It’s normal for your personality and experience to influence your leadership style. While there isn’t one right way to lead, identifying your leadership style can help you grow your skill set and empower your team. In this article we describe 11 different leadership types, along with their pros and cons in different situations.
What do Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, and Marvin Ellison, CEO of Lowe’s, have in common? They are both exceptional leaders. While one makes waves in the tech industry, the other takes on the challenge of retail. Both are forward-thinking, have visions for their work, and are compelling enough to command an audience.
Leadership is not one-size-fits-all. Every leader has their own personality and experience that influences their particular style. This style can evolve over time, so the leader you are today may be different from the leader you’d like to become.
To help you better understand what your current leadership style is and how you can use it to empower your team to make an impact, we cover 11 common leadership styles and theories.
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1. Authoritarian or autocratic leadership style
Authoritarian—also referred to as autocratic—leaders have clear command and control over their peers. Decision-making is centralized, meaning there is one person making the critical decisions. An authoritarian leader has a clear vision of the bigger picture, but only involves the rest of the team on a task-by-task or as-needed basis.
Authoritarian leaders will be personal when giving others praise or criticism but clearly separate themselves from the group. While you might assume an authoritarian leader would be unpleasant, this isn’t typically true. Rarely are they openly hostile. Instead, they’re typically friendly or, at times, impersonal.
Examples of an authoritarian or autocratic leader's style:
Their own learnings are more important than those of the team.
In disagreements within the company, their view is typically the right one.
If there are too many voices speaking, we can’t get the job done.
Opposing opinions on a project I'm in charge of don't matter.
Pros of an authoritarian leadership style:
Authoritarian leaders have the ability to complete projects in a time crunch.
This style is helpful when decisive action is needed.
Autocratic leadership is successful when the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group.
Cons of an authoritarian leadership style:
This style doesn’t promote creativity.
Leaders can be viewed negatively and as overbearing or controlling.
Has difficulty trying another leadership style and are typically set in their ways.
2. Participative leadership style
Participative or democratic leaders welcome everyone’s opinions and encourage collaboration. While they might have the final say, these leaders distribute the responsibility of making decisions to everyone.
Participative leaders are part of the team. They invest their time and energy in their colleagues' growth because they know it will, in turn, help them reach the end goal. If you excel in collaborative group environments, this might be your leadership style.
Examples of a participative leader's style:
Prioritizing the group’s learnings will benefit my role.
In disagreements within the company, we should hear everyone’s opinion and then come to a solution.
The more people we have working on a project, the better the outcome will be.
Opposing views because it will make the end product better.
Pros of a participative leadership style:
This is the most effective leadership style, according to Lewin’s study.
Participative leadership leads to higher quality contributions.(Video) How to prepare your Asana account for 2023
There is more creativity and group members feel engaged.
Everyone understands the bigger picture and is motivated to reach the end goal.
Cons of a participative leadership style:
Teams with participative leaders aren’t as productive as those with authoritarian leaders.
All team members need to be bought-in for collaboration to work.
3. Delegative or laissez-faire leadership style
Lewin’s third style is delegative or laissez-faire leadership. Delegative leaders offer very little guidance to the group. They allow team members complete freedom in the decision-making process.
Delegative leaders separate themselves from the group and choose not to participate or interrupt the current trajectory of a project. Their comments are infrequent. Group members might even forget what this leader looks like by the time they finish the project.
Examples of a delegative or laissez-faire leader's style:
The group can decide what’s best for them, but I expect a stellar end product.
In disagreements within the company, others can make a decision without my input.
I’ll pass along resources to my team. From there, I want group members who are self-starters and can determine how to proceed.
Those with opposing views can try their methods individually.
Pros of a delegative leadership style:
Delegative leadership can be beneficial if all group members are qualified experts.
Those who value autonomy will have high job satisfaction under this leadership.
If the team has the same goal as the leader, it can be achieved. Goal tracking software can be used to monitor progress.
Cons of a delegative leadership style:
Teams with laissez-faire leadership are the least productive, according to Lewin’s study.
With a delegative leader, roles and responsibilities are unclear.
This style can lead to team members blaming each other and not taking any responsibility.
Now that you understand Lewin’s three leadership styles, let’s take a different approach by looking at the emotional leadership theory. This approach will help you use emotional intelligence to read the room and apply the correct leadership style.
