Expert View: Follow the leader

Spa and beauty consultant Valerie Delforge asks what kind of leader you are, and if the approach you take is the best tactic for your team and your business

Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he or she wants to do it.” Dwight Eisenhower said this and it’s one of my favourite quotes. It’s certainly true that when leading a team, you need to get them to work for and with you: they need to feel motivated.

Leadership is a word that gets thrown around a lot, but do we really know what it is? And do we know how to become the kind of leader people want to follow? I have managed many teams over the years and usually my style of leadership is that of a coach leader: I believe in people’s ability to achieve their dreams and want to inspire them.

However, there was one particular team, possibly the most difficult one I have encountered, that made me realise that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to leadership. In this spa, I wasn’t able to adopt coach leadership straight away; I had to change my style to be able to manage the team. 

Winning approach
During my time at this spa, I learned that there are six main types of leaders:

1. The directive leader: “Do as I tell you” Directive leaders scare their teams, pushing them to reach targets no matter what. They get results when they need to but this bullying style of leadership can damage the atmosphere in the business, and sometimes its productivity. Directive leaders can’t afford to show weakness or vulnerability, so this way of leading can be quite isolating.

2. The chief leader: “Do it now” The main asset of chief leaders is their quest for excellence. They are impressive and command respect by ensuring everyone knows where they stand and what is expected of them.

Their “do it now” attitude is productive but they often fail to listen to individuals, making staff feel they are not valued. If this style of leadership is applied for too long there is a danger of high staff turnover, because not everyone wants to follow it.

3. The visionary leader: “Come build the dream with me” Visionary leaders are inspiring and create a positive atmosphere that motivates people. They are effective and everyone wants to work with them: for example, someone like Bill Gates.

The danger with visionary leaders is that they’re not always strong when it comes to the operational side of the business and can overlook details relating to the day-to-day running of it.

4. The collaborative leader: “Together we are stronger” The objective of a collaborative leader is to make team members work closely together. They are effective at appeasing conflicts and like to get everyone involved in what’s happening in the business.

Collaborative leaders are perceived as emphatic, understanding and inspirational but they can spend too much time listening rather than acting. These leaders are not the best for achieving fast results.

5. The participative leader: “What do you think?” Participative leaders are positive for the team as they make each individual feel valued, gathering ideas and encouraging commitment from the team. A participative leader is, however, not very quick at making decisions and is seen as a bit of a soft touch.

This style of leadership is, therefore, not great in times of crisis. Even on a day-to-day basis this leader needs to know how to cut things short and be able to say: “OK, I heard you, now I’m going to make the decision.”

6. The coach leader: “Try this”: These are leaders who believe and invest in you, seeking to highlight your talents and encourage self-improvement. They are ideal for ambitious team members, but disengagement and failure to take responsibility displeases them.

Coach leaders have high emotional intelligence, which makes them good at showing empathy and helping team members develop. The coach style is, however, not effective when it comes to getting the team to achieve something quickly.

Adapt for success
To be a successful leader, you need to be adaptable, able to use different leadership styles at different points.

Directive and chief leaderships are, for example, not ideal for motivating teams to stay with you in the long run but can be necessary at times. I realised that these two styles were necessary to restore order in the spa I mentioned earlier.

Within three months I was able to show them that I could achieve what I set out to. I then adopted collaborative and participative leaderships to ensure we worked together as a team but that there was also individual development.

This motivated the staff to work to their fullest potential, made them more focused and created an amazing atmosphere that led the team to success.

A great leader is able to wear all six hats. The key to successful leadership is clear vision and strong communication, and the clearer the vision, the more achievable the goal.

Valerie Delforge is founder and chief executive of Delforge + Co which offers business mentoring, coaching and education to spas and salons. Past roles include head of the Academy at Treatwell (then Wahanda), head of spa operations in the UK for Steiner Leisure, and general manager of Bliss for Steiner.