How Can Leadership Styles Differ in Different Industries?

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The same leadership styles and skills aren’t always applicable to every industry or field. There are certain leadership styles that can be more suitable for specific industries or professions, whereas the same leaders might need to adapt if they were to take a position in a different industry. Leaders in some industries might also be more likely to have certain strengths or weaknesses, which might mean that they need to improve in some areas or could mean that they’re just right for their jobs.

To be a good leader, it can often be necessary to adapt to the industry and to the organization. It’s important to be able to judge what works and what doesn’t and change your leadership approach accordingly, or possibly move on to a different role to which your style is more suited. Leadership styles can share similarities across various industries, but they can also differ in a mix of ways too.

How Leadership Is Similar in All Industries

Leadership can be similar in different industries, with many skills and competencies being highly regarded. The Center for Creative Leadership found six key competencies that are seen as being essential for leaders in any industry.

These competencies are:

  • Building collaborative relationships
  • Leading employees
  • Strategic perspective
  • Taking initiative
  • Participative management
  • Change management

Anyone who wants to be a better leader in any industry can benefit from focusing on these six things. Working on improving in these areas can help you to grow your leadership skills and continually become a better leader.

Leaders in all industries can show certain strengths more than others. Leaders tend to be good at showing initiative and are good at getting things done. However, they can be lacking in some areas too. Many leaders are less prepared to lead their employees and build collaborative relationships, no matter what industry they are in.

What Types of Leaders Exist?

There are different leadership styles that people will use in different industries to get the most out of their teams. There aren’t any rules about which leadership styles must be used in which industry for the best results, but there are certain styles that might be more effective in some industries. Here are some of the leadership styles you can expect to find, as well as what industries they can be most useful in.

Coaching leadership

Coach leaders use mentoring, goal setting, and motivation to encourage their employees and help them to do their best. They focus more on developing their team and their skills, rather than getting results quickly. This makes it a leadership style that’s suitable for industries that are less time-sensitive, such as some government sectors.

Visionary leadership

Visionary leaders think about the big picture and inspire their team to do more. They help them to be more confident and come up with new ideas to encourage their team to be innovative. Visionary leaders can be most useful in innovative industries such as technology and science, where big ideas can help to keep things moving.

Pacesetting leadership

Pacesetters want to get results quickly and push for good performance. They focus on getting results more than developing their team and are very driven by their goals. It’s a leadership style that works well in fast-paced environments, where pushing for change and getting quick results is often important.

Democratic leadership

Using a democratic leadership style means making sure that everyone on the team has their say. The leader seeks input from their team and gives them the power to make decisions and put forward ideas. These leaders work well in creative industries where the employees are about to contribute to their teams.

Transformational leadership

Transformational leaders also care about their team but they focus more on fulfilling goals than on developing employees. They want to foster morale within their team and maintain respect. This type of leadership is a good fit for industries that prioritize organizational goals.

How Do Leaders Differ Across Industries?

The industry that leaders are in can have an impact on their strongest and weakest skills. This might be because some leadership skills are more highly valued in certain industries but it can also lead to leaders being lacking in some essential skills in certain industries.

The Center for Creative Leadership looked at how leaders differ in their skills across different industries. They found that certain competencies were stronger in certain industries compared to others. For example, leaders in healthcare were seen as at least proficient in taking initiative but were less proficient in leading employees. Pharmaceutical industry leaders were also not as proficient in leading employees but scored well in participative management. Leaders working within a contract research organization and other pharmaceutical and health organizations might have strong skills in taking initiative and building collaborative relationships, according to the CCL’s research. In the government sector, the majority (80%) of leaders were seen as good at taking initiative, while in the energy industry, strategic perspective was a strong competency.

Adapting Leadership Styles

Working in different industries might require leaders to adapt their leadership style to the industry and to different situations. Some people might feel that they naturally have a certain leadership style, but any style of leadership can be learned and applied in the right way. Anyone can be a good leader if they are willing to learn the necessary skills. Leadership is something you can improve and build on, rather than something you have a natural proficiency for. 

If you want to be able to adapt your leadership style to the industry that you’re working in or an industry you’re interested in, it helps to start by understanding your current leadership style. Think about the ways you work as a leader, where your key strengths lie, and what weaknesses you have that you can improve. You can then consider what leadership style might be best suited to the industry you are working in, or perhaps to certain situations, and adapt your leadership style accordingly.

If you’re not sure about your leadership style or where your strengths and weaknesses lie, you might benefit from talking to other people. Ask those you work with or even people in your personal life if they can give you insights and tips into what your strengths are and the things that you could work on. Speaking to others can also help you to understand the best ways to lead your team. If you already lead a team or you’re hoping to take on a leadership position of a team, ask them what inspires them and what helps them to feel motivated.

Continuing to learn is another important thing for anyone to do if they want to be able to adapt their leadership style to different industries and situations. Any good leader needs to keep learning about leadership and how they can become a better leader, even if they have been leading other people for years. There are always new things to learn that will help you to improve your skills, knowledge, and approach to leadership. In fact, the longer you have been leading, the more important it is to refresh your skills. You could get stuck in your ways if you don’t make an effort to keep up and continue to learn.

Make sure that you put what you learn into practice too. Having theoretical knowledge is good, but you should also improve your skills by looking for opportunities to use them. There are often small opportunities that will give you a chance to practice your new skills without the stakes being too high.

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