4. Visionary leadership style
Visionary leadership is comparable to Lewin’s authoritative leadership style. Visionary leaders have clear, long-term visions, and are able to inspire and motivate others.
This type of leadership is best used when there is a big change in the company or a clear direction is needed. In this case, people are looking for someone they trust to follow into the unknown.
It is less successful when other team members are experts who have differing ideas or opinions than that of the leader. These team members won’t want to blindly follow a leader they don’t agree with.Read: How to build expert power (and become a better leader)
Pros of a visionary leadership style:
Members of the organization feel inspired and understand their roles.
Temporary problems don’t dishearten the leader because they have their eye on the end goal.
Visionary leaders are skilled at creating contingency plans to address challenges from outside factors such as politics or world events.
Cons of a visionary leadership style:
There is a lack of short-term focus by teams.
Vision can be lost if it’s too intertwined with the leader’s personality.
Visionary leaders have the potential to reject other group members' ideas.
5. Coaching leadership style
A coaching leader is able to identify other team members’ strengths and weaknesses and coach them to improve. They are also able to tie these skills to the company’s goals.
Coaching leadership is successful when the leader is creative, willing to collaborate, and can give concrete feedback. It’s also important that the coach knows when to step back and give the person autonomy.
If you’ve ever had a bad coach, you know that coaching isn’t for everyone. When done poorly, coaching leadership can be seen as micromanaging.
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Pros of a coaching leadership style:
Coaching leadership can create an environment that is motivating and group members enjoy being a part of.
There are clear expectations, so team members’ skills can develop.
This style of leadership gives companies a competitive advantage, as it results in skilled individuals that are productive and willing to coach others.
Cons of a coaching leadership style:
Coaching leadership requires patience and time.
It only works if others are open to receiving this type of leadership.
Coaching leaders rely heavily on relationships which can be difficult if there isn’t team chemistry.
6. Affiliative leadership style
Affiliative leadership is relationship-focused. The intention of an affiliative leader is to create harmony. This charismatic leader works to build and foster relationships within the workplace which leads to a more collaborative and positive work environment.
An affiliative leader is helpful when creating a new team or when in crisis, as both of these situations require trust. This leadership style can be harmful when the leader focuses too much on being a friend and is less concerned with productivity and company goals.
Pros of an affiliative leadership style:
Team morale is boosted by positive and constructive feedback.
Interpersonal conflict is quickly stopped.
Team members feel important and have less stress.
Affiliative leadership creates tightly knit teams that are empowered to help each other.
Cons of an affiliative leadership style:
Some team members may be underperforming under the radar. A lack of clear roles can lead to social loafing.
Affiliative leaders are reluctant to say anything negative which doesn’t help others grow.
The organization’s goals are often forgotten.
Team members become emotionally dependent on the leader. If the leader were to change teams or leave, the rest of the team would be lost.
7. Democratic leadership style
Democratic leadership is the same concept as Lewin’s participative leadership. All team members are encouraged to participate and share ideas. As a result, the team feels empowered, even though the leader ultimately has the final say.
Democratic leadership is successful in highly skilled teams, where members can provide fruitful contributions. It is less impactful for junior teams that don’t have as much experience or knowledge on the topic. It also shouldn’t be used in situations that need immediate action.
Pros of a democratic leadership style:
Collaboration leads to creativity and innovation.
There is high employee engagement and trust.
Common goals lead to high accountability and productivity.
Cons of a democratic leadership style:
Collaboration takes time.
Team members can lose trust if the leader makes a decision without their input.
Democratic leadership isn’t successful if team members aren’t skilled.
8. Pacesetting leadership style
A pacesetting leader sets an example of high productivity, performance, and quality. Team members are supposed to follow in their footsteps. If team members can’t keep up, pacesetting leaders will step in and complete the task correctly.
Pacesetting leadership is successful when the leader creates clear requirements and motivates team members to meet deadlines. It’s unsuccessful when team members lose trust in the leader and become stressed, overworked, or unmotivated.
Pros of a pacesetting leadership style:
Pacesetting leaders are able to achieve business goals on time.
Teams can be fully utilized with a pacesetting leader.
Progress reports allow issues to be identified quickly.
Cons of a pacesetting leadership style:
Pacesetting leadership can lead to stressed and unmotivated team members with low morale.
Team members can lose trust if the leader is watching and correcting their every move.
A strong focus on results and deadlines can lead to less creativity.
Limited feedback is given.
