Shared problem-solving and decision-making is an increasingly prevalent aspect of successful management and leadership worldwide. This is because competitive, authortarian styles of leadership are less and less responsive to the complex challenges facing society today.
The White Stag program has since 1958 described five styles of leadership: Telling, Selling, Consulting, Joining (or consensus). These styles of leadership are appropriate depending on the task, the situation, and the group, as illustrated in the diagrma below.
Generally, less experienced or insecure leaders will tend to lean on the more authoritarian types of leadership because they desire the role and title of leader to bolster their self-esteem, and they lack confidence in their skills. Talented, mature leaders employ the most appropriate style based on the context. The styles are easily viewed as being most to least authoritarian.
A way of assessing the desirability of a leadership style or the need for sharing leadership with the team is to consider both the groups' short- and long-range goals. Effective, enlightened, unselfish leaders— true servants of the group — are not reluctant to encourage group participation and ownership of a decision.
Through all leadership situations, you must find a style of leadership most suited to the occasion that balances your own maturity and capabilities and the group's maturity and ability.
In any situation, you must consider the appropriateness of each style relative to the forces generated by the situation and from within the group. For example, the more long-range the goal, the more you need the participation of every member in group decisions and their commitment to achieving the goal. On the other hand, emergency situations do not lend themselves to consultation or delegation.