Wondering what kind of leader you are? Here are the 7 most common leadership styles

By Hannah Kingston

September 4, 2020

leader-taking-notes

Wondering which kind of leader you are, or which kind of leader you hope to be? There are a number of leadership styles out there, you may recognize yourself in one or more.

Psychologist Kurt Lewin first put forward three major leadership styles in the 1930s, 1. Autocratic, 2. Democratic and, 3. Laissez-Faire.

If you are wondering which kind of leader you are, which kind of leader you want to be or are hoping to develop a more refined leadership style, it’s important to have an awareness of the different ways that managers and leaders handle their teams.

Here are the 7 most common leadership styles:

Kurt Lewin’s leadership styles:

  1. Authoritarian (Autocratic) Leadership
  2. Participative (Democratic) Leadership
  3. Delegative (Laissez-Faire) Leadership

Additional leadership styles: 

  • Transactional Leadership
  • Charismatic Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Situational Leadership

Authoritarian (Autocratic) Leadership Style

An Authoritarian leader is described as one who does not seek out much team input or team decision making. Under Authoritarian or Autocratic leadership, the team is tightly managed, orders and tasks are usually set out for members of the team.

Work that is completed by members of the team under authoritarian leadership usually doesn’t have meaningful input from them at any point in the task strategy. Autocratic leadership is often found in team structures where the leader has the expertise that the rest of the team does not, i.e. the manager holds the know-how and strategy, and their team is made up of executives who put their plan into action.

There are pros and cons to this sort of leadership style.

Pros

  • It can help to speed up the decision making within teams.
  • It calls for a clear vision of the bigger picture.
  • It provides direction and can keep productivity levels high.

Cons

  • It may oppress creativity within the team.
  • It may make members of the team feel micro-managed or “under the thumb.”
  • It may create an “us” and “them” between team members and management which can result in resentment.

Participative (Democratic) Leadership Style

A Participative or Democratic leader is described as one who includes members of the team in decision-making processes. This leadership style is characterized by managers or leaders encouraging their team to share ideas and/or opinions which will contribute to the leader’s final decision or strategy.

Team members are more engaged with certain projects and may have more insight into what their granular tasks will amount to and creativity and input are rewarded not dismissed.

There are pros and cons to the participative leadership style, including:

Pros

  • It may offer better opportunities for creativity within the team leading to better outputs.
  • It may make the team feel that they have hands-on involvement and this can be motivating.
  • It may provide a better opportunity for management to engage with team members thus offering better insight into who does what and at what degree, leading to better team re-structuring when it arises.

Cons

  • It may lead to a loss of team morale if not handled well, as ideas may be shared and not actioned without adequate feedback.
  • It may lead to poor decision making if the team members involved are not qualified to offer insights and action steps.
manager-writing-on-board
Do you dictate or delegate?

Delegative (Laissez-Faire) Leadership Style

A Delegative or Laissez-Faire leader takes the hands-off approach. The Laissez-Faire leader generally tends to make all the decisions and lead the team but their style of management is very much characterized by letting their team members take their own initiative after providing direction.

The Laissez-Faire leader needs to possess a great deal of trust for their team to allow them to take the reigns but generally, they remain open throughout projects so team members can consult with them throughout.

There are pros and cons to the delegative leadership style, including:

Pros

  • It allows for faster decision making as there aren’t lengthy approval waiting times.
  • It allows for team members to be innovative, creative, and independent.
  • It encourages professional growth, in the absence of bureaucracy, your team members may feel more driven to produce their best work.

Cons

  • It can lead to a lack of motivation and job satisfaction if the leader seems indifferent as opposed to relaxed.
  • It can be the cause of communication issues and low accountability within the team if managers are overly distant.
  • It can lead to low productivity in the lands of unenthusiastic team members and not enough management.

Over the years, more leadership styles have been identified by Lewin, his colleagues, and researchers. Some of the additional best-known leadership styles include:

Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leadership was founded by Max Weber in 1947 and further explored and refined by Bernard M. Bass in the early 1980s.

A transactional leader has three main characteristics; supervision, organization, and team performance. The transactional leadership style relies on a clear chain of command, tight management, and rewards vs. punishments to motivate staff.