9. Commanding leadership style
Commanding leadership is comparable to directive or coercive leadership. In this style, the leader has clear goals and objectives that they communicate to the team and expect others to follow. They put procedures and policies in place to create structure.
Commanding leadership is typically used when other team members don’t have skills or expertise. In this scenario, the members need structure in order to know how to complete their tasks. It is also successful in emergency situations when there is no time for discussion. This leadership style should be used in combination with the others, if used at all.
Pros of a commanding leadership style:
There are clear expectations that can improve job performance.
It’s useful in times of crisis as decisions can be made quickly.
Commanding leadership can be helpful in groups of low-skill or inexperienced workers.
Commanding leaders can quickly identify if a team member is falling behind.
Cons of a commanding leadership style:
If the leader isn’t more experienced than the group, this leadership style fails.
There is no collaboration, which stifles creativity.
Team morale can drop and employees aren’t as engaged.
There is a high dependency on the leader, causing a bottleneck.
A commanding leader can easily turn into an autocratic leader.
Emotional leadership theory can easily be implemented into your day-to-day work. First, identify the type of team you’re working with. Then consider which leadership styles could best support your tasks. From there, try adjusting your emotional leadership style to match scenarios that arise. With a little practice, this theory could transform your leadership approach.Read: How to effectively manage your team’s workload
10. Transformational leadership style
In addition to Lewin’s leadership theory and the emotional leadership theory, there are two more noteworthy styles of leadership: transformational and transactional.
Both of these styles were documented by Bernard M. Bass, an American psychologist who studied organizational behavior and leadership. While you might not know them by name yet, you’ve probably seen them in the workplace.
Bernard M. Bass’s most popular theory is transformational leadership, also referred to as the four I’s. This theory was built on James MacGregor Burns’ concept from 1978 in which he explained, “leaders and followers help each other to advance a higher level of morale and motivation.”
In this leadership style, transformational leaders effectively gain the trust and respect of others who want to follow them. The four I’s of transformational leadership are: individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation, and idealized influence. The four I’s are used to measure how transformational a leader is.
Pros of a transformational leadership style:
Transformational leaders use coaching and encouragement to empower their team.
Team members are seen as individuals, so all their unique skills can be put to use effectively.
Teams are united in a common cause which leads to growth within the company.(Video) Asana Tutorial for Business | Manage Your Business With Asana (Free Project Management Software)
Individuals are given freedom.
Cons of a transformational leadership style:
Smaller tasks are easily forgotten which means it’s difficult to make the vision a reality.
The constant involvement of a leader can result in pressure and burnout.
The leader’s goals must align with the company’s goals, or else it becomes risky.
All team members must respect the leader and agree with their approach.
11. Transactional leadership style
Transactional leadership was first conceptualized by sociologist Max Weber. It was then elaborated on by Bernard M. Bass in opposition to transformational leadership.
Transactional leadership uses rewards and punishments to motivate team members. This type of leader believes that a clear chain of command will lead to better performance. Team members need to follow instructions and are closely monitored by the leader.
Pros of a transactional leadership style:
Transactional leadership is useful in situations that have a clearly defined problem.
This style of leadership can be helpful in a crisis as everyone has clear roles.
Group members know what is expected of them.
Cons of a transactional leadership style:
Transactional leadership style stifles creativity of team members.
Transactional leaders don’t support team members’ emotional needs.
These types of leaders don’t reward the initiative of individuals.
This leadership role doesn’t typically have long-term success because it’s too focused on short-term goals.
Leadership vs. management
Leadership and management are often used interchangeably. However, the two have different meanings.
A leader uses their vision to push a company forward, while keeping the team inspired. They also have a positive social influence and are able to use it to benefit the organization. On the other hand, managers have an operational role in the company to keep projects on track using a specific management style.
You don’t need to be a manager to be a leader. Leaders can be found in every role in a company, not just top-level positions. If you’re working on becoming a better leader within your role, it’s helpful to understand the pros and cons of your current leadership style and what additional types of leadership you can aim to embody.
Next, we’ll dive into various leadership styles and theories to help you better understand your style. You may even adopt some new strategies along the way.Read: Leadership vs. management: What’s the difference?
What’s your leadership style?
As you can see, there are many different leadership theories and ways of thinking about leadership.
