1. Understand leadership styles
1.1 Describe the factors that will influence the choice of leadership styles or behaviours in workplace situations
All situations are different and a leadership style applied in one situation will not always work in another. A leader must use judgement to decide the most appropriate style needed for each situation. The ‘Situational Approach’ to leadership identifies four leadership styles which are;
In the context of the main front line supervisory leadership role within the Fire and Rescue Service leadership is split two ways. The first being the day to day running of a fire station which includes directing the work and training of a group of individuals, and secondly leading a response to emergency incidents. Elements common to both areas which influence the choice of leadership styles or behaviours which may be employed include;
The people involved, and their level of competence
The nature of the task (routine or out of the ordinary)
The level of supervision the task requires
The number of people required to achieve a task
Where the task needs to be performed
How the task is to be performed
What level of priority is involved
In an emergency incident additional factors which must be considered are;
The time available in which a task needs completing
The level and nature of the risks involved
In the day to routine elements of the job working patterns and activities can be fairly predictable and so a variety of styles and behaviours may be appropriate depending on the bullet points listed above, but consultative, democratic and persuasive may be used in equal measure. In this context the authoritative style may only be employed where performance or discipline issues arise.
In the context of an emergency incident the predominant style is that of authoritative, although consultative may be appropriate if time allows and the nature of the problem is not completely understood by the leader. However, in almost all incidents the default style would then revert to authoritative. Research carried out into fire and rescue services operational leadership particularly in relation to road traffic collisions has identified that the ‘Lack of a clearly identified officer in charge’ has had detrimental effects on the successful conclusion of an incident.
1.2 Explain why these leadership styles or behaviours are likely to have a positive or negative effect on individual and group behaviour
The choice of a leadership style utilised should not just meet the needs of the situation in which it is being employed, but also take into consideration the individuals concerned, a leader should understand that there are both positive and negative effects to consider. As well as deciding which style is appropriate for the situation, the leader should also be aware of the possible unintended consequences in relation to the team if the style is inappropriate for the situation or people involved.
The authoritative style where the leader makes all the decisions and tells the team what to do can be appropriate in time pressured risk sensitive situations, particularly where the team are not well trained or do not understand the situation. Applied properly positives include speed of action, clarity of purpose and the removal of doubt as to what is required of the team and individuals. If applied inappropriately some possible negatives for the team and individuals could include, de-motivation, loss of confidence, problems with morale and feeling under valued, and creating a team that relies on the leader and which does not think or actively participate.
The persuasive style of leadership involves an element of salesmanship; the leader decides and then ‘sells’ the decision and objectives to the team by explaining reasons for the decision. In so doing the manager may achieve positives such as being seen by the team to recognise their importance, thus showing concern for them and gaining ‘buy in’ from the team and individuals. Some negatives of this style include the fact that not all leaders have the ability to ‘sell’ their decisions convincingly and application of this style may make the leader appear weak if they constantly appear to have to sell or justify their decisions.
A consultative style encourages discussion with the team; the leader presents the situation or problem and may possibly suggest a provisional decision. They then invite discussion about it and get suggestions and ideas, the leader then decides. Positives of this style include group synergy ‘none of use is as clever as all of us’, and acknowledgment that the team has something to contribute to the decision-making process. Disadvantages of this style could include slower decision making due to consultation, and the expectation of the team or individuals that they will always be consulted.
The democratic style which allows the team to develop options and decide actions may be appropriate for a well trained team who perform at a high level. Leadership functions may be shared with the team and individuals have a greater say in decision making and the implementation of actions and procedures. Advantages of this style may include securing team commitment to decisions and their implementation, which can be an aide to the development of the team and individuals, and increased morale. Disadvantages; in situations where team roles are unclear it can lead to communication failures. And there is the possible dilution of responsibility if no one person is accountable for making decisions, or decisions made.
In my role within a FRS workforce development department one of the major tasks that I am involved in is the assessment of the command skills of personnel who act as ‘Initial Incident Commanders’ (those personnel who generally attend a fire/rescue incident first). The results of recent assessments have highlighted serious training needs for this group of personnel and I have initiated a consultation process between this group and senior management to identify the best ways to rectify this situation.
2. Understand leadership qualities and review own leadership qualities and potential
2.1 Assess own leadership behaviours and potential in the context of a particular leadership model
During the first day of the course we completed a self – assessment task which identified leadership styles against the ‘The Tannenbaum & Schmidt Model’ of situational leadership. Analysis of my results from the assessment revealed evidence of under use of the democratic style, and the tendency to favour the persuasive style of leadership. The results in the authoritative and consultative styles were in line with my peers on the course.
At this point I must qualify the findings of this self assessment. In my opinion the wording of the questions meant that a democratic style of leadership was inappropriate as issues of competence and performance were continually raised. My analysis of the application of the democratic style indicates that this it is appropriate where the team are well trained and performing at or above expectation, any indications that this is not the case indicate the requirement for leadership action.
However, I accept the results of the assessment in relation the application of the persuasive style and recognise that there is the potential for ignoring the application of the democratic style of leadership (In previous roles I have applied the democratic style to good effect). I will therefore need to identify practical ways address the issues raised to ensure that I consistently apply the most appropriate leadership style to match the situation and the personnel involved. I should consciously assess my use of the persuasive style in favour of the consultative or democratic styles.
Comments from someone I manage in relation to my leadership style are that having set targets I am prone to not informing them if these targets change which may tend to suggest actual under use of the consultative style of leadership. A co-worker who I work with closely has suggested that I display a tendency towards tunnel vision which may correspond to the implied favouring of the persuasive style and my desire to ‘sell’ my decisions. My line manager has commented positively on my ability to utilise of a variety of leadership styles according to the situational requirements, he did however identify in me a preference for the persuasive style which backs up the findings of the self – assessment task.
The prevailing management culture within my FRS is based on results achieved against pre-agreed annual Personal Development Reviews. The reality of this situation is that the service tends to value the volume of output over the quality of the results and the old management consultant favourite 80/20 rule is often misquoted. As long as the results are achieved and there are no personnel issues arising the leadership style/s applied is not relevant.
From my own personal observations the authoritative style is very prevalent within the service in many situations, this may be due to due to high workloads, time pressures and capacity issues. These factors lead to the situation where the authoritative style appears very attractive because taken at face value it seems quick and easy.
2.2 Describe appropriate actions to enhance own leadership behaviour in the context of the particular leadership model.
Involve personnel more and earlier.
Tannenbaum & Schmitt
Favouring persuasive style.
Under use of the democratic style.
Subjective analysis of reasons. Is the consultative style more appropriate?
Continually identify situations when it is appropriate to apply democratic.
Someone I manage
Someone I work with
My line manager
Target setting and informing.
A preference for the persuasive style.
Regular and open team meetings allowing two way communications. Ensure wider situational awareness.