Leadership is not “One Size Fits All” at American Income Life

American Income Life Regional Director of Sales - Murray Horowitz

American Income Life Regional Director of Sales – Murray Horowitz

It can be said that there is no one right way to lead people to a desired result. Many American Income Life and historical leaders have influenced and affected many people using several different approaches and strategies.  In fact, there seems to be as many ways to lead people as there are leaders.

As leaders at American Income Life, we are thrown many curve balls and sometimes need to be flexible and have the ability to adapt in the way that we handle our agency depending on the situation that we are faced with.

The ability to match different leadership styles to different situations in your agency will put you in the position to experience growth and prosperity for everyone.  The best way to accomplish this is by knowing and understanding the personality and behavioral styles of the people that you work with.

By understanding these styles and their impact, you can become a more effective leader at American Income Life.


Adapting Your Approach to Leadership

You must be able to deal with a specific situation or even a specific type of individual. This is why it’s useful to gain a thorough understanding of different leadership styles; after all, the more approaches you’re familiar with, the more tools you’ll be able to use to lead effectively.

Here are some different leadership styles that you can use.


1. Transactional Leadership

This leadership style starts with a “transaction” and usually involves the organization paying someone in return for their effort and compliance. Think HR callers for example.

This obviously would be more closely related to a situation where you are hiring someone to do a job for you. You automatically assume the leadership role because it is your money or offer which speaks loudest in regards to the relationship. This leadership style clarifies everyone’s roles and responsibilities.  Since transactional leadership judges performance, people who are ambitious and/or motivated by external rewards – including compensation – often thrive.

The downside of this leadership style is that the level of performance is typically for a specific period of time. Transactional leadership is really a type of management, not a true leadership style, because the focus is on short-term tasks.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is an extreme form of transactional leadership, where leaders have complete power over their people. It’s a “My way or the Highway” mentality. People have little opportunity to make suggestions, even if these would be in the team’s or the organization’s best interest.

The benefit of autocratic leadership is that it’s incredibly efficient. Decisions are made quickly, and work gets done. The downside is that most people resent being treated this way. Therefore, autocratic leadership often leads to high levels of absenteeism and high staff turnover.

Autocratic leadership is often best used in crises, when decisions must be made quickly and without dissent. For instance, the military often uses an autocratic leadership style.

3. Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders work “by the book.” They follow rules rigorously, and ensure that their people follow procedures precisely. Think underwriting.

This is an appropriate leadership style for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances, or at dangerous heights) or where large sums of money are involved.

The downside of this leadership style is that it’s ineffective in teams and organizations that rely on flexibility, creativity, or innovation.

4. Charismatic Leadership

A charismatic leadership style is where leaders inspire enthusiasm in their teams and are energetic in motivating others to move forward. This excitement and commitment from teams is an enormous benefit.

The downside to charismatic leaders is that they usually believe more in themselves than in their teams.  Success is directly connected to the presence of the charismatic leader. As such, charismatic leadership carries great responsibility, and it needs a long-term commitment from the leader. This type of leadership with no substance other than a “rah rah” approach is also usually short lived. It’s easy to get people excited but doesn’t lead to long term results.

5. Democratic/Participative Leadership

Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. They encourage creativity, and team members are often highly engaged in projects and decisions.

There are many benefits of democratic leadership. Team members tend to have high job satisfaction and are productive because they’re more involved in decisions. This style also helps develop people’s skills. Team members feel in control of their destiny, so they’re motivated to work hard by more than just a financial reward.

Because participation takes time, this approach can slow decision-making, but the result is often good. The approach can be most suitable when working as a team is essential, and when quality is more important than efficiency or productivity.

The downside of democratic leadership is that it can often hinder situations where speed or efficiency is essential. For instance, during a crisis, a team can waste valuable time gathering people’s input. Another downside is that some team members might not have the knowledge or expertise to provide high quality input.

6. Laissez-Faire Leadership

This French phrase means “leave it be,” and it describes leaders who allow their people to work on their own. This type of leadership can also occur naturally, when managers don’t have sufficient control over their work and their people.

This leadership style can be effective if the leader monitors performance and gives feedback to team members regularly. It is most likely to be effective when individual team members are experienced, skilled self-starters.

7. Task-Oriented Leadership

Task-oriented leaders focus only on getting the job done and can be autocratic. They actively define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, and plan, organize, and monitor work. These leaders also perform other key tasks, such as creating and maintaining standards for performance.  A good example of this would be recruiting.

The benefit of task-oriented leadership is that it ensures that deadlines are met, and it’s especially useful for team members who don’t manage their time well.

However, because task-oriented leaders don’t tend to think much about their team’s well-being, this approach can suffer many of the flaws of autocratic leadership, including causing motivation and retention problems.

8. People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership

With people-oriented leadership, leaders are totally focused on organizing, supporting, and developing the people on their teams. This is the opposite of task-oriented leadership.

People-oriented leaders treat everyone on the team equally. They’re friendly and approachable, they pay attention to the welfare of everyone in the group, and they make themselves available whenever team members need help or advice.

The benefit of this leadership style is that people-oriented leaders create teams that everyone wants to be part of. Team members are often more productive and willing to take risks, because they know that the leader will provide support if they need it.

The downside is that some leaders can take this approach too far; they may put the development of their team above tasks or project directives.

9. Servant Leadership

When someone at any level within an organization leads simply by meeting the needs of the team, he or she can be described as a “servant leader.”

Servant leaders often lead by example and have high integrity.

In many ways, servant leadership is a form of democratic leadership, because the whole team tends to be involved in decision making. However, servant leaders often “lead from behind,” preferring to stay out of the limelight and letting their team accept recognition for their hard work.

This is an approach that can help to create a positive corporate culture and can lead to high morale among team members.

However, other people believe that in competitive leadership situations, people who practice servant leadership can find themselves left behind by leaders using other leadership styles. This leadership style also takes time to apply correctly: it doesn’t work very well in situations where you have to make quick decisions or meet tight deadlines.

Although you can use servant leadership in many situations, it’s often most practical in politics, or in positions where leaders are elected to serve a team, committee, organization, or community.

10. Transformational Leadership

In business, a leadership style called “transformational leadership” is often the most effective approach to use. Transformational leaders have integrity, they inspire people with a shared vision of the future, they set clear goals and motivate people towards them, they manage delivery, and they communicate well with their teams.

Transformational leaders are inspiring because they expect the best from everyone on their team as well as themselves. This leads to high productivity and engagement from everyone in their team.

The downside of transformational leadership is that, while the leader’s enthusiasm is passed onto the team, he or she often needs to be supported by “detail people”.

That’s why, in many organizations, both transactional and transformational leadership styles are useful. Transactional leaders (or managers) ensure that routine work is done reliably, while transformational leaders look after initiatives that add new value.

Whatever your style, there is a need to be flexible and adaptable to all people and situations within your organization to ensure success at the highest level for all at American Income Life.



About Mark Ting

Mark Ting is a Staff Writer at Torchmark Corporation, writing about American Income Life and National Income Life Insurance Companies. Google+

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