What type of leadership style works best?

15 December 2011

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15 December 2011 | Angeline Albert

Although many buyers think democracy is the best leadership style, a significant number believe applying different approaches – such as laissez-faire, bureaucratic or autocratic – are appropriate on occasion. 

That was the view of procurement professionals responding to the latest SM100 poll, which asked them: “Which leadership style do you think works best in procurement?”

When given the option of choosing between autocratic, bureaucratic, democratic and laissez-faire, 60 per cent opted for democratic. Some 35 per cent said a mixture of all four styles was required, depending on the situation; 3 per cent said a mixture of bureaucratic and democratic; 1 per cent said autocratic and democratic; and 1 per cent said bureaucratic.

Natalie Henfrey at supply chain consultancy Crimson & Co, said: “I think it is predominantly democratic. Seeking opinions is the best way to engage stakeholders and create strong category teams.”

Chris Graves, head of procurement services at public sector purchasing consortium YPO, said: “There are times when even a ‘democratic’ leader must be autocratic to achieve results; a laissez-faire approach will give colleagues the room to develop by taking their own risks; and on areas of compliance, bureaucracy must be employed to ensure conformance to statutory regulations.

“The challenge is recognising the situation and applying the correct style at that time. The most frustrating thing is, therefore, leaders who only have one style or who employ an inappropriate style for that situation.”

A senior purchaser from the defence industry, who did not wish to be named, said democratic leadership needed to be balanced with good direction and called for a little bit of the “autocratic to ensure that internal stakeholders comply with procurement policies”.

Many buyers said leadership within procurement had moved from being autocratic to more democratic, which reflected the strategic role that procurement now plays in most organisations.

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