Leadership comes in many forms. Many great leaders have taken and ran a position of power, yet not all leaders are the same. There are multiple different ways to approach being a leader and many kinds of leadership styles.
Different leadership styles can come in handy for various situations. For example, one leadership style may work for a business owner, while it may not work for being a president.
Being well-versed in different leadership types can help you find the best approach for any position of power you may be taking on.
- What is a Leader
- What Is a Leadership Style?
- Leadership Styles
- How to Find Your Leadership Style
- Assess What You Know
- Take a Personality Quiz
- Start to Lead
- Is There a Top Leadership Style?
- Pros and Cons of Leadership Styles
- Why Are Leadership Styles Important?
- Examples of Leadership Styles
What Is a Leader?
We are surrounded by leaders every day, from our teachers to our bosses to local governmental officials. People don’t always have to hold a position of power to be considered a leader; many of our friends and coworkers – or even ourselves – possess natural leadership skills and qualities.
So, what makes a leader?
The definition of a leader is not limited to one phrase or action.
Those who are natural leaders possess qualities that enable them to set a goal and guide a team towards reaching that goal. While being a leader sounds simple in theory, many aspects convince a group of people to listen to one person.
A leader can come in many different ages, sizes, genders, and nationalities. Physical appearance has very little to do with their ability to be a successful leader for a team of people.
Good leaders will often make decisions for a group of people to reach a mutual goal and convince them to help achieve that goal.
What Is a Leadership Style?
A leadership style is a method and manner in which someone takes on an authoritative role. A specific leadership style will impact the way a leader directs, motivates, and utilizes a team.
The concept of leadership styles first arose in the late 1930s, when Kurt Lewis categorized leadership behavior into three distinct styles. The first three leadership styles were known as:
- Autocratic Leadership
- Democratic Leadership
- Laissez-Faire Leadership
Each leadership style describes the commonly seen traits of leaders that Kurt Lewis came across as he researched his studies.
Today, there are now many more leadership styles than the original three that Kurt Lewis had documented are still commonly known as the main three leadership styles. If you do not fit into any of the three leadership methods up above, there is no need to worry.
A leadership style is a way to define how one views their position of authority and how one can influence those working under them.
It is difficult to pinpoint an exact number of leadership styles, as it varies depending on who you ask. One study may say that there are two leadership styles, three leadership styles, or even six leadership styles, while another study may say that there are eight leadership styles, or perhaps twelve.
This article will name and discuss eight different leadership styles and examples of how they come into play. The way we interact with businesses and employees today is much different from what it was in the 1930s. As a result, how we view leadership roles and styles has advanced just as much as our workforce.
Some leadership styles apply to business leaders, such as general managers and CEOs of companies. Other leadership styles apply to political and educational positions. Some can even cover a variety of different positions.
1. Autocratic Leadership
The autocratic leadership style, also known as an authoritarian style, is when leaders decide based on their thoughts and rationalities. Autocratic leaders rarely, if ever, take advice from coworkers or counsels.
An autocratic leader will delegate all tasks, as well as put all goals into place. While having or being an autocratic leader can feel inherently negative, there are situations when an authoritarian style of leading is a positive thing.
In a busy and stressful workplace, having an autocratic leader is a positive quality and a necessary one. Managers who are leading a team of employees will often need to make decisions in the spur of the moment. In moments that require quick thinking, a leader will need to decide without others’ help or input.
Autocratic leadership has been known to cause issues in terms of power struggles, however, and can also lead to situations that resemble dictatorship. However, there are a few big differences between an autocratic leader and a dictator.
Someone who is an autocratic leader is working for a company, government, or part of a bigger organization. Dictators are typically leading by themselves, for themselves, in a way that furthers a dictator’s narrative or desires.
Regardless of technicalities, an authoritative leader is often subject to criticism and runs the risk of accidentally(or intentionally)abusing their position as a leader.
Suppose you are someone who does not enjoy consulting with others before making a final decision, or you find it annoying to have someone question you about your methods. In that case, you may have an autocratic leadership style.
2. Democratic Leadership
Democratic leadership is also known as participative leadership. This kind of leader will typically work very well with others and gather input and opinions from their team without sacrificing their own end goal.
A democratic leader will focus more on building a team where everyone feels respected and valued. Once a sense of value and trust has been established, a team can work well together to solve and accomplish any task that is needed.
