Key Takeaways

  • Leadership Style Importance: Understanding your own leadership style and its alignment with your team is crucial for effective management and business progress.
  • Variety in Leadership Styles: There are 8 common leadership styles, each with unique characteristics and approaches to managing and motivating teams:
    1. Authoritarian
    2. Participative
    3. Situational
    4. Transformational
    5. Transactional
    6. Bureaucratic
    7. Servant
    8. Laissez-Faire
  • Adaptability and Awareness: Successful leaders are adaptable and self-aware, ensuring their style positively influences and motivates their team without overpowering or neglecting them.
  • Style Specifics: Styles range from authoritarian, which emphasizes control, to laissez-faire, which focuses on a hands-off approach, each with distinct advantages and challenges.

To be a successful leader, you have to understand what type of leadership works best for both you and the people you manage. Because if there’s not a fluid match, you can forget about moving a team — and business — forward.

So, what’s in a leadership style?

Typically, a “leadership style” refers to a leader’s characteristics when managing (and motivating) a team by directing, guiding and inspiring others.

The most powerful leaders have the greatest ability to inspire change and influence other people. Of course, everyone is different and that’s especially true when it comes to leadership, for both the leaders and the followers.

The 8 Common Leadership Styles Explained

To figure out what type of leader you are, here are eight of the most common leadership styles.

1. Authoritarian

Authoritarian leaders (also known as autocratic leaders) provide clear and precise direction on what needs to be done and how it should be done. As in its name, authoritarian leaders focus on control and power as their key to successful management, making the division between leader and follower well-defined. Authoritarian leaders tend to be decisive, domineering and confident.

If you have an authoritarian leadership style, it’s important to remain conscious of your actions and others perceive you, as to not cross the line of becoming too overpowering or aggressive.

2. Participative

Participative, or democratic, leadership is a management style where people not only lead others but involve themselves in the group’s activities. Participative leaders will often encourage team members to become more involved in certain tasks or projects, but they will also lead by example.

Typically this type of leadership can help to develop a more engaged and collaborative work environment. Participative leaders will take into account input from others but when it comes to decision-making time, believe that it is their thoughts that have the final say. Common traits of a participative leader include commitment, enthusiasm, empathy and drive.

3. Situational

If you identify yourself as easily adaptable to changing environments and people, your style might fall under situational leadership. Situational leaders possess the ability to adapt to various scenarios and different types of personalities.

In order to move a company forward and achieve goals, situational leaders understand that they have to adjust their management to fit the types of followers that they are trying to influence. Self-awareness, sociability and adaptability are among the top qualities of situational leaders.

4. Transformational

Transformational leadership focuses on moving a company forward and ultimately “transforming” it. These types of leaders typically focus on ways to motivate employees, oftentimes pushing them outside of their comfort zones.

Transformational leaders are growth-minded and want what’s best for the future of their company — oftentimes putting company objectives before employees. Transformational leaders can be adventurous, outgoing and fearless.

5. Transactional

Transactional leadership focuses on order and structure. Typically, these types of leaders will reward employees when they’ve done something correct, and discipline them when the case is the opposite.

They will oftentimes use rewards such as bonuses or extra vacation days to motivate and incentivize employees. They focus on input (the work people put in) and output (the result of their work). Common traits of transactional leaders are organization, discipline and motivation.

6. Bureaucratic

Similar to authoritarian leaders, bureaucratic leaders depend on themselves to make decisions. However, unlike authoritarian leaders, bureaucratic leaders will listen to the input of their employees when it comes to decision-making.

The catch is — if a bureaucratic leader thinks that employees’ input goes against company goals or policies, he or she is quick to reject them. While these types of leaders might not come off as controlling like authoritarian leaders often do, they can end up holding employees back by discouraging innovation and an open work environment.

7. Servant

The primary goal of servant leadership is to serve those you’re leading. A servant leader approaches decision-making as a collective effort, and both encourages and values the input of others. Essentially, these types of leaders believe in a power-sharing business model; they are the opposite of authoritarian leaders.

While servant leadership can increase employee morale and team cohesiveness, it’s important for servant leaders to be wary of certain issues like a lack of authority or putting employee preferences above business objectives.

8. Laissez-Faire

Also known as delegative leadership, laissez-faire leadership is characterized by a hands-off approach. These types of leaders are the opposite of micromanagers — in fact, sometimes too much.

Laissez-faire leaders expect and trust their employees to complete the tasks and projects delegated to them. And while this can often be empowering to employees, sometimes it can limit employee development and overlook important growth opportunities for the company.

Assessing Your Leadership Style

To effectively assess your leadership style, begin by reflecting on your management practices and how you interact with your team.

Consider seeking feedback from peers, mentors, and team members through surveys or one-on-one conversations.

Pay attention to patterns in how you make decisions, handle stress, communicate expectations, and motivate your team. Tools such as the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator or the Leadership Grid can provide additional insights into your leadership style by placing your tendencies within a well-defined framework.

Key Steps for Assessment:

  • Self-reflection: Examine your past leadership experiences, focusing on successes and areas for improvement.
  • Feedback collection: Utilize 360-degree feedback mechanisms to gain insights from those above, below, and at your peer level.
  • Personality and leadership assessments: Engage with established assessment tools to get a baseline of your style.
  • Identify areas for growth: Based on feedback and assessment results, pinpoint key areas where your leadership approach could evolve.

Aligning Leadership Style with Team Needs

After understanding your leadership style, the next step is to align it with the needs of your team and organizational goals. This alignment is crucial for fostering an environment where both leaders and team members can thrive.

Strategies for Alignment:

  • Understand team dynamics: Regularly check in with your team to understand their motivations, challenges, and work preferences.
  • Set clear goals and expectations: Ensure that your leadership approach clearly communicates the team’s objectives and how you expect to achieve them.
  • Be flexible: Be willing to adapt your style to meet the needs of different situations and team members.
  • Promote a culture of open communication: Encourage feedback and discussion about leadership effectiveness and team dynamics.

Adapting Leadership Styles in Changing Environments

The only constant in today’s business world is change. Effective leaders recognize the need to adapt their leadership style to changing team dynamics, organizational goals, and external environments.

4 Tips for Adaptive Leadership:

  1. Stay informed: Keep abreast of industry trends, organizational changes, and team sentiment to anticipate shifts that may require a change in leadership approach.
  2. Develop emotional intelligence: Cultivate the ability to read emotional cues and adapt your communication and management style accordingly.
  3. Practice situational leadership: Learn to assess situations and apply the most appropriate leadership style to guide your team through challenges.
  4. Encourage innovation and flexibility: Lead by example by being open to new ideas and approaches, fostering an adaptable and resilient team culture.

Final Thoughts

Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor.

The most successful leaders are those who can assess their own strengths and weaknesses, align their approach with the needs of their team, and adapt to the ever-changing business landscape.

By understanding and applying the principles of assessing, aligning, and adapting leadership styles, you can enhance your effectiveness as a leader and drive your team and organization toward sustained success.

Read more: 5 Ways to Become A Participative Leader