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How different leadership styles can impact on working culture and delivery of service

This page is designed to answer the following questions:

For this assessment criteria, you will be required to evaluate the impact of different leadership styles on working culture and service delivery.

Working culture refers to the attitudes, beliefs, values and atmosphere of an organisation. Good leaders develop a positive workplace culture, which leads to increased performance and job satisfaction for their team. Service delivery can be defined as frontline care provision.

Inclusive vs exclusive

Inclusive and exclusive leadership relates to whether recruitment, promotion and succession planning is performed internally or externally. For example, when a new vacancy becomes available, do you look to recruit a new employee from outside the organisation that already has the required knowledge, skills and experience to perform the role or do you promote and develop existing employees?

A leader that invests in and develops their team will demonstrate that they value their team members, which can lead to improved morale and loyalty and reduce staff turnover. It can also be quicker and less expensive because the team member will already understand organisational culture, policies and procedures and have existing relationships with other team members and clients.

However, it will also leave the team member’s previous position vacant, so external recruitment will still be necessary. A benefit of exclusive recruitment is that it can bring a fresh pair of eyes into your organisation that may have new ideas and innovations about how operations could be run more effectively and efficiently. For some positions, it may not be possible to recruit internally due to a lack of skills, experience or qualifications – for example, you may require somebody with a nursing qualification. However, by taking a long-term approach, you can ensure that staff receive training early to fulfil the future needs of the organisation.

Open vs closed

A closed style of leadership is directive and autocratic. The leader tells the team members what needs to be done and they are expected to do it. There may be times when this is necessary – for example when tasks are time-sensitive or there are issues with performance – however, if it is consistent it can lead to decreased morale and staff feeling unvalued.

In contrast, an open approach to leadership involves developing and nurturing positive relationships with team members that are built on mutual respect and trust. An open leader will encourage discussion, value the opinions of others and encourage joint decision-making. This can result in improved team performance and job satisfaction.

Positive vs negative

A negative approach to leadership lacks vision and direction and does not value team members. A negative leader will take credit when things go well and apportion blame to the team when things go wrong. Staff will be demoralised and unproductive and staff turnover will be high.

A positive approach to leadership is more supportive and inspiring. A positive leader motivates their team members, encourages them to achieve their potential and develops a positive workplace culture. They achieve this by effectively communicating their vision and being a good role model.

For examples of some of the traits of positive leaders, review Kouzes and Posner’s Leadership Challenge.

Democratic

A democratic approach to leadership encourages discussion and shared decision-making amongst team members so that they feel that their ideas and opinions are valued and respected and they have a say in how things are run. Although this can be time-consuming, it can make the implementation of the decision easier because the team will feel responsible for it.

Paternalistic

A paternalistic or parental leader believes that they know what is best for their team and will make decisions on their behalf with their best interests in mind. In return, they expect full compliance and loyalty. A working culture under this type of leadership will be close-knit, almost like a second family and there will be unwavering trust in the leader, who will have close personal relationships with their team members.

In a health and social care setting, a family-like workplace culture could blur the lines between professional and personal relationships, and result in team members not being willing to speak up if they have concerns. However, an interesting study did find a link between benevolent paternalistic leaders and job satisfaction.

Affiliative

An affiliative leader’s primary focus is on building and maintaining positive relationships within their team so that everybody works together harmoniously. This can have a positive impact on workplace culture with team members feeling valued and respected, conflicts being swiftly resolved and a reduction in stress levels. However, it can negatively impact service delivery as complex issues may be avoided and under-performance may not be challenged in order to maintain harmony.

Laissez-Faire

A laissez-faire leader delegates decision-making to their team members and takes a hands-off approach, whilst maintaining accountability. There is evidence to suggest that this style of leadership is less effective than autocratic and democratic styles.

Although this approach gives freedom to team members and can facilitate their personal growth, it can result in a workplace culture where leadership is absent and team members are not held accountable for their decisions.

Commanding

A commanding or autocratic style of leadership is where the leader directs the staff about what they have to do without explanation. As stated earlier, this may be necessary for some situations, however, over the long term it can lead to team members feeling unvalued and demoralised.

Visionary

A visionary leader is able to see the long-term direction of the organisation and can communicate it effectively to team members so that they not only understand it but are inspired by it.

This can result in a workplace culture where everyone is motivated and working towards the same goals, however, focusing too much on the long-term vision may negatively impact day-to-day service delivery.

Other leadership styles

You may wish to research other leadership styles and evaluate how they impact workplace culture and service delivery. This could include:

  • Coaching and Pacesetting styles (together with Visionary, Commanding, Democratic and Affiliative, these comprise Goleman’s six styles of leadership)
  • Transformational leadership
  • Transactional leadership
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