Creatively driven jobs such as writing and artistic design tend to flourish under democratic leaders. Allowing a team to express their opinions and thoughts on a project can bring forth many creative and original ideas. While not every idea will be executed or addressed, the democratic leader works hard to utilize a team to get the best possible final result.
Some managers of businesses can swing themselves as democratic leaders, even in positions that may normally require them to be a bit authoritative. The leadership style that one adapts is almost entirely a personal choice.
If you are someone who likes to consult with the entire team of a project or organization before making a final decision, or if you struggle to come up with a decision without any input, you may have a democratic leadership style.
3. Laissez-Faire Leadership
The Laissez-Faire leader, otherwise known as a delegation leader, is slightly different from the former two types of leaders.
The autocratic leader and the democratic leader differ in terms of how much input they receive from their teams to achieve the final results for their own goals. However, the delegation leader sets a goal for their team to meet and gives that team the freedom to make their own decisions to meet the set goal.
While the delegation leadership style is not as common as the autocratic and democratic style, there is a great benefit to the Laissez-Faire leadership style. Delegative leaders work best when a team is highly experienced, and all members of the team have established a good sense of trust and reliability with each other.
Not all companies and organizations that work under a delegation leader will start that way. Some companies will start under an autocratic leadership style and may evolve into a democratic environment and eventually settle on a delegation style.
If you find that you need to be informed of the details of a project by others, or you oversee but don’t participate heavily in a project, you may have a Laissez-Faire leadership style.
4. Bureaucratic Leadership
A bureaucratic leader is a leader that follows all set rules and policies to a tee and will enforce all of the rules. Those who use a bureaucratic leadership style are often seen as goody-two-shoes and very rarely stray from how things are supposed to be.
While a bureaucratic leader may initially come off as boring or stuck in the past, there is a lot of stability and organization resulting from having a bureaucratic leader. When a leader insists on adhering to rules that are already in place, there is little room for a surprise mistake or incident to come up, as the methods the leader follows have been proven to work over time.
Bureaucratic leaders often have their own set of responsibilities regarding how they delegate and set goals. A good example would be an owner of a company. While managers may adopt different roles and leadership styles, the company owner may feel more inclined to stick to the working method that they have found works for them and their company.
If you are someone who often seeks reassurance on completing a task in the right way, or if you tend to focus on how a project has been handled in the past, you may have a bureaucratic leadership style.
5. Charismatic Leadership
One of the easiest ways to get a team or group of people is to charm them. While someone who is overly charming may come off as ingenuine, those who display charisma in the right amount can wield a lot of power over a group of people.
Those who are charismatic leaders can set goals and meet them through means of charming and convincing their team into feeling motivated. Instead of relying on company rules and policies to get the best out of their team, the charismatic leader can crack a joke, make someone blush, and generally establish trust through their personality.
It is no secret that when people who are liked by their teams are more likely to have a reliable source of support and dedication. A restaurant manager who remembers the birthdays and favorite movies of their employees is more likely to motivate a team than the manager who appears cold and aloof.
While a charismatic leader can seem like a great leader on the outside, problems can arise if a leader does not know how to tone down their charisma. There is often a thin line between being friendly and charming and being unprofessional and even invasive.
Charismatic leaders often have the most success once they have balanced their personality and relationships with their team and their professionalism. Having a good blend of both qualities can prevent awkward, inappropriate, and even upsetting situations.
If you are known in school for being popular and outspoken, or if you have often been called ‘charming’ by your friends and loved ones, you may have a charismatic leadership type.
6. Transactional Leadership
If you have ever held a job, you have likely come across a transactional leader.
A transactional leader will often follow a quid pro quo method of utilizing a team to meet their goals. For example, a transactional leader may offer a reward or a prize to motivate a team to complete a project. This type of leader may also threaten a team with punishment to achieve a goal.
While the definition of a transactional leader may seem crude, these types of leaders are often so subtle that a team may not notice that there is a transaction happening in the first place.
A transaction that a leader sets up may be very subtle and can take many forms. If a transactional leader has picked up on a team member lacking validation or praise, they may make a habit of praising that team member every time a goal is met. If another team member has a favorite treat, a transactional leader may hint at an edible present if the project is complete on time.
