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QUIZ – Uncovering your leadership style

There are many qualities that make up a great leader. One of the most important is understanding your natural style, whilst being agile enough to use an alternative approach if the situation calls for it.

This quick quiz will help you uncover your innate leadership style. To further assist you to be adaptive, you’ll also find information on all three leadership styles, as identified by the ground-breaking psychologist Kurt Lewin in 1939.

 

The quiz

 

Choose one answer for each question (A, B or C), answering as honestly as possible not based on what you think you should answer.

 

Questions

 

1. Aligning your team to a common goal is crucial for success. Do you agree:

 

A: Not really – as long as I know the goal, I can direct the team to achieve it

B: Somewhat – while it’s good to have team alignment, it’s even better to trust individuals to get the job done the best way they see fit

C: Wholeheartedly – the best way to have an engaged and productive team is if they’re working towards a common goal

 

2. The team is working on a project with a tight timeline, and have a detailed plan to deliver. To check on progress, I:

 

A: Ask each team member to update me daily

B: Leave the team to manage the work themselves

C: Hold a collaborative fortnightly demo of the working solution, inviting input from all

 

3. The architects and senior developers disagree about the design of a solutionI:

 

A: Tell them what solution I view is best

B: Let them work it out amongst themselves

C: Bring the team together and encourage them to air their views and facilitate the group coming to a consensus

 

4. I view each person in my team as:

 

A: Someone that needs individual direction

B: Someone that can be trusted to work autonomously to get their job done

C: Someone that isn’t a silo, but a valued member of a group whose input and advice should be considered.

 

5. A sudden build-up of work in the pipeline means I need to hire a new developer. I:

 

A: Tell my recruitment agency what I require in a new hire (or take the reins of the recruitment campaign myself)

B: Suggest the team works out what they need from the new hire, and then the lead developer organises a new developer via a recruitment agency

C: Trust my team’s knowledge base, and ask them to work together to draw up a job description to be presented at a meeting for further discussion

 

6. The team is working on a new feature and trying to decide how to break down the work amongst team members. I:

 

A: Decide how the team should divide the work

B: Let them decide among themselves

C: Hold a meeting and we decide together

 

7. It’s budget time, and you need to define team goals based on the backlog for the upcoming year, enabling you to put in the right ask. You:

 

A: Review last year’s budget yourself and determine what is needed

B: Let everyone know it’s budget time and suggest they forward plan, coming up with some figures

C: Work with the team to analyse the backlog, and estimate how much it could cost to deliver. Use the team’s estimates, as well as your own experience, to determine the correct budget ask

 

8. A new developer has joined the team, but isn’t coming up to speed fast enough and is struggling to deliver. I:

 

A: Tell the developer one-on-one what is required and expected

B: Give them more time as they will likely work it out themselves

C: Gather input from the team about why this might be happening, along with ideas about how we can further support them to achieve what is needed

 

Results

 

Tally up how many A’s, B’s and C’s you have.

 

If you answered:

 

Mostly A’s, you lean towards an Authoritarian/Autocratic leadership style

Mostly B’s, you lean towards a Laissez Faire leadership style

Mostly C’s, you lean towards a Democratic leadership style


What Lewin’s three leadership styles mean for you as a leader


1. The ‘do as I say’ leader (Authoritarian/Autocratic)

 

Leaders in this category like to do it all themselves. You prefer to take control by clearly defining goals and work processes, and make decisions with little input from your team.

 

This style works when:

 

  • Time is of the essence
  • The decision is high risk, or during crisis management
  • You have the expert knowledge base, and/or
  • You’re working with people who have failed to produce before

This style doesn’t work when:

 

  • It is used all the time.
  • Not only will team members view you as a dictator, you’ll stifle any form of innovation and creativity. It can also lead to them feeling demoralised, which can result in lost productivity and high absenteeism.
  • On the personal side, you may fail to take in the bigger picture; a strategy no good leader wants to employ consistently.

 

2. The ‘you do it all’ leader (Laissez Faire)

 

This style relates to a ‘hands-off’ leadership. You let your team decide their goals and the processes they’ll use to get there, with very minimal guidance.

 

This style works when:  

 

  • You have a team of highly skilled, motivated & trustworthy individuals
  • You all have the same overarching goal in mind, and/or
  • Project deadlines are flexible

While you might enjoy giving your team total autonomy, it’s still good to check in and offer support. IT project parameters change constantly, and you don’t want your team to feel like you’ve left them hanging.

 

This style doesn’t work when:

 

  • You have the wrong team members; those with little experience, or those who can’t be trusted to get the job done.
  • If this happens, the ‘hands off’ approach can lead to disastrous outcomes, from failed projects to total team disintegration.
  • Even if you practise delegative leadership, it’s worth remembering you’re still accountable for your team’s outcomes (or lack thereof).

 

3. The ‘let’s work together’ leader (Democratic/Participative)

 

Being a democratic leader involves setting up a framework for a project, whilst also inviting input from your team. You make your priorities known, but are happy to take suggestions from employees about how you will all work to achieve outcomes.

When it comes to final decision-making, you might take the reins, or be comfortable supporting your team to come to a consensus.

 

This style works when:

 

  • You have time on your side,
  • The work demands innovation or problem solving, and/or
  • Your team work well together, with low conflict levels

 

This style doesn’t work when:

 

  • A decision needs to be made yesterday.
  • Involving stakeholders in a consultative process takes more time, so this leadership style is best avoided for tight project deadlines, or in a crisis.
  • It’s worth noting too that some form of conflict is inevitable amongst team members, so you need to be able to adequately manage this when practising this form of leadership.
  • Another downside is that too many opinions can produce a stalemate, and this may force you to use an autocratic approach in the end.

 

The best leadership style? Mix it up

 

While it’s interesting to uncover which leadership style comes most naturally to you, the most effective leaders understand how to shift their style according to the situation.

Such leaders are able to quickly analyse the components of a project – task type, the teams and individual personalities involved, risk level etc – and then adapt their leadership style to suit. It might be autocratic, laissez faire, democratic, or a hybrid of all.

If you’ve found this topic interesting, you might enjoy some further reading in our leadership series.

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