Transactional leadership styles are common and are often used as a solution to cure low efficiency at work. When team members meet a goal, they are rewarded via positive prompts, when employees “fail”, they are punished or reprimanded. This leadership style relies on a psychological process known as operant conditioning in which associations are built between certain behaviors and outcomes.

There are pretty obvious pros and cons to transactional leadership styles.

Pros

  • If engaged with their work, team members are highly motivated to perform to the best of their capability.
  • It ensures that leaders have a clear view of their team members workflow.
  • It ensures that team members have a clear view of their leader’s expectations.
  • It promotes a consistent workflow system.

Cons

  • It can be demotivating to team members as there is little room for motivation.
  • It can cause an “us” and “them” mentality within the team if team members feel they cannot share their opinions.
  • It can cause an atmosphere of stress due to the fact that it relies heavily on performance as opposed to other characteristics that a team member may possess.

Charismatic Leadership Style

Charismatic leadership was founded by Max Weber in 1958. This leadership style is dependent largely on the leader’s personality and authority is derived via a leader’s ability to keep team members engaged.

Charismatic leaders are excellent communicators with strong interpersonal skills. The charismatic leadership style relies on strong visibility on the greater common goal, keeping team members in the loop, and ensuring that team members have an emotional connection to the work they are doing.

As with all leadership styles outlined, there are pros and cons to the charismatic leadership style.

Pros

  • It connects team members to the importance of their work and creates an emotional appeal.
  • It may decrease the turnover rate within a company because team members are invested in the work they are doing.
  • It gives people an opportunity to communicate better, as the style relies on consistent communication.
  • It may boost morale within the team.
  • It prioritizes people on an individual level which can be motivating.

Cons

  • It relies on the leader and it may be difficult for any leader to remain inspirational and upbeat at all times.
  • If the wrong person is using this style, it may be seen as manipulative by team members.
  • It is a subjective style with no concrete data to back it up.

 

manager-giving-team-member-advice
Do you like to lead or let others take the reigns?

Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership was founded by James McGregor Burns in 1978.

A transformational leader encourages their team members to be creative, use innovative while working, and consistently learn and develop within their role.  The transformational leadership style is characterized by the leader offering individualized support and guidance to team members to motivate and inspire them to do their best work. Transformational leaders tend to lead by example and showcase the best version of themselves with the idea that team members will follow suit.

There are pros and cons to the transformational leadership style.

Pros

  • It can help team members to feel recognized and connected to their work.
  • It can nurture professional development and positive change within employees.
  • It can provide a good working atmosphere and morale within the team.

Cons

  • It may lack detail-orientation which is important to keep your team members focused, or in other words, it may be too “big picture.”

Situational Leadership Style

Situational leadership was coined by Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard in 1969. Situational leadership does exactly what it says on the tin, i.e the leadership style will be directed by the situation.

A situational leader will choose the right leadership for the right people meaning that the style of leadership will depend on who they are managing, and is not prescribed as the other leadership styles cited above.

A situational leader will meet the management needs of those around them, be flexible in their style, trust their team members, be a strong problem solver, and coach their team members.

Pros

  • It is a simple style that allows managers to adapt to their circumstances.
  • It promotes solid communication between leaders and their team members.
  • It allows the team leader to pivot when necessary.
  • It doesn’t have the same rigidity of the other styles.

Cons

  • It offers an opportunity for leaders to change their tune too often.
  • It can promote team members feeling confused by different atmospheres and/or strategies when the team grows.

There isn’t a right way to lead necessarily, each person will have a different style based on their own personality traits and experiences. Your leadership style will also hugely depend on the industry you are in.

In most cases, it is important to remember that you are the strength of your team. A bad tradie tends to blame their tools. If you look around and see a very unmotivated team, it may be time to shake it up. If you look around and see a focused, dedicated team, it may be time to give yourself a pat on the back!

Which leadership style best describes you? Comment below! 

Read: How to get a promotion in the public sector: 10 tips for getting ahead

Read: Ten simple yet effective ways to make your CV stand out

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