Punishments laid out by transactional leaders may also be very subtle and can cause manipulation or toxic behavior. A leader may be aware of an employee’s children and hold the employee’s job security over their head if a task has been completed incorrectly.
If a team enjoys listening to music while working, a transactional leader may threaten to ban music if a certain goal is not met fast enough.
There are many ways in which a transaction can be made between a leader and a team member. These transactions can be emotional or physical. The transactions can also be both good and bad.
If you are someone who enjoys building team morale by promising treats or parties, or if you find yourself motivating your team by threatening to punish them through extra work or staying late, you may have a transactional leadership style.
7. Servant Leadership
Some leaders believe that the best way to get a project or task done is to assist all of those who require help.
Servant leaders spend less time focusing on how to lead a team and focus on how to help a team achieve the goals that have been set. However, a leader’s desire to assist their team and prioritize others’ needs does not mean that they lack the qualities that natural leaders possess.
Those who have a servant leadership style believe that by fulfilling their team members’ needs, the goals can be met easier than by leaving them to their own devices. A servant leader is not necessarily a pushover either, but rather they find success in providing an extra hand where it is needed. Servant leaders do not worry if they are seen as leaders but want to be seen as a helper.
Those who have a servant leadership style are often well-respected and appreciated in any company and industry. When a leader is seen as readily available and reliable, a team’s morale and trust are much higher than a leader who is often unavailable.
On the other hand, a leader who frequently insists on helping with tasks may come off as overbearing. At the same time, servant leaders are at risk of burning out too quickly as they are often sacrificing their own needs for the team’s needs.
If you are someone who routinely puts others’ wants before your own, or you are frequently viewed as a people pleaser, you may have a servant leadership style.
8. Transformational Leadership
Contrary to the bureaucratic leader, the transformational leader seeks to change. Those who fall into the transformation leadership type will often come into a company or organization with the desire to change and transform the company’s methods.
Transformational leaders are motivational and encouraging to receive creativity and innovation from their team. If a company or organization is growing stale or going under, a transformational leader greatly benefits their team.
Although they only want to inspire and see the best from their team, a transformational leader can sometimes come off as nitpicky. The reason for this appearance is often a result of the leader making frequent observations and comments on how things can be done differently or how certain goals can be improved and expanded upon.
A good example of a transformational leader is the world-renowned chef and TV personality Gordon Ramsay. The chef is most commonly known for his harsh critiques towards the aspiring chefs that he works with. However, his desire to motivate and instill passion into Gordon’s chefs is also well known.
Whether the transformational leader uses tough love or constant reassurance, the drive to push for bigger and better things is apparent. Companies and organizations that run under transformational leaders can be highly successful, as the desire to keep changing and growing can open up a lot of opportunities for a company.
If you are someone who is often looking for ways to improve an aspect of a team or company, or if you enjoy encouraging people to exceed their goals, you may have a transformational leadership style.
How to Find Your Leadership Style
While each leadership style has its unique qualities, they are often not mutually exclusive to each other.
Leadership can come in many forms and even in a combination of forms. For example, a charismatic leader may also double as a transactional leader. The combination can end up working well for a leader if they can pull off utilizing both styles simultaneously.
But finding what leadership style suits you the best may be more difficult than you anticipate. Unless you have a lot of life experience, it can be hard to accurately judge how you react when put in a position of power.
Assess What You Know
Your baseline personality can often predict the way that you lead a team, however. This is not true in every case, as confidence can play a large factor in how you initially act as a leader. But what you value in your personal life will likely influence what you value in a leadership role.
Pinpointing details about your personality can help you determine what personal leadership style would suit you the best.
Take a Personality Quiz
One of the best ways to determine what leadership style would suit you is to take a personality test.
In a personality test, there is no right or wrong answer. Just answer as honestly as you can, and save any results you may have gotten from the test. One popular personality test is the 16 personality test, based heavily on the Myers-Briggs personality test.
Using the information about your personality that you have received after taking the test and using the information provided in the leadership type list above, you can judge yourself where you fit in best.
Start to Lead
You will never know how you will react until you are thrown into the fire in some situations. Many leaders surprise themselves when they are put into positions of power, as they end up handling situations in ways they are not accustomed to.
While your training to be a manager or a leader should never be neglected, it is best to have an open mind and be flexible when you first start leading a team.
Is There a Top Leadership Style?
The top leadership style varies from each organization and each person.
