leader in Higher Education

There are many different types of leaders in higher education. Some are born leaders and some are made. There are certain qualities that successful leaders in higher education have. These include the ability to inspire and motivate others. As well, successful leaders know how to create and maintain relationships. Strong leaders leverage their strengths. They use their strengths to support their weaknesses. They understand the importance of getting the most out of their strengths. 

The Importance of Leveraging Your Strengths

Leveraging your strengths as a leader in higher education is essential to your success. By understanding and utilizing your strengths, you can better manage your time, communicate with others, and achieve your goals. 

Your strengths as a leader have direct implications. Good time management enhances your well-being. Of course, your well-being is important, and it’s also valuable. Well-being is recognized as a key economic driver. This is an example of how your strengths drive the performance and profit of the organization.

You can get even more out of your strengths when you leverage them. If you are great at time management you can leverage this as organizational skills to execute and plan your time.

If your strength is communication, you can leverage that too. Use this skill to effectively engage with your team, colleagues, and students. If you’re a good listener you can encourage open dialogue. Use your good communication skills to clearly articulate your vision and goals.

As a leader, you can begin to understand what your strengths are and connect them to other areas they’d be useful. 

How to Identify Your Leadership Style

Understanding common leadership styles is just one part of developing your approach. Here are three ways to help you explore more and identify your unique style.

Recognize the benefits and drawbacks of each leadership style.

Leadership styles are not an all-or-nothing proposition. Instead, each type of leader has strengths and qualities that inspire and encourage people. They also have weaknesses that can demotivate and discourage people. Being self-aware and acknowledging these traits in yourself can bring you closer to finding your own leadership style.

Examine your motivations to see where your style might lie.

As you think about how the leadership styles affect you, consider why they do so. For example, if you follow certain types of leaders, ask why?

In your role as a leader, you’ll be motivating team members. One of your key functions as a leader is to set them up for success with the resources they need. To lead well, you need to know what motivates you. How do you show up as the best leader for your team?

You may consider what drives you, this could be salary and perks, or recognition and awards. Driving factors can also be intangible. Think about why you do what you do. Is it important to be part of something bigger, do you like opportunities that make an impact? Or, do you enjoy the excitement of doing something new?

When you understand what drives you to do your best work, it’s easier to motivate others to do theirs.  

Take advantage of leadership style assessments before you commit.

As you develop your leadership style you’ll explore your functions as a leader. You’ll want to consider the things you do as you lead and the way you are as you do that. How do you want to show up as a leader for others, what impact do you want to have?

There’s an inner side of leadership—self-awareness, authenticity, and emotional intelligence. And there’s an outer side of leadership—setting direction, aligning people, and generating commitment.

Use a leadership style assessment to help you understand more about your personal style. You can find out how to bring out the best leader in you. Assessments often ask you to rate yourself on a set of statements that describe different styles of leadership. Based on your responses, the assessment will give you a score for each style of leadership. 

Leadership Styles in Higher Education Institutions

These days, leaders use resources and tools that help manage day-to-day activities. This supports the entire team to succeed, and leaders to do their jobs well. Colleges and universities focus on many goals, including recruitment and retention. These are two important factors that higher education continues to address. Especially when aware of economic challenges and the potential of a recession. Here are some innovative recruitment strategies to help you recruit new students.

What it comes down to, is that leadership is a key factor supporting the success of higher education institutions. As a leader, it’s important to develop a strong personal leadership style. When you understand the general approaches successful leaders are using, it helps you develop yours.

Leadership is more than style, it’s about the way you behave and take action toward the organization’s goals. When you begin to understand yourself better you develop a strong leadership foundation for yourself and the people you lead. Everybody wins.

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