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What Kind of Leader Are You? A Guide to Leadership Styles for Small Business Owners

King Henry VIII once asked, “Is it better to be feared or loved?”  I think we can all understand this monarch’s struggle with that question.   Frankly, the answer to this question should not be so difficult for today's small business owners.  Your leadership style can significantly impact your team's culture and success. Understanding different leadership styles and their pros and cons can help you find the right approach that meets the needs of both your business and your team.  But before we get into that, let’s take a fun little quiz, shall we?

1.        When making decisions, do you:
a) Take charge and decide what needs to be done, relying on your experience and knowledge to guide you.
b) Ask your team for input, but ultimately make the final decision based on your own judgment.
c) Delegate decision-making to your team, giving them the autonomy to make their own choices.
2.        How do you communicate with your team?
a) Provide clear and concise instructions on what needs to be done, but leave room for questions and feedback.
b) Encourage an open dialogue, allowing your team to share their ideas and perspectives.
c) Set the expectations and let your team take the lead on communication.
3.        When it comes to giving feedback to your team, do you:
a) Focus on results and use constructive criticism to help your team achieve their goals.
b) Praise when deserved and provide feedback when necessary, always keeping in mind the impact on team morale.
c) Provide guidance and support, but ultimately allow your team to self-reflect and improve.
4.        How do you motivate your team?
a) Set high expectations and hold your team accountable, using fear as a motivator when necessary.
b) Recognize and reward your team's accomplishments, providing positive reinforcement and incentives for future success.
c) Provide the resources and support your team needs to succeed, giving them the freedom to pursue their goals.
5.        How do you handle conflict within the team?
a) Make the tough decisions and enforce them, even if they are unpopular.
b) Work collaboratively with your team to find a solution that everyone can agree on.
c) Encourage your team to resolve conflicts on their own, offering guidance and support when needed.
6.        How do you handle mistakes made by your team?
a) Criticize and punish team members responsible for mistakes, emphasizing the importance of accountability and discipline.
b) Use mistakes as opportunities for growth and learning, providing constructive feedback and support.
c) Let team members handle mistakes on their own, giving them the autonomy to find solutions.
7.        How do you prioritize team goals and individual needs?
a) Prioritize team goals above all else, emphasizing the importance of working towards a common objective.
b) Balance team goals with individual needs, ensuring that each team member feels valued and supported.
c) Focus on individual needs over team goals, allowing team members to work towards personal goals and motivations.
Check out the answer key below to find out what type of leader you are.
Mostly A = Autocratic Leader
Mostly B = Democratic Leader
Mostly C = Laissez-faire Leader 
Now let’s break down each type of leadership style.

Autocratic leadership can be effective in military or law enforcement settings, but it may not be suitable for most small businesses. While it can lead to speedy decision-making and increased productivity, micromanagement and a lack of creativity can create a negative work environment where employees feel disengaged and mutinous. 

Democratic leadership, on the other hand, promotes collaboration and empowerment, fostering an open dialogue and active involvement of team members in decision-making. However, this style can be time-consuming and slow, and a lack of expertise in the field can be an obstacle. 
Laissez-faire leadership assesses the unique talents of each employee and assigns responsibilities accordingly, promoting development and growth opportunities and encouraging innovation and creativity. However, it can be difficult to supervise and control subordinates, weakening the role of the manager and could create conflict or misunderstanding. 

Finding the right balance between these leadership styles is crucial for a small business owner. By understanding your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and leveraging the strengths of your team members, you can create a positive work environment that fosters growth, innovation, and success. Regularly checking in with your team and being open to adopting different leadership styles for various scenarios or projects is key to ensuring a harmonious and productive work environment.
While being flexible is important, it's also essential not to overdo it and maintain consistency in your leadership approach.
Understanding different leadership styles and their pros and cons can help small business owners find the right approach that meets the needs of both their business and their team.  By creating a positive work environment that fosters growth, innovation, and success, small business owners can lead their teams to achieve great things.