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  • Writer's pictureFelicity Baker

How to Build Resilience as a Team Leader

Updated: Sep 16, 2022

Resilient leaders are able to support staff members in all manner of circumstances. They do this by adapting their leadership style appropriately.

By intelligently and flexibly changing the way they lead their team members, resilient leaders are able to both inspire and motivate their staff, whilst also developing a positive emotional climate. This helps to build individual resilience, as well as the resilience of the team as a whole.

So what are what the different leadership styles and how can they contribute towards greater resilience? Here we look at six different styles that can be flexibly adapted and used to improve both individual and team resilience in the workplace.

What are the different leadership styles?

Relationship skills are central to resilient leadership. Resilient leaders draw on their relationship skills to know when and how to apply the six distinct leadership styles to build resonance with team members and create a work context of trust and safety that facilitates improved team cooperation and productivity.

Four of the styles in particular use resonance to foster resilience in teams and increase their effectiveness. These are democratic, affiliative, coaching and visionary. Goleman (2013) found that the use of resonant leadership styles have been shown to correlate highly with the productivity, well-being and effectiveness of teams.

The other two styles, pacesetting and commanding, can easily create a sense of dissonance and should be used sparingly. Although there are situations that benefit from the implementation of these leadership styles, it needs to be done with tact and care to avoid negative repercussions. .

When to use which leadership style?

Each of the individual leadership styles has a unique impact on the team’s emotional climate and builds resilience in its own way, so it is important to use the right one at the right time. Resilient leaders are able to use their emotional and social intelligence to discern which style to use, but it may not be something that comes naturally to everyone to begin with.

First, let’s look at the resonant leadership styles.

The visionary leadership style has the most positive impact on the emotional climate out of all the leadership styles. It builds resilience by moving people towards shared goals. This is often done by inspiring others through the long-term values and goals of the organisation and aligning each individual’s own personal and professional values with the delivery of these goals. It is most useful when an organisation has just gone through a time of change and clear direction for staff and teams is needed.

In contrast, the coaching leadership style focuses on the individual’s long-term professional development and how their aspirations around this can be achieved. Of course this is done in a manner that connects individual wishes to organisational goals. By nurturing the team members using a coaching leadership style, they feel understood and connected with the organisation, and this enhances motivation to develop and grow. This can create a highly positive emotional climate and proves incredibly important when trying to increase team performance or capability.

As it creates harmony and connection among team members, the affiliative leadership style can be used to heal any rifts or motivate people during challenging times. With less focus on tasks and goals, and more emphasis on emotional needs, the affiliative leadership style builds positive emotions and a sense of belonging. Focusing more on the individuals and the team community, rather than the task at hand helps to tighten the ‘we’ connections between team members and reduces conflict associated with an ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

The last of the resonant leadership styles is the democratic leadership style. By listening to the concerns of the team or stakeholders and providing a safe social environment for staff to give feedback and come up with ideas and innovations, team members feel empowered to contribute. This leadership style values individuals’ input and builds resilience by encouraging commitment from the team and increasing participation. This is particularly useful when an accurate appraisal of the reality of potential threat situations is needed, when new ideas and diverse perspectives are required for the team to grow through challenge or change, or when you need to secure buy-in from members of the team.

Now, let’s look at the two dissonant leadership styles. Both of these can lead to a negative emotional climate if not used at the correct time or in the correct way. Over-reliance on pacesetting and commanding leadership styles can increase staff stress levels and reduce resilience by leaving them feeling micro-managed, untrusted and under-valued.

The pacesetting leadership style can be great to get results from highly motivated and competent teams as the focus is on accomplishing tasks to a high standard or within a specific timeframe. However, it can be demotivating if poorly executed or if staff members do not feel they have the time or resources to meet the demands. When implemented correctly it builds resilience through the sense of achievement team members feel when meeting challenging or exciting goals.

The commanding leadership style is often misused, particularly by new or inexperienced managers. It centres on compliance to instruction and can result in staff feeling bullied and not listened to, reducing emotional safety and undermining collaboration and cooperation. When used correctly, for example at times of crisis or to avoid serious consequences, it can build resilience by containing anxiety and providing a clear direction and focus.

As you can see there are clear uses and benefits to each leadership style, when they are used correctly. To compliment this explanation when to use each of the different styles, in next month’s blog post we are going to look at how to use each of them.


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