Ask vs tell leadership: Which is the Better Leadership Style?

Ask vs tell leadership, difference, pros and cons banner

In order to be an effective leader, one must know how to ask questions and listen to the responses. However, there are times when it is necessary for a leader to provide clear instructions and directives. The difference between ask vs tell leadership can be subtle, but the results can be profound. Let’s take a look at what they are and the pros and cons of each approach.

What is ask leadership and what is tell leadership?

Leadership styles can be generally classified into two main types: ask leadership and tell leadership. The ask style of leadership involves asking employees for their opinions and suggestions on various matters, and taking those opinions into account when making decisions. The tell style of leadership, on the other hand, involves telling employees what to do and expecting them to comply without question.

There are advantages and disadvantages to both styles of leadership. The ask style of leadership can create a more engaged and motivated workforce, as employees feel that their opinions are valued and that they have a say in how the company is run. However, it can also lead to slower decision-making as consensus needs to be reached.

The tell style of leadership is often quicker and more efficient, as decisions can be made without having to consult with employees first. However, it can also lead to a more passive and disengaged workforce, as employees may feel that their opinions are not valued and that they have no input into decision-making.

The most effective leaders are often those who are able to combine both styles of leadership, using the ask style when it is appropriate and the tell style when necessary. This allows them to get the best of both worlds: a motivated and engaged workforce, while still being able to make decisions quickly and efficiently.

Successful team leader
Successful team leader

Key differences between ask leadership and tell leadership

Some key differences between ask leadership and tell leadership include the following:

  1. Ask leaders solicit input and views from subordinates before making decisions, while tell leaders make decisions without consulting others.
  2. Ask leaders build consensus and buy-in from subordinates before implementing plans, while tell leaders implement plans without considering others’ input.
  3. Ask leaders delegate authority and responsibility to subordinates, while tell leaders centralize power and decision-making within themselves.
  4. Ask leaders coach and mentor subordinates to help them grow and develop, while tell leaders micromanage subordinates and limit their autonomy.
  5. Ask leaders encourage creativity and innovation, while tell leaders prefer conformity and discourage out-of-the-box thinking.
  6. Ask leaders build trust and credibility through their actions, while tell leaders often lose trust and credibility due to their dictatorial style.
  7. Ask leaders inspire subordinates to achieve common goals, while tell leaders motivate through fear and intimidation.
  8. Ask leaders are effective in both hierarchical and matrix organizations, while tell leaders are only effective in hierarchical organizations.
  9. Finally, ask leadership results in higher employee engagement and satisfaction, while tell leadership often leads to resentment and turnover.

Pros of ask leadership over tell leadership

Some pros of ask leadership over tell leadership include:

  1. Ask leadership allows for two-way communication, builds trust and rapport, and encourages creativity and innovation.
  2. Ask leadership can help to create a more positive work environment overall.
  3. When leaders take the time to listen to their employees and understand their needs, it can lead to increased motivation and productivity.
Confident Company Leader
Confident Company Leader

Cons of ask leadership compared to tell leadership

  1. One of the key disadvantages of ask leadership is that it can take more time to get things done. This is because you need to consult with people and get their buy-in before taking action. This can be frustrating for those who prefer a more direct and quick approach.
  2. Ask leadership can sometimes be seen as weakness. This is because you are deferring to others and asking for their opinion instead of making decisions yourself. This can make it difficult to gain respect from your team.
  3. Ask leadership can also lead to a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities. This is because everyone is involved in the decision-making process and there may not be a clear emergent leader. This can create confusion and frustration within the team.

Pros of tell leadership over ask leadership

In a leadership role, it is important to be able to make decisions quickly and efficiently in order to maintain authority and control over a situation. In many cases, tell leadership is the best option as it allows for decisive and clear cut decision making. Some of the advantages of tell leadership over ask leadership include:

  1. There is no need to consult with others or build consensus before making a decision, which can save time in emergency or time-sensitive situations.
  2. Since decisions are made unilaterally, there is less room for debate or disagreement, which can help to avoid conflict.
  3. Telling others what to do can provide clear direction and eliminate confusion.
  4. This style of leadership can be especially effective in military or other hierarchical organizations where there is a clear chain of command.

Of course, there are also some potential drawbacks to tell leadership which should be considered before adopting this style. For example, this style of leadership can foster an environment of fear and mistrust, as employees may feel that their opinions are not valued or that they have no input into decision making. In addition, tell leadership can lead to resentment and frustration if employees feel that they are not being given the opportunity to use their skills or knowledge. Overall, tell leadership can be an effective way to make decisions quickly and efficiently, but it is important to weigh the pros and cons before deciding if this is the right style of leadership for your organization.

Cons of tell leadership compared to ask leadership

  1. There can be a disconnection between what leaders tell their followers to do and what those followers think needs to be done, which can lead to apathy or resistance.
  2. Telling people what to do can breed resentment, as it can come across as bossy or dictatorial.
  3. People may not take kindly to being told what to do all the time, and may start to feel like they are not being trusted to make their own decisions.
  4. There is a risk that people will simply follow orders without thinking for themselves, which can lead to mistakes being made.
  5. If leaders are too focused on telling people what to do, they may miss out on hearing important feedback or suggestions.
Business Leader
Business Leader

Situations when tell leadership is better than ask leadership

There are several situations when ask leadership is better than tell leadership:

  1. One situation is when time is of the essence and there is not time to consult with others or gather input. In this case, it is important for the leader to make a decision quickly and efficiently in order to move the team forward.
  2. When the leader has more expertise or knowledge about a certain topic than the team members. In this case, it can be helpful for the leader to share their expertise with the team in order to help them make more informed decisions.
  3. When the leader needs to maintain control over a situation. This may be the case in a crisis situation or when there is potential for conflict within the team. In these situations, it is important for the leader to maintain a level of control so that they can effectively manage the situation and ensure that the team remains cohesive.

While there are some situations in which leadership which tells is better than leadership which asks, it is important to note that there are also many situations in which asking is more appropriate. Asking allows for team input and collaboration, which can lead to better decision making. It can also build trust within the team and help to create a more positive work environment. Therefore, it is important for leaders to use their judgement to decide when it is more appropriate to ask rather than tell.

Situations when ask leadership is better than tell leadership

There are several situations when ask leadership is better than tell leadership:

  1. When you need to gather information from a group of people, it is often more effective to ask questions and encourage discussion, rather than simply giving orders. This allows you to collect a variety of perspectives and ideas, which can be helpful in making decisions.
  2. Asking questions can help build buy-in from team members for a proposed plan or solution, as they will feel like they had a say in the decision-making process.
  3. In general, people tend to respond better to leaders who show an interest in their opinions and ideas, rather than those who issue directives without explanation.
Ask vs tell leadership, difference, pros and cons pin

Ask vs tell leadership summary

Leadership is important in both our personal and professional lives. In this article, we discussed the two different types of leadership styles: ask and tell. Each style has its own set of pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the right style for you or your organization based on the situation. Generally speaking, tell leadership is better suited for more straightforward tasks while ask leadership works well when developing creative solutions.Do you have a preferred leadership style? Let us know in the comments below!

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Hidayat Rizvi
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