The Many Faces Of Retail Leadership

The Many Faces Of Retail Leadership

“Mature leaders see individual differences as fuel for development, not as barriers to success. – Mike Myatt”

Warning...This topic is dizzying [and long]! As I mentioned the other day, according to Monster, 38% of employees rate their leader as “horrible” while only 17% rate their leader as “excellent”. Clearly, something has gone wrong with “leadership” and what the function is. The other day I wrote an article titled, “Invested, Involved, And Interested Retail Leadership Is Important – Here’s Why…“. In that article I referenced some more truly surprising statistics about leaders and how they are perceived by their team members.  While I could go on and on about where leadership goes wrong and why our employees see us as horrible or at least shades of “not-great” to the tune of 70%,  I want to talk about the various leadership styles. What do they look like? What are some different kinds of leaders? Let me tell you…there are a lot…and none of them are without flaw or opportunity to infuse some human influence into them. There are benefits and detriments to all of these leadership styles. Let’s go on a wild ride…

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 7.57.15 AM

The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid

This grid based on two behavioral dimensions:

  • Concern for People – This is the degree to which a leader considers the needs of team members, their interests, and areas of personal development when deciding how best to accomplish a task.
  • Concern for Results – This is the degree to which a leader emphasizes concrete objectives, organizational efficiency and high productivity when deciding how best to accomplish a task.

Impoverished Management – Low Results/Low People: This leader is clearly ineffective. They do not possess a high regard for creating systems for getting the job done, nor so they focus on creating a work environment that is satisfying and motivating. The result is disorganization, dissatisfaction and disharmony.

Country Club Management – High People/Low Results: This leader is most concerned about the needs and feelings of members of his/her team. These people operate under the assumption that as long as team members are happy and secure then they will work hard. Resulting in a work environment that is very relaxed and fun but where production suffers due to lack of direction and guidance.

Authority-Compliance Management – High Results/Low People: Also known as Authoritarian or “Produce or Perish” Leaders, people in this category believe that employees are simply a means to an end. Employee needs are always secondary to the need for efficiency and productivity in the workplace. This type of leader is very autocratic, has strict work rules, policies, and procedures, and views leading by fear and corrective action as the most effective means to motivate employees.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 6.19.30 AM

Middle-of-the-Road Management – Medium Results/Medium People: This style seems to be a balance of the two competing concerns, and it may at first appear to be an ideal compromise. Once you compromise, you give away a bit of each concern, so that neither production nor people needs are fully met. Leaders who use this style settle for average performance and often believe that this is the most anyone can expect.

Team Leadership – High Production/High People: This is the best managerial style. These leaders stress production needs and the needs of the people equally highly.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 6.51.34 AM

Lewin’s Leadership Styles

Autocratic: In the autocratic style, the leader takes decisions without consulting with others. The decision is made without any form of consultation. In Lewin’s experiments, he found that this caused the most level of discontent. An autocratic style works when there is no need for input on the decision, where the decision would not change as a result of input, and where the motivation of people to carry out subsequent actions would not be affected whether they were or were not involved in the decision-making. Beware – this style can be demoralizing, and it can lead to high levels of absenteeism and turnover.

Democratic: In the democratic style, the leader involves the people in the decision-making, although the process for the final decision may vary from the leader having the final say to them facilitating consensus in the group. Democratic decision-making is usually appreciated by the people, especially if they have been used to autocratic decisions with which they disagreed. It can be problematic when there are a lot of opinions and reaching an equitable final decision seems impossible.

Laissez-Faire: In this style, managerial involvement is minimal, allowing people to make their own decisions, although they may still be responsible for the outcome. They provide support with resources and advice when asked, but otherwise they don’t get involved. This autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction, but it can be costly if team members don’t manage their time well, or if they don’t have the knowledge, skills, or self motivation to do their work effectively.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 7.56.11 AM

Six Emotional Leadership Styles

This is a study kinetic leadership is Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Results, a landmark 2000 Harvard Business Review study:

  • The pacesetting leader expects and models excellence and self-direction. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do as I do, now.” The pacesetting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. Used extensively, however, this style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.
  • The authoritative leader mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Come with me.” The authoritative style works best when the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed, or when explicit guidance is not required. Authoritative leaders inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant enthusiasm for the mission. It is not the best fit when the leader is working with a team of experts who know more than him or her.
  • The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “People come first.” The affiliative style works best in times of stress, when teammates need to heal from a trauma, or when the team needs to rebuild trust. This style should not be used exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.
  • The coaching leader develops people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall. It is least effective when teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.
  • The coercive leader demands immediate compliance. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do what I tell you.” The coercive style is most effective in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt, or during an actual emergency like a tornado or a fire. This style can also help control a problem teammate when everything else has failed. However, it should be avoided in almost every other case because it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.
  • The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “What do you think?” The democratic style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if he or she is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation, when time is of the essence for another reason or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader.

According to Robyn Benincasa, author of HOW WINNING WORKS: 8 Essential Leadership Lessons from the Toughest Teams on Earth, “If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.” [Source: Fast Company]

Flamholtz Leadership Effectiveness Framework

This leadership does not assume that for some leaders their sole source for influencing behavior is contingent rewards (that is, rewards given with ‘good’ behavior and corrective action given for ‘bad.’. It, also, does not assume that personality traits such as charisma and intellectual stimulation are essential prerequisites for effective leadership. Rather, it looks at the behavior of leaders in the tasks they perform, in the style they use, and in the situation. It draws from several research scenarios: leadership styles, leadership tasks, situational leadership, and contingency leadership. The Leadership Effectiveness framework is defined as the “process whereby an individual influences the behavior of people in a way that increases the probability that they will achieve organizational goals.” This process involves understanding, predicting and controlling others’ goal-directed behavior.

Leadership Types.   There are two types of leadership: strategic leadership and operational leadership. Flamholtz defines strategic leadership as the process of influencing members of an organization to plan for its long-range development. It is oriented towards the entire organization’s development and its ability to function in the environment. Two key tasks of strategic leadership are in formulating a strategic vision and in managing the corporate culture. Operational leadership, in contrast, is defined as the process of influencing members of an organization to achieve established long and short-term goals on a day-to-day basis.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership may be found at all levels of the organization: teams, departments, divisions, and organization as a whole. Such leaders are visionary, inspiring, daring, risk-takers, and thoughtful thinkers. They have a charismatic appeal. Though charisma is great in retail, it is insufficient for changing the way an organization operates. For bringing major changes, transformational leaders must exhibit the following four factors:

  • Inspirational Motivation: The foundation of transformational leadership is the promotion of consistent vision, mission, and a set of values to the members. Their vision is so compelling that they know what they want from every interaction. Transformational leaders guide followers by providing them with a sense of meaning and challenge. They work enthusiastically and optimistically to foster the spirit of teamwork and commitment.
  • Intellectual Stimulation: Such leaders encourage their followers to be innovative and creative. They encourage new ideas from their followers and never criticize them publicly for the mistakes committed by them. The leaders focus on the “what” in problems and do not focus on the blaming part of it. They have no hesitation in discarding an old practice set by them if it is found ineffective.
  • Idealized Influence: They believe in the philosophy that a leader can influence followers only when he practices what he preaches. The leaders act as role models that followers seek to emulate. Such leaders always win the trust and respect of their followers through their action. They typically place their followers needs over their own, sacrifice their personal gains for them, ad demonstrate high standards of ethical conduct. The use of power by such leaders is aimed at influencing them to strive for the common goals of the organization.
  • Individualized Consideration: Leaders act as mentors to their followers and reward them for creativity and innovation. The followers are treated differently according to their talents and knowledge. They are empowered to make decisions and are always provided with the needed support to implement their decisions.

Screen Shot 2016-02-22 at 7.04.45 AM

Specific Leadership Types

Charismatic Leadership: Charismatic leadership resembles transformational leadership: both types of leaders inspire and motivate their team members. The difference lies in their intent. Transformational leaders want to transform their teams and organizations, while leaders who rely on charisma often focus on themselves and their own ambitions, and they may not want to change anything. Charismatic leaders might believe that they can do no wrong and can be seduced by their success, even when others warn them about the dangers. This feeling of invincibility can severely damage a team or an organization.

Uplifting Leadership:

  • It’s Inspirational: You don’t need a title or position to lead. You ARE a leader.
  • It’s Aspirational: You can become a better leader. Leaders always look for ways to grow.
  • It’s Intentional: To lead is to serve.
  • It’s Purposeful: Great leaders want to make a positive difference. Serve a purpose higher than self.

Servant Leadership: A “servant leader” is someone, regardless of level, who leads simply by meeting the needs of the team. These people often lead by example. They have high integrity and lead with generosity. Their approach can create a positive corporate culture, and it can lead to high morale among team members. Supporters of the servant leadership model suggest that it’s a good way to move ahead in a world where values are increasingly focused on, and where servant leaders can achieve power because of their values, ideals, and ethics are aligned with their team and the company. However, others believe that people who practice servant leadership can find themselves “left behind” by other leaders, particularly in competitive situations. This style also has it’s drawbacks: it’s ill-suited to situations where you have to make quick decisions or meet tight deadlines and in the retail-sphere…that can be frequently.

Transactional Leadership: This style starts with the idea that team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job. The “transaction” usually involves the organization paying team members in return for their effort and compliance on a short-term task. The leader has a right to react negatively to team members if their work doesn’t meet an appropriate standard. Transactional leadership is present in many business leadership situations, and it does offer some benefits. For example, it clarifies everyone’s roles and responsibilities. And, because transactional leadership judges team members on performance, people who are ambitious or who are extrinsically motivated – often thrive. The downside of this style is that, on its own, it can be chilly and amoral, and it can lead to high turnover. It also has serious limitations for knowledge-based, innovative and creative work, and the hope of establishing a career with that retailer.

My Thoughts On “Human Leadership”

Clearly, there is not a “one size fits all” approach that works absolutely. Excellent leadership and horrible leadership is a mix of all of these leadership personality components. We need to focus on being human beings who have the ability to impact someone’s future and instill career capital every day. We have been in their shoes at some point in our retail careers and who better to understand and have empathy for those who are green in their roles or haven’t been developed in their role by their previous leaders? We need to commit to taking the time to guide and support them. Be leader who will inspire and motivate through clear, honest, and consistent communication and being actively and enthusiastically involved with our team members. Provide them with work that has meaning and purpose.  Value the individuals who make up the team and recognize them for their contributions. Be aligned with and act in accordance with the company mission statement and values [Be the example]. This human leadership style will give your team their best shot at being great in their roles today and in the future. That is what they need from us.



Founder and Editor in Chief of Excellence In Retail. Published writer. Frequent Podcast Guest. Speaker. Twenty year [oy vey!] retailer. I am passionate about leadership development and workplace culture. 646 246 1380 | [No Sales Contact, please} But it you want to call just to say hello or have a question - that's awesome!

View all posts by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *