Sales leaders should be adaptable. Different circumstances call for different leadership styles. Some situations may call for quick action while others require more contemplative planning. Additionally, not all sales reps respond to the same kind of leadership approach. Highly skilled, experienced employees may need something totally different than sales reps who are brand new to the field.

Fortunately, you can adapt your leadership style for the sales rep or the situation at hand, says Ben Brearley, the founder of Thoughtful Leader. In this issue of Promotional Consultant Today, we discuss Brearley’s thoughts on three basic leadership styles and when to use them.

Style No. 1: Directive leadership. This leadership style involves assigning projects and directing employees what to do. Brearley sometimes calls it “old-school leadership” because most workplaces favor more collaborative leadership styles today. In the past, employees simply did what they were told and didn’t raise any questions.

When to use it: Directive leadership still has its place, according to Brearley, especially in time-sensitive situations. When a decision must be made swiftly or a pressing issue needs to be resolved, directive leadership is often the best way to proceed. It’s quick and simple, he says.

Style No. 2: Inclusive leadership. Unlike directive leadership, where you delegate and assign specific tasks, inclusive leadership involves asking for input. In your planning and decision-making, you take time to gather feedback from your sales reps and involve then in the process.

When to use it: Brearley says inclusive leadership is valuable when you are working with an experienced and knowledgeable group. By requesting their feedback and insight, you can often improve a situation’s outcome. This leadership style is also helpful when you are not clear which direction you should take. By asking your team members for their thoughts and conversing with them, you can get a gauge on what they are thinking. When you want to motivate your sales team and show that you care about their opinions, tap into this leadership style.

Style No. 3: Coaching leadership. With directive leadership, you tell people what to do. With coaching leadership, you provide the support and assistance to help your employees solve their own problems, says Brearley. This style promotes growth and development. Consider asking different kinds of prompting questions that encourage your sales reps to think about their work differently. The idea is not to do the work for someone, but to guide them to reach a desired outcome on their own.

When to use it: A coaching leadership style is best when you have time to help train your sales reps. If you are fighting fires or under tight deadlines, it might not work so well. Keep in mind that this leadership style only works when sales reps want to learn. Otherwise, bosses and employees will only become frustrated.

As a leader, you have the responsibility to adjust your leadership style to fit the occasion. Sometimes, your sales reps need quick and clear guidance. Other times they may benefit by being involved in big decisions. And sometimes one-on-one coaching is the best approach. Try different approaches and let go of what doesn’t work. When you approach leadership with a flexible mindset, your entire team will benefit.

Source: Ben Brearley is the founder of Thoughtful Leader and is an experienced leader, AIPC and PRINT® certified coach and MBA passionate about developing thoughtful and effective leaders.