Lewin’s theory places leaders into one of three groups, participative being the most effective. Emotional leadership theory gives six leadership styles that an effective leader will deploy at different times, depending on the situation. Bass gives us two opposing styles—transformational and transactional—one which motivates by empowering others while the other motivates with rewards and punishments.
There isn’t one correct leadership style, but there is a style that you’re likely naturally drawn to. Which style did you relate to the most? What’s your default? Understand the pros and cons so that you can become a leader that empowers your team to thrive. If you’re having trouble leading consciously with your current method, consider trying a new leadership approach.Read: 39 business quotes to empower your team
Effective leadership styles empower your team
A leadership style is a classification of how you put your leadership skills into action. As we already know, leaders have many strengths. They spend their days on various responsibilities, from motivating others and thinking creatively to solving problems and taking risks. No two leaders are the same, though—how one approaches the same set of tasks can be vastly different from the next.
Leaders are tasked with ensuring teams are meeting the goals of an organization. Work management software will help ensure your team is on the same page, no matter where you’re leading them from.
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What are the basic leadership styles and how do you find your own? ›
- Democratic Leadership. A democratic leader makes decisions based on their team's opinion and feedback. ...
- Autocratic Leadership. ...
- Laissez-faire Leadership. ...
- Strategic Leadership. ...
- Transformational Leadership. ...
- Transactional Leadership. ...
- Coach-Style Leadership. ...
- Bureaucratic Leadership.
And each successful leader develops a style based on their own personality, goals, and business culture based on one of these three leadership styles: autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire. Take a moment and consider your own leadership approach.How many leadership styles are there? ›
The seven primary leadership styles are: (1) Autocratic, (2) Authoritative, (3) Pace-Setting, (4) Democratic, (5) Coaching, (6) Affiliative, (7) Laissez-faire.What are the 4 situational leadership styles? ›
- Authoritarian or autocratic leadership style.
- Participative leadership style.
- Delegative or laissez-faire leadership style.
- Visionary leadership style.
- Coaching leadership style.
- Affiliative leadership style.
- Democratic leadership style.
- Pacesetting leadership style.
Participative leadership is often favored as it helps to build trust with employees. Empowering them and encouraging them to share their ideas on essential matters, demonstrating their value to a team.What is the most powerful leadership style? ›
The democratic leadership style is one of the most effective because it encourages everyone to participate in all processes, share their opinions, and know that you will hear them. It also encourages employees to be engaged because they know you will hear their feedback.Are leaders born or made? ›
How Are Leaders Made? Many people have begun to acknowledge that most leaders are made rather than born. While a natural affinity for leadership is always appreciated, many employees need consistent practice and skill-building resources to become talented leaders.What makes a great leader? ›
A good leader should have integrity, self-awareness, courage, respect, empathy, and gratitude. They should be learning agile and flex their influence while communicating and delegating effectively. See how these key leadership qualities can be learned and improved at all levels of your organization.What is the best leadership style for a CEO? ›
This CEO leadership style enables executives to make quick decisions without relying on input from others. An authoritative approach also establishes a clear leadership hierarchy and strictly set goals, under which some employees may thrive.
What are the three 3 important skills that must be applied in situational leadership? ›
- Partnering for Performance.
LEADERSHIP MODEL. SLII is an easy-to-understand, practical framework that enables your managers to diagnose the development level of an employee for a task: D1 – Enthusiastic Beginner; D2 – Disillusioned Learner; D3 – Capable, but Cautious, Contributor; and D4 – Self-Reliant Achiever.What are the 6 main leadership styles? ›
According to Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee, there are six emotional leadership styles – Authoritative, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and Coercive. Each style has a different effect on the emotions of the people that you're leading.What are the eleven 11 leadership principles? ›
- Know yourself and seek self-improvement.
- Be technically and tactically proficient.
- Develop a sense of responsibility among your subordinates.
- Make sound and timely decisions.
- Set an example.
- Know your people and look out for their welfare.
- Keep your people informed.
Bill Gates adopted an autocratic leadership style in the early years of Microsoft to ensure the company grew at the pace that he had envisioned. Autocratic leaders believe that the best way to manage their team is to control the way they do their work.What leadership style puts people first? ›
Whereas traditional leadership focuses on the success of the company or organization, servant leadership puts employees first to grow the organization through their commitment and engagement.Which leadership style is best for employees? ›
Democratic. Democratic leadership is one of the most popular leadership styles because it involves input from the entire team and fosters employees' sense of ownership in their work.Which leadership style do you think is the least effective why? ›
Autocratic leadership: It is least effective because an autocratic leader takes every decision, and employees' ideas and input also matter. An autocratic leader does not take any pinion of teams. Employees, in this case, feel unappreciated, demoralized, and undervalued.What is the new leadership model? ›
The new leadership theory was designed to help leaders relate better to their employees, which also helps boost productivity and employee morale. By using transformational and charismatic leadership, the new leadership theory is certain to help organizations in today's work climate to become much more efficient.What is the No 1 leadership principle? ›
1. Know Yourself and Seek Self Improvement - You are never done growing as a leader.
What is the harshest form of leadership? ›
Autocratic leadership: This is one of the strictest types. Autocratic leaders tend to have complete control over the decision-making process.What is the most important skill of a good leader? ›
- Communication. The ability to communicate is deemed an important leadership quality by many. ...
- Set a good example. ...
- Readiness to take on and give up responsibility. ...
- Motivation. ...
- Recognise and foster potential. ...
- Tolerate mistakes. ...
- Flexibility. ...
- Set goals and expectations.
If you have a positive impact on others and care about the people around you, then you can count one more sign that may indicate you are a born leader. Thanks to your listening skills, people confide in you and you easily gain trust and respect from them.How do you train to be a leader? ›
- Practice discipline. A good leader needs discipline. ...
- Take on more projects. A great way to develop your leadership skills is to take on more responsibility. ...
- Learn to follow. ...
- Develop situational awareness. ...
- Inspire others. ...
- Keep learning. ...
- Resolve conflicts. ...
- Be a discerning listener.
“Leaders are the ones willing to look out for those to the left of them and those to the right of them. Leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.”What should leaders stop doing? ›
Quit trying to be the smartest person in every room: Giving team members the room and encouragement to think, solve, and even fail is crucial. If those in leadership roles answer every question, present ideas that others will feel hesitant to disagree with, and make snap decisions, it can stifle creativity.What makes a poor leader? ›
Poor leaders will only focus on the ideas that back up their own perspective. They will disregard differing opinions and will not engage when the person they disagree with is speaking. They will avoid having open discussions with those around them and will instead revert to their own opinion when making all decisions.Is leadership a skill or quality? ›
Leadership is a skill that must be taught, learned, and developed over time through training, practice, and repetition. Some people are born with attributes that enable them to develop faster and outperform others as they develop their leadership skills.How do you own your leadership? ›
Believe your team can succeed. Ask what your team needs to achieve their goals and get it for them. Provide ongoing, timely feedback that focuses on their growth and potential. Take note of when they are doing things right and acknowledge their small steps forward.How do you identify your leadership? ›
- Know Your Personality Traits. The only way you can truly understand the type of leader you are is to assess your personality. ...
- Know Your Values. Values are yardsticks of behavior. ...
- Identify Your Weaknesses. ...
- Ask For Feedback. ...
- Assess Your Ability To Delegate. ...
- Observe Your Leaders.
What are the 7 styles of leadership? ›
- Autocratic Leadership.
- Pacesetting Leadership.
- Transformational Leadership.
- Coaching Leadership.
- Democratic Leadership.
- Affiliative Leadership.
- Delegative Leadership.
Come Up With Examples of Your Leadership Style in Action
Ask people you've worked with if you need help jogging your memory. Provide specific answers when talking about what kind of leader you are. Vague responses provide nothing to work with and don't accurately depict what you can do when leading a team.
- Work on boosting your confidence.
- Become self-aware.
- Ask for feedback.
- Ask thoughtful questions.
- Set goals and track their progress.
- Practice regular reflection.
The democratic leadership style is one of the most effective because it encourages everyone to participate in all processes, share their opinions, and know that you will hear them. It also encourages employees to be engaged because they know you will hear their feedback.What are traits of a good leader? ›
Good leaders possess self-awareness, garner credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, present themselves as constant and consistent, become role models and are fully present.What is a high potential leader? ›
It means honing emotional intelligence and high-level people skills to help others face challenges in a healthy way – and companies must guide their high potential leaders on their journeys.What motivates you as a leader? ›
Often, this comes from a personal sense of purpose. Leaders have to feel that they're contributing to something bigger than themselves. For example, they might fulfill this purpose by achieving the organization's mission, vision, and values. By communicating their purpose to the team, leaders improve motivation.What 3 words would best describe your leadership style? ›