What is orientational leadership?
Of all the types of leadership in management, the orientational style is the one that generates the best organizational climate. The main trait of an orientational leader is his or her self-confidence to set new goals and direct the attention of the collective towards them. He is very empathetic; he invests his time in getting to know his team very well. He understands their views and takes an active interest in their concerns, as opposed to a coercive leader who is concerned with favoring the operation and not so much the interests of the people. These characteristics allow him to motivate and lead people in a new direction to seek the success of the team and get a genuine commitment from everyone to achieve the goals.
The leader exercising the orientational leadership style (also called visionary or authoritative leadership) always explains the standards expected when delegating work and how that work contributes to the company’s vision. When giving performance feedback-whether positive or negative-it is always to explain how the performance did or did not support the vision. As a result, people are clear about what the standards for success are and what the rewards are.
The following is a case of a production supervisor who used the orientational leadership style, as defined. It is an example of how to apply it successfully in our work team.
Javier was a Supervisor in a low-end motorcycle final assembly line that was going through a difficult period. Needless to say, the area’s weak performance worried production managers and managers, but they did not know what to do. Every Monday they met to review their indicators, struggling to find solutions. For Javier, the approach didn’t make sense: “We were always trying to understand why our customer rejections had increased the week before. We had the whole company looking backwards, instead of figuring out what we should do tomorrow.” It was then that he saw an opportunity to change the way people think. In a meeting with his people, the conversation began with the same old platitudes: the company was still losing money due to a high percentage of rework and customer complaints about product failures. These costs had to be reduced. He believed that such information did not have the power to inspire an operator to be innovative or to do a job that was better than average. So he made a bold move. In the middle of the meeting, he made an impassioned plea for his operators to think from the customers’ perspective.
“Customers want guaranteed functionality and safety in a motorcycle in which they invested a large part of their savings,” he said. The company was not in the business of assembling motorcycles, it was in the business of distributing an efficient and economical means of transportation that allows many people to reach their destination, which most of the time is the place where they work. That notion – and no other – should drive everything the company did. With his vibrant enthusiasm and clear vision – hallmarks of the orientation style – Javier filled a leadership void in the company. In fact, his concept became the heart of the new mission statement. But this radical conceptual breakthrough was only the beginning. He ensured that this statement was incorporated into the company’s strategic planning process as a driver of growth, and ensured that the vision was articulated in such a way that those involved in motorcycle assembly understood that they were the key to the company’s success and had the freedom to discover new ways to improve their own process to increase product quality. Changes were not long in coming. Within weeks, many operators and leaders began to propose improvements to the assembly lines. Better yet, they also participated enthusiastically in the implementation of these improvements.
Javier’s success was no accident. Of the six leadership styles, the orientational leadership style is highly effective in getting things moving. The leader acts with clarity, he is a visionary; he motivates people, making it clear to them how their contribution fits within the company’s vision and mission, which gives meaning to their work. People who work for leaders with these qualities understand that what they do is important.
Finally, this style has a great impact on flexibility. An orientational leader is results-oriented, i.e., determines tasks and objectives, but usually gives people a great deal of leeway to find their own ways. Guiding leaders give people the freedom to innovate, experiment and take calculated risks.
Advantages and disadvantages of orientational leadership
Because of its positive impact, the orientational style works well in almost any situation. But it is particularly effective when an area of the company, or the company itself, is adrift. An orientational leader sets a new course and sells his people on a renewed, long-term vision. Like all styles, it has positive and negative aspects. As powerful as it may be, the indicative style will not work in all situations. For example, this approach fails when a leader works with a team of experts or peers who are more experienced than he is; they may see him as unrealistic, pompous and paternalistic. There is also another limitation to this leadership style: if a leader tries to be directive and becomes arrogant, it could undermine the egalitarian spirit of an effective team. Despite these warnings, a smart leader would more often choose the orienting style, rather than not. This may not guarantee a one-hit wonder, but it certainly helps in the long run.
In the book How to be a Leader, Daniel Golema makes a magnificent comparison between the six most effective leadership styles based on Emotional Intelligence skills, and teaches us how to use them to generate a positive impact on the emotional climate of the organization. It is one of the best leadership books of all time.
Summary of indicative leadership
The leader’s modus operandi.
Guides the group; mobilizes people towards a vision.
Which phrase defines an affiliative leader?
“Come with me.”
Self-confidence, empathy, catalyst for change.
When does it work best?
To provide a new vision or clear orientation.
When does it not work?
When the people on the team are experts and have more experience than the leader.
Overall impact on climate
The strongest positive.
|Introduction to the six leadership styles
|Coercive leadership style
|Democratic leadership style
|Guiding leadership style
|Affiliative leadership style
|Formative leadership style
|Exemplary leadership style
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Success and leadership belong to you by right. No matter where you are on the organizational chart or what your personal circumstances are, these books teach you how to take hold of your extraordinary strength. Be‧Líder recommends the 10 best books on leadership:
- How to be a leader – Daniel Goleman
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