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Does a Visionary Leadership Style Work for Your Small Business?

small business leadershipEvery entrepreneur has a unique perspective on leadership. However, on a basic level, most business leaders will have an approach to leadership that falls into one of the six styles proposed by Daniel Coleman in the research he conducted at the beginning of the century. The leadership style that has received the most attention has been the visionary leadership style.

What is Visionary Leadership?

Visionary leaders are able to inspire others to share in the vision of the organization. They help their followers or employees see what the organization can be and what role they can play in shaping it. The visionary leader rarely needs to dictate or micromanage his employees. He simply leaves them to their own devices and monitors the results of their work. He will provide feedback or redirection when needed, but the best visionary leaders know how to be passive as they set the direction of the organization.

What are the Benefits of Visionary Leadership?

Coleman and other organizational researchers have found a number of potential benefits from a visionary leadership style. The primary benefit is that employees tend to be more passionate about their work when they are serving a visionary leader. They tend to have more job satisfaction and are more likely to go above and beyond their formal responsibilities as they strive to help the organization reach its goals.

Another benefit is that the group members tend to get along much better. They share the vision and sense of identity. This helps the workers set aside their personal differences as they work towards a common goal. This can help them be more passionate about their work.

Finally, members of the organization tend to have higher morale. They are committed to solving the problems they face, which helps them find the strength they need to preserve in the face of even some of the most daunting challenges.

Drawbacks of a Visionary Leadership Style

Many theorists praise the practice of a visionary leadership style. Although it certainly has its benefits, it may not be the best approach for every situation. There are a couple drawbacks that you should be aware of.

The visionary leadership style is usually focused on challenging the status quo. The visionary leader creates a new philosophy and instills that philosophy in others. The problem is that the employees are not encouraged to question the vision. A psychotic visionary leader could be very dangerous when his supporters see him as a prophet rather than a threat. Adolf Hitler and Charles Manson were visionary leaders who led their followers and communities to their demise.

Business leaders with poor visions may not be as dangerous as Hitler or Manson, but they can be equally reckless and lead their organizations down the wrong path. Supporters must support their vision whereas other types of leaders would be willing to hear feedback from employees who point out that their ideas don’t work.

Another problem with visionary leadership is that employees or staff members tend to think and feel exactly the same. This creates a sense of groupthink which can make it difficult for individuals to come up with more innovative ideas, which is ironically the goal of every visionary leader.

Does a Visionary Leadership Style Work for Your Business?

As an entrepreneur, you will need to decide how you want to run your business and manage your workforce. Coleman and his peers agree that the best time to use a visionary leadership style is in the infancy of the organization. This is when the organization is still being shaped into what it is going to be in the future.

That being said, I think that leadership styles can exist on a continuum. Leaders need to be flexible and may need to change their approach on a case-by-case basis to solve each problem as it arises. The trick is trying to find a way to do so while still giving a consistent message about the direction of the organization. Unfortunately, being a leader is never easy.

Today’s Guest Post on Start Your Own Small Biz was provided by Andrew Mitchel on behalf of Gonzaga University. Andrew did his capstone project on organizational decision making models in his MBA program at Clark University.

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