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Supportive Leadership: Why It’s an Important and Valuable Style for Businesses

November 17, 2021

Supportive leadership is one of the most in-demand leadership styles among 21st-century businesses. Especially those with a flat organizational structure. Supportive leaders are those with the skills and innate abilities to support and inspire their teams to work effectively, productively, and autonomously with as little micromanaging and leader interference as possible.

It’s common knowledge among business leaders, owners, chief executives, and managing directors that effective leadership is the key to long-term organizational growth. Businesses of all sizes are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of strong leadership. In the workplace environment, this leadership positively influences employees’ productivity, satisfaction, and motivation.

Modern leadership roles focus not only on results but on how leaders inspire their subordinates and provide supportive approaches in the workplace. This focus has added another layer to the role that’s largely geared towards the generation of profit and monetary value in the past. 

Today’s effective leaders are now expected to be more people-oriented and supportive, and to understand exactly how this focus assists in the generation of profits. Naturally, this is no easy feat in a complex and dynamic business environment. But supportive leaders have a natural knack for generating profits while supporting their peers in tandem. 

Here’s why supportive leadership is such a crucial management style for businesses operating in the 21st century.

Understanding Supportive Leadership

Supportive leaders are leaders who are willing and able to focus their efforts on identifying the changes and support required to ensure the satisfaction and well-being of their entire teams. By doing so, these leaders can promote an excellent standard of performance and productivity among their peers. While alleviating obstacles and providing solutions to challenges at the same time.

Managers that practice supportive leadership aren’t interested in the traditional, authoritative protocol of handing out orders and micromanaging every detail of a project. Rather, they aim to provide their employees with the tools, knowledge, and guidance they need to produce great results themselves.

All management and leadership styles rely on the delegation of tasks to a degree. Supportive leadership is no different. However, this leadership style goes beyond assigning tasks in a bid to receive certain results and meet certain objectives. 

Managers that practice this style actively work through tasks with their subordinates to improve their skills and allow them to use their talents. As employees learn and become more confident, leaders become less and less involved in tasks. They trust their team to complete the tasks correctly using their combined skills and empowered attitudes.

One of the biggest benefits associated with supportive leadership is that a leader will work with an employee until they feel completely empowered and capable to handle tasks with minimal supervision in the future. This is instrumental in developing a productive, capable, and loyal workforce that can deliver consistent results and meet objectives reliably, therefore facilitating business growth.

Creating a supportive working environment inherently provides mentorship for employees. These employees benefit from the guidance and become more productive, benefiting their leaders and the business in turn.

The 5 Key Abilities of Supportive Leaders

Supportive leaders have naturally strong leadership abilities and a number of other key characteristics that set them apart from average managers. These include:

Bigger Picture Thinking

Leaders in fast-paced business environments are often pressed for time, and leave it to their teams to focus on the finer details of tasks. However, supportive leaders have a clear ability to take a few steps back and view all situations from a holistic perspective. 

This allows them to predict what will happen in the near future. They can identify the expectations and objectives that need consideration, and take a proactive approach in handling the situation effectively. This bigger picture thinking also allows leaders to gauge exactly how much involvement is required from their teams, which makes them highly adept at delegation.

Effective Prioritization

A supportive leader can identify core priorities and communicate them clearly to their teams. This way, teams understand exactly what needs achieving, why it needs achieving, and how to go about it. 

A skilled leader can explain to employees in a way that engages them and motivates them to complete certain goals. All while offering support throughout the completion of a project.

Excellent Communication Skills

All effective leaders need to have strong communication skills. But it may surprise you just how easy it is for managers to minimize or misconstrue the information they pass down. Likewise, many managers are so busy that they simply forget to discuss project requirements and expectations with their staff. 

Some leaders assume that their teams understand what’s required. This poor communication can lead to plenty of working issues, obstacles, and misunderstandings. Supportive leaders go out of their way to learn various different communication methods and styles. They use these to keep all team members in the loop and up to date on project requirements and progress, fostering engagement and productivity alike.

Empowering Presence

Inspiring individual workers and teams is no easy feat. But supportive leaders are naturals at it. These leaders can motivate their peers through the demonstration of trust and respect, and through continuous empowerment. 

Their enabling staff to take responsibility and accountability for their work, their encouraging team members to try new approaches, and their honesty can foster confidence, loyalty and excellent productivity. Supportive leaders’ approaches allow employees to clearly understand the business’s expectations and needs. And give them the tools and support to meet them.

Accepting of Mistakes

Supportive leaders understand that employees are only human, and are prone to making mistakes from time to time. Effective leaders can accept these mistakes when they happen. They use their strong relationships with their team members to keep the dialogue open, even when failures happen. 

This creates an environment in which staff members feel safe to take accountability for their mistakes, learn from them, and grow from negative experiences. Effective leaders view mistakes as valuable opportunities to learn lessons. Or perhaps even to offer teams some relevant training to ensure that their knowledge on certain topics is sufficient and up to speed.

Photo by Edho Pratama on Unsplash

How to Become a Supportive Leader

Under a supportive leader, employees are provided with more autonomy and responsibility. They’re encouraged to use their personal initiative and to think creatively and individually within the greater group.

Many studies have shown that supportive work environments can empower staff and promote ‘positive dependency’ among members of a team. It’s important to note that these environments could be open to more potential conflicts as a result of individual expression and unique communication. But a supportive leader is usually equipped with the right skills and knowledge to navigate and address these conflicts.

According to Dean Tjosvold, this individual expression can actually be a hugely positive trait. It establishes a conflict-positive climate in which frustrations and differences are openly discussed. This can lead to the development of more holistic work approaches that take into account a wide and diverse range of perspectives and views.

These tips will provide you with a basic guide on how to become a more supportive leader to your team.

Encourage Teamwork and Collaboration

Supportive leadership places a huge emphasis on meaningful teamwork. You can become a more supportive leader by building a team of talented people that are capable of performing a given task or project. Next, make your expectations of your team clear to them. Do not assume that every team member knows what you expect and what needs doing!

Foster teamwork in any way possible. Keep open channels of communication a priority, and encourage all forms of honest feedback. Additionally, it’s important to recognize each team member’s inputs and reward them appropriately. Establish clear, concrete goals right from the start of a project. Offer support to any team members who require it throughout the duration of the task.

Be Openly Committed

Another excellent way to become a more supportive leader is to be openly committed and devoted to your team and their success. 

A good leader should always be committed to their team members and the project at hand. If they openly express doubts about the company’s objectives and mission, this will automatically reflect in their team’s efforts. A fully committed leader sets the tone for the rest of the team and leads them by example.

Build and Maintain Good Relationships

Many leaders make the grave error of neglecting the relationships between members of their teams. Leaders should always focus on primary objectives, but quality relationships are also crucial to the success of any team project.

The interactions between team members and leaders can often make or break how effectively task objectives are met in the long run. If you want a committed, motivated team that gets things done, focus on building relationships. Host team-building exercises and mediate conflicts as neutrally and proactively as possible.

Get Actively Involved

At the end of the day, employees respect a leader who is willing to get their hands dirty alongside them. One of the easiest ways for you to build respect and empathy for your team is to put yourself in their shoes and work alongside them. No matter how small or menial the task.

Gathering first-hand experience of the challenges that teams encounter makes for a better, more supportive leader that’s more capable of providing workable solutions. Doing so enables you to brainstorm new ways to improve how your team works, thereby boosting productivity.

Provide Meaningful Support

Supportive leaders do so much more than simply set objectives, rules, and regulations. They listen to their employees’ complaints and challenges with empathy. They help them to cope with stressful and complicated issues, both at work and even in their personal lives. Providing support for your team members during these times is one way that you can set yourself apart from standard managers and become a true supportive leader.

Ordinary managers may find it challenging to show sensitivity and empathy towards their employees during challenging times. Especially if their primary goal is to meet certain financial goals. They may view workers’ personal issues as hindrances to the business’s goals, rather than issues that they can solve collaboratively. 

Supportive leaders shirk this view in favor of teaching their staff how to cope with complex issues and how to work with them to find relevant solutions. These leaders tend to have a more holistic view and understand how lifestyle factors influence work performance and vice versa. They’re also more empathetic and open to flexible solutions that benefit everyone involved. 

Where Can Supportive Leadership Be Applied?

The supportive leadership style can apply to virtually any business environment, whether it’s retail, digital, commercial, or across any other industry or sector. This form of leadership is particularly well suited to businesses that use a flat organizational structure and encourage staff members to think creatively when it comes to completing projects. Some great examples would include fast-growing ICT companies, large financial services organizations, and full-service marketing agencies.

Bureaucratic businesses that involve straightforward tasks predicated on logic and strict regulations may battle to implement supportive leadership. However, this leadership style is adaptable for these environments. As long as it suits the time constraints and resources imposed.

Supportive Leadership in a Nutshell

Whenever the term ‘leadership’ is discussed, supportiveness isn’t a trait that’s usually mentioned. However, supportive leadership is quickly becoming one of the most commonplace and prized styles of leadership. Particularly among teams that are required to think quickly and creatively on their feet. Research shows that employees who are actively supported by their managers are more satisfied at work, more focused, more motivated, and more inspired to work towards common company goals.

The ideal supportive leader does much more than simply assign tasks to others. They voice authentic interest in the people they work with and provide meaningful and relevant support to them in a way that supports their progress and productivity.

Supportive leadership requires a manager to inspire others, build trust with them, and assist them in overcoming any challenges they may encounter. Leaders that want to be more supportive of their subordinates and teams need to encourage teamwork, foster healthy relationships between team members, and remain committed to their teams’ success at all times.

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