The Asking/Telling Leadership Styles for Leaders that Get Results
Leadership styles are important aspects of any leader’s behavior with employees. We are going to explore two styles today and determine which one works best in a given situation.
What is the Telling Leadership Style?
The Telling Style is a more directive and authoritarian leadership style. From the leader’s perspective, there is one right answer. Orders are not subject to interpretation.
The Advantages of the Telling Leadership Style
If the leader has expertise in an area, then the leader’s expertise will ensure that his or her directions will be followed through quickly and in a specific manner.
For example, a Telling Leadership Style is needed when a manager has to lead a team to take care of a nuclear plant. Directions need to be very clear, precise and strictly and rigorously implemented. No interpretation is allowed.
Another good example when a Telling Style is wanted is in a crisis. If the building is on fire and the leader knows the safest exit, the leader will not start asking people’s opinions what is the best way to exit the building. The leader will get to the point and give orders.
So the Telling Leadership Style provides quick and controlled solutions. It is appropriate in turnaround or crisis situations or for rapid solutions to the immediate task at hand.
The Disadvantages of the Telling Leadership Style
It does not develop the employees’ autonomy nor does it draw on the employee’s creative and strategic thinking. Consequently, employees are less engaged and motivated. The Telling Leadership Style implies that the boss knows all the answers and makes all the important decisions. This is particularly detrimental when employees have more knowledge than the boss.
What is the Asking Leadership Style?
The Asking Leadership Style focuses on the process of asking questions. A leader using this Style focuses on the employee’s personal development and engages the employee’s accountability and responsibility. The Asking Leadership Style develops the employee’s confidence because the leader believes that the employee can find the right solution.
The Advantages of the Asking Leadership Style.
This approach engages employees and helps the leader gather information by the experts that might know more than the boss in a field.
The Asking Leadership Style gets people’s buy-in by integrating people’s ideas. People feel heard. This style makes employees feel valued that leaders are responsive to them.
The Asking Leadership Style of the spectrum is the power of well-asked questions. The Asking style requires effective listening, which is the essence of coaching. For example, even if the leader has expert knowledge and a clear answer to the problem, s/he would ask the employees what do they propose and why?
- What are their other options?
- What are the costs and potential revenues?
- What are the short or long term consequences of doing option A over option B? What are the constraints?
The Asking Style encourages employee’s autonomy and frees the leader from the pressure of always being right. Most leaders are typically excellent at Telling. Why?
The Disadvantages of the Asking Leadership Style.
There are some disadvantages to the Asking Style, including that it takes more time than giving the answer to the task at hand. It takes more time to explain the “whys” something is done a certain way. The leader needs to explicate the bigger picture, which might be risking sharing confidential information. The leader has less control and might feel less needed.
Both Asking/Telling Leadership Styles have their strengths.
Using the Telling and Asking leadership Style is appropriate according to the situation or to the person being lead. However, many leaders are stuck in one preferred style. Usually, leaders are excellent at the Telling Style especially in some cultures where to not know the answers is perceived as a weakness. The leader needs to be self-aware and flexible to apply the appropriate leadership style.
What is your Telling/Asking Leadership Style?
In addition to the two styles I discussed here, there are more that you or your clients are using. Let me know what they are. Leave a comment below. I’d like to hear from you. Let’s start a continued conversation. Within the next two weeks, in the Top Coach Blog, I shall review the leadership coaching style versus Daniel Goldman’s leadership styles. What can help develop talent? How can leaders create positive environments for their people?
For more information check out the different leadership coaching programs to develop strategic thinking and business gravitas.