While there may not be a top leadership style in general, certain companies have a specific leadership style that would work best.
Frequently, democratic leadership is the most effective. Those who work under a democratic leader feel heard, understood, and respected. At the same time, they don’t feel the pressure to make a final decision that could impact the team or company’s future.
When a team feels that they are all working together, there is higher team morale and a higher chance of success.
Pros and Cons of Leadership Styles
Each leadership style comes with its own set of negative and positive qualities. Weighing the pros and cons of the eight leadership styles can also help you assess your leadership style.
- Quick and definite decision making
- Teams do not have the pressure of making a decision
- Opinionated team members may get frustrated
- Lack of input from a team can stifle growth for a company or organization
- Team members feel respected
- A free and creative environment can encourage change and innovation
- Teams and leaders may have a hard time reaching a final decision
- Confidence from a leader can build trust
- Team members can build problem-solving skills when left on their own
- If a problem cannot be solved, more problems might arise
- Disorganization can happen more frequently
- There is a great sense of stability
- Almost all methods are proven to work
- Change and innovation are less likely to occur
- Provides an enjoyable work environment
- Establishes a high level of trust
- Creates a solid bond between a team and its leader
- Friendliness can turn into unprofessional behavior
- A desire to be liked can overshadow a bigger goal
- Everyone wins when a prize is offered
- Fun rewards can build trust
- Team members can feel threatened
- Punishments may cause frustration and resentment
- A servant leader will be seen as reliable
- Team members feel safe
- Servant leaders are easily burnt out
- Change and creativity can further a company
- Team members feel motivated and inspired
- Transformational leaders may appear to be nitpicking
- Change is not always welcome in every environment
Why Are Leadership Styles Important?
Knowing your leadership style can be essential in ways you may not realize initially.
Not every leadership style needs to be followed to a tee. There are many ways to combine different styles or make a melting pot of all leadership styles. But being able to define the values and characteristics that you hold can improve your skills as a team leader.
There is no wrong leadership style to be, as long as you are working for the good of your team and your company. But in most positions of power, there is a chance that power can go to a leader’s head.
Defining your leadership style can help you identify any warning signs that you may be abusing your power or utilizing the wrong features at the wrong times.
Simultaneously, knowing your leadership style can boost the confidence that you need to help lead your team. There are pros and cons of each style, and working with your natural leadership qualities can help your company reach its goal faster.
Team members and employees can also benefit from being able to recognize a leadership type. Certain styles, such as the autocratic leader, the transactional leader, and the servant leader, all have key disadvantages that may make them more vulnerable to losing sight of the bigger picture.
As a team member, you may be wondering if your boss is genuinely a nice person or if they have been bribing you throughout your entire employment. You may also be wondering if it is worth it to share your opinion on a work-related subject, or if your boss will simply reject your idea for their own.
However, there is nothing wrong with not being able to recognize a leadership style right away. Like most things in life, growing into your leadership role will take time and confidence. Those who are just becoming leaders will have to face a lot of trial and error to win over their team’s complete trust and dedication.
Examples of Leadership Styles
Now that you know eight different leadership styles, we’ll go over a few historical examples to help you identify these styles in your everyday life.
One of the best and oldest examples of a democratic leader is George Washington. He has always been noted for his democratic ways of handling his troops and foreign affairs.
For an autocratic leader, we have Adolf Hitler. He is a great example of how being an autocratic leader can sometimes create more damage than good in the long run. While it is vital to execute a decision towards a goal on your own as a leader, there is also a danger that comes with refusing to take advice from others.
When talking about bureaucratic leaders, Steve Easterbrook (a former president of the fast-food chain McDonald’s) is a good example of how one can establish an efficient system. Fast food, in general, tends to highlight the positive qualities of the bureaucratic leadership type.
All in all, there are many ways to lead a team of people that are defined by personality and core values.
All leaders possess the ability to lead a team to a goal. The way a leader chooses to go about encouraging or convincing the team is what defines what type of leader they are.
Not every leader has good intentions for their team or even their community. It is easy for leaders to get their leadership role by saying the right words and displaying the right actions. But while everyone makes mistakes, a great leader has pure intentions for their team and community. Those who are destined to be leaders will work hard and intelligently to help their team meet their goals. People usually follow those who exhibit the qualities that a natural leader possesses, even if no one assigns a leader to a situation.