Internal leadership development gives organizations opportunities to fill their leadership pipelines. It’s also an opportunity to build the competencies your company needs, tailored to the leadership and managerial styles it embraces. That requires aligning leaders’ development with their teams so they learn skills relevant to their teams and departments.

To do so, you need to invest in understanding team maturity, how people want to work, and teaching leaders to switch between leadership styles to fit the people they’re guiding.

This approach, combined with a culture that offers room for growth and advancement, produces leaders who meet your organization’s needs, matches leadership styles to teams and their work demands for greater productivity, and creates a healthy leadership pipeline.

Learn how to build the leaders that you need based on their leadership styles and competencies.

Identifying how people work

Most people have a preferred work style, which is a rough summation of how they communicate, collaborate, and operate. You can categorize them using rough concepts like: 

  • Independent
  • Cooperative
  • Works well with others
  • Supports others
  • Detail oriented
  • Concept oriented

You can also use personality assessments like FIRO-B to check how people score on each of those work styles. That information helps leaders identify individuals who are lagging behind their team members, what kind of development they need, and how each member contributes to the team’s maturity.

The team maturity model is another helpful tool here, wherein you assess teams’ maturity and then choose leadership styles accordingly. This is a common method used in SCRUM leadership. The following model maps maturity levels to Tuckman’s stages of group development:

  • Maturity 1 (Forming) – Teams are disorganized and communicate poorly. They typically need top-down direction with tasks, waterfall-style management, and executive direction. 
  • Maturity 2 (Storming) – Teams communicate between themselves but still expect top-down orders, with room to be challenged and to influence executive decisions. 
  • Maturity 3 (Norming) – Teams are more cohesive and able to come to group consensus; decisions can be made with group meetings, and stand-ups might result in work delegation within the team, with leadership directing and making the final call. 
  • Maturity 4 (Performing) – Teams are very good at communication, decisive in their actions, and often see leadership as an advisor rather than a director. 
  • Maturity 5 (Outperforming) – Teams are largely self-organized, able to set their own goals based on organizational objectives and outcome roadmaps, and internal delegation. In most cases, leadership offers guidance and structure. 

Keep in mind some teams can become stuck in different levels of maturity based on their roles in the company. For example, self-organization and self-leadership are great for creative teams. However, if you have a maintenance team or a group that largely works on completing tasks, reaching a maturity level of 5 might result in the team growing bored.

Maturity also affects how you manage work in your organization. For example, if you solve customer tickets by remediating issues, you would expect the relevant teams to have a maturity level of 3 or 4 at most. On the other hand, if customer tickets are approached from an outcome basis and teams are encouraged to locate and fix root causes, you could nurture a more self-organizing team. Even with the latter approach, you might still want a task-based team for fast delegation to create a quick fix for the customer — meaning you might need both levels of maturity, possibly on the same team.

Understanding leadership styles

Leadership styles directly map to work styles. If you try to employ a leadership style in a team that’s either too mature or not mature enough for it, you’ll get lackluster results. For example, adopting an autocratic leadership style for a self-organizing team would lead to dissatisfaction and resentment among the members. Conversely, if you take a laissez-faire approach to an immature team, you might find work simply isn’t done.

As such, you need to learn the various leadership styles so you better understand which ones would suit your teams’ work styles.


The leader makes all decisions, with little input from the team or groups. Tasks and desired outcomes are pushed down from the top, be it from the CEO down through the organization, from department leads, or from product and team leads to individuals.

The people who carry out decisions have no say in the work to be completed, which is ideal in task-based work, where there’s one expert who must delegate everything, and the team is in the early stages of learning and needs to know what to do before they can provide their own expertise.


Democratic work styles allow leaders to use team input to guide decision-making. It accommodates several levels of “democracy” that can range from teams making most decisions by themselves to the leader having the final say. In this style, leaders should be able to determine how much delegation teams need and the degree of decision-making they’re allowed. You can use democratic leadership to nurture self-organization in teams by slowly providing them more responsibility for decision-making.


Laissez-faire leadership works to empower teams to make their own decisions, trusting that they’re the experts and therefore have the best insight into how to achieve their goals. Leaders provide desired outcomes, work together on backlogs, and act as advisors and structural support to ensure teams have the resources, communication, and strategies they need to be productive. Otherwise, teams self-organize and operate on their own.


Transformational leadership is designed to identify the changes needed in a team or individual and to create the conditions and opportunities for alterations to take place. This type of leadership requires significant investment from both HR and leaders but ensures teams can grow into the desired maturity and develop necessary skills.

Keep in mind there are many other forms of leadership, such as authoritative, participative, transactional, and servant. It may be a good idea for your organization to explore various styles and determine what’s best for your workforce.

Leadership styles and people

It’s important to note that each leader will assume more than one leadership style. They should also have the tools to recognize when team members need a different style and how to decide which style that person needs. Frameworks like SCRUM already include the basics of that process, but it’s also a good idea to introduce workshops and training to ensure leaders have that information at hand. Personality assessments like FIRO-B are also helpful, but leaders can simply talk with people to figure out their work delegation preferences and how best to make decisions for their teams.

Building necessary competencies in leaders

Many organizations are hesitant to invest in leadership development; since employees already develop their own skills and advancement, they could easily take any investment from you to another organization, losing you time, money, and personnel. However, building a culture that encourages growth and new challenges can offset that risk by ensuring the people who want to grow have opportunities to do so — removing the need to switch companies to invest in their professional development.

Once you understand how leadership styles affect teams, you can nurture those styles in your leaders:

  • Map leadership styles to leadership competencies and introduce on-demand learning to teach those skills. For example, if a leader runs a mature team, competencies in facilitation, emotional intelligence, and guiding conversations are useful; meanwhile, if your team has low maturity, their leaders need project management, task delegation, etc.
  • Offer workshops and training on specific leadership styles, team maturity, and work delegation within teams.
  • Implement coaching to help leaders who excel at one style share their competencies with others.

It’s important to develop leaders based on the needs of their teams. That entails grouping teams based on maturity and leadership needs, then developing their leaders in groups as well rather than individually. Once leaders have the skills and competencies to match their team’s primary work preferences, you can introduce new styles to diversify and differentiate your leaders.

Invest in leadership development based on styles and competencies

Internal leadership development can be a significant investment for HR and your organization. However, it gives you the opportunity to tailor your leaders and their competencies to the types of teams you have for optimal management, whether that involves a single leadership style or a variety. This ensures leaders are best equipped to facilitate productivity among their team members and encourages self-management among your personnel.