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Leadership styles can be fundamental in the workplace, but they can also be challenging to understand. Every leader has a unique approach to leading, and it’s essential to understand what these different styles are to figure out which one is right for you.
This blog post will explore different leadership styles and discuss what each one entails. So, if you’re curious about leadership styles or want to learn more leadership skills about how to lead your team effectively, keep reading!
What is a Leadership Style?
A leadership style can be defined as values, morals, and ideas that influence leaders’ decisions regarding their followers. Leadership styles are specific to each type of organization or group. Many types of leadership styles will be discussed in this article.
Leadership styles describe the actions and behaviors that people use when they are in a position of power and authority. There are various leadership styles, but two main categories are directive and supportive.
The main differences between the two groups are how much control they allow subordinates to have and the extent of participation they demand from them.
Related: What is Leadership?
What are Directive and Supportive Leadership?
A directive leader is a more traditional leader that strongmen or dictators have popularized in history. These leaders are often autocratic, meaning they have near-absolute power over their subjects with little accountability to anyone else. Examples include Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Mao Zedong, and Joseph Stalin.
Supportive leaders are more common in democratic countries where leaders govern for life or until they step down. This style develops by considering everyone’s perspective when making decisions, whereas directive leaders only view their perspectives. Although it takes more time and requires a skillful leader to pull off correctly, supporting followers through motivation, inspiration, and encouragement can create an efficient work ethic among one’s subjects.
Related: 5 Levels of Leadership
16 Types of Leadership Styles
Here are some of the common Leadership styles, including their characteristics.
1. Autocratic Leadership
The autocratic leadership style is hands-on management. This manager makes plans, issues instructions, assigns tasks, devises strategies, and gives instructions to subordinates without consulting with them on how these should be carried out. Autocratic leaders may or may not ask for feedback but do not seek subordinates’ input or opinions.
An autocratic leader is in complete control. Nothing happens without their knowledge and consent. In addition, employees do not have much freedom to express themselves and are expected to follow orders implicitly. Therefore, employees should work quietly behind the scenes while the boss takes care of business.
Common characteristics of autocratic leadership style:
- The leader makes all decisions and is the only one responsible for those decisions.
- Employees do not have a say in decision-making, and their input will not be sought after. Instead, they follow orders and may or may not give suggestions on how things can be done.
- Employees are expected to follow the orders given, and the leader does not have time for questions.
- The employees may fear being punished if they don’t perform their tasks well.
- Employees are expected to work without any supervision from managers.
Related: Autocratic Leadership
2. Democratic Leadership
Democratic leadership style is based on the assumption that everyone deserves a say in being treated. Therefore, a Democratic leader plans tasks with the help of employees and includes them in all decision-making processes by keeping their opinions in mind.
The decisions are made by consensus between the leader and subordinates. Subordinates are also expected to participate actively in achieving goals, taking on responsibilities when needed, and having some control over their work.
Democratic leaders encourage participation among their subordinates by giving everyone a chance to voice their opinion without fear of criticism or negative feedback.
Examples of characteristics of democratic leadership style:
- The leader consults with employees on all significant decisions and allows them to express their opinions.
- When decisions are made, the leader considers the inputs given by subordinates.
- Decisions are not forced upon employees; everyone can weigh in, and all suggestions are welcome.
- Subordinates are given responsibility for their assigned tasks. They are allowed to plan, create, and implement plans.
- When disagreements between subordinates arise, they are heard out, and the leader aims to resolve issues peacefully. If there is a need for punishment, it will be done moderately.
3. Task-oriented Leadership
The task-oriented leadership style values efficiency and productivity above all else by emphasizing job results rather than process or structure. The leader assigns specific tasks to employees without telling them how these should be carried out as long as they are completed well enough.
They expect employees to share ideas about achieving goals, but decisions are still left up to them alone. Overall, this leadership style does not provide room for creativity or innovation.
Examples of characteristics of task-oriented leadership style:
- The leader assigns specific tasks to subordinates without any instructions on how these should be carried out.
- The leader only gives suggestions and does not provide details about the task they are expected to do.
- Employees feel that their input is not valued and that their ideas are unimportant. As a result, they don’t receive positive or negative feedback from the leader, creating uncertainty.
- There is minor communication between the leader and subordinates, and they may struggle to coordinate and work together correctly because there is no clear direction given by the superior.
- Subordinates feel unmotivated because they have no control over what happens – all they can do is carry out their tasks as set out by the leader.
4. Transactional Leadership
The transactional leadership style is based on the belief that leaders and employees are equal partners with shared interests. Therefore, the leader negotiates performance standards for employees, motivating them with rewards and punishments to encourage desired actions.
A transactional leader also ensures that the job gets done correctly and holds subordinates accountable if they fail to meet expectations or neglect their responsibilities. It does not matter whether employees like or respect their supervisor; it only results in transactional leadership.
Examples of characteristics of transactional leadership style:
- Employees receive specific instructions about what they should do, but how these are carried out is left up to them entirely.
- Subordinates are held accountable for their actions and are often given rewards or punishments based on their performance.
- Employees feel as if they have no control over what happens. The leader has the final say in all decisions.
- Subordinates work together with the leader to achieve goals because they are motivated by their incentives.
- There is minor communication between subordinates and their leader because each focuses on their responsibilities rather than the team.
Related: Transactional Leadership
5. Transformational Leadership
The transformational leadership style aims to inspire employees to do great things by focusing on who people are instead of what they need to do. To establish this level of trust between themself and subordinates, a transformational leader gets emotionally involved with team members, setting high standards and giving them room for growth. In return, employees show respect and admiration towards the leader, striving to meet their expectations even when not supervised closely.
Examples of characteristics of transformational leadership style:
- Transformational leaders look at individuals as a whole instead of focusing on specific qualities or tasks that need to be done. They desire to inspire employees by motivating them through vision and mission statements set out by the company.
- Employees feel that their ideas about how work should be done consideration as much as those of the leader. They receive feedback from their supervisor to know whether they have done well enough or still have room for improvement.
- Leaders recognize employees’ talents and encourage them to use their skills to achieve its vision and mission.
- Employees have great respect for their leaders because they give them a chance to learn, grow and develop as individuals.
6. Paternalistic Leadership
A Paternalistic leader focuses on employees’ needs rather than what they can contribute to the company. Therefore, the subordinate by looking out for them, taking control of situations when necessary, protecting them from stress or challenging tasks, motivating them with reward systems, and giving proper guidance when needed. Subordinates feel secure under this type of supervision but may not take full responsibility since they always look to their superiors for answers.
Examples of characteristics of a paternalistic leadership style:
- The leader acts like a parent who knows what is best for their children. Employees are expected to follow their superior’s directions without questioning them.
- Leaders take care of subordinates, acting as role models and mentors while providing comfort and safety in the workplace.
- Subordinates feel dependent on their leader because they are often not given chances to make decisions or develop new ideas. They think that they cannot be creative when under tight supervision.
- There is little input from the employees’ end since managers usually communicate instructions or expectations directly to them instead of discussing these with the team first.
7. Laissez-faire Leadership
A laissez-faire leadership style focuses more on efficiency than anything else, allowing employees to do whatever they like as long as they finish their tasks on time. There is minor communication between the leader and employees, working independently. Leaders expect high performance from their subordinates but do not provide guidance or direction for optimal results.
Leaders using a laissez-faire leadership style:
- They impose very few restrictions and rules over what team members can or cannot do to achieve company goals.
- Subordinates understand that they are responsible for reaching targets independently, without receiving too much input from their superiors, even when it comes to important decisions such as marketing strategies and deadlines.
- There is a poor employee-leader relationship where the leader does not motivate employees to work well.
- Employees are expected to be self-reliant since bosses tend to ignore them unless they have specific requests or issues that need immediate attention.
- There is no group involvement and plans seldom require any feedback from the subordinates.
Related: Laissez-Faire Leadership
8. Charismatic Leadership
A charismatic leadership style focuses on motivating others through passion and enthusiasm instead of using threats or fear tactics to achieve high performance from subordinates. Instead, the leader uses their natural charm and charisma to inspire employees to work hard and be excited about facing challenges in their line of duty.
Leaders using a charismatic leadership style:
- They take the time to know their subordinates personally, understanding what they like or dislike, their strengths and weaknesses, and what makes them tick. Once the leader gets to know their team members better, they can feel more enthusiastic about doing tasks even when faced with difficulties.
- Employees are inspired by their leader’s passion for succeeding, which motivates everyone else to perform well enough not to let down the person who led them there in the first place.
- There is often little room for mistakes since leaders become easily annoyed if things go as planned, especially without any valid reason. In addition, employees feel less secure because their jobs can be on the line should they commit mistakes that affect their performance or failure to meet expectations.
- There is not much guidance given for completing tasks and achieving targets. Instead, employees are expected to figure out things independently by looking at what other teams are doing in similar types of businesses.
Related: Charismatic Leadership
9. Pacesetting Leadership
A pacesetting leadership style focuses on getting results faster than giving team members time to settle down into their best work. Leaders using this approach push everyone around them to perform well beyond their average capacity, encouraging subordinates to work long hours away from family and friends if needed without receiving too much recognition or appreciation.
Leaders using a pacesetting leadership style:
- They take the initiative in making things happen, expecting everyone else to contribute to getting things done on time.
- Work output is very high, but employees often neglect their personal needs due to the long hours they spend on work.
- Employees are often criticized if targets are not met within deadlines; this leaves little room for development on the part of employees as they fear that mistakes will lead them to be reprimanded or even fired by their leader.
10. Coercive Leadership
A coercive leadership style uses threats and coercion to get subordinates to perform well by company goals. Employees are forced into doing tasks without choosing whether they like doing them or not. Coercive leaders usually have a low tolerance, which means consequences can be severe when employees fail to meet their expectations.
A coercive leadership style:
- Employees are often left with no choice but to do what is expected of them, even if it means facing consequences that they don’t agree with or like.
- There is less trust among employees because there are times that managers must resort to threats to get tasks done on time; this leaves many employees wondering if management can be trusted should things take a turn for the worse.
- There is no room for creativity as managers have set deadlines and protocols that subordinates have no choice but to follow. This limits innovation from those who work under leaders using a coercive style as they feel limited in trying new ideas that might not fit into what company leaders require of them.
Related: Coercive Leadership
11. Coaching Directorate
The coaching directorate style is characterized by leaders who offer direction and assistance to subordinates to achieve their goals.The coaching leadership style often asks employees how to help them get things done on time. A coaching leader encourages employees to take on tasks they are interested in or have knowledge about, but they are not pressured to do it.
Leaders using a coaching directorate style:
- They offer suggestions and ideas on how employees can improve their performance; managers will also monitor them to see if they are on track with their expectations.
- Employees are given the freedom to try new things to encourage them to develop their skills and capabilities.
- Managers give positive feedback when employees have finished projects on time and ask if their work has been satisfactory.
12. Delegating Leadership
Delegating leadership allows leaders to focus on other things, encouraging employees to take responsibility for what they do best. Leaders using this leadership style encourage employees to get started with their assigned work and then give them the necessary support to meet their deadlines.
Leaders using a delegating style:
- Employees are given the freedom to make decisions and try new things to encourage them to develop their skills and capabilities.
- Managers only offer suggestions on how work can be done more efficiently as they believe in empowering employees to take charge of their work.
Related: Delegation of Authority
13. Servant Leadership
Servant leadership is a style of leadership where leaders have the interest of their subordinates in mind at all times. Leaders using this type of leadership give their employees a sense of purpose, instilling loyalty and higher morale as they feel part of something bigger than themselves.
Leaders using servant leadership:
- Employees feel that their work is meaningful as it helps achieve company goals. The sense of purpose also encourages them to work harder to benefit those who depend on them.
- Employees are given more freedom as management trusts them to decide what needs to be done and how it should be done without much interference from managers.
Related: Servant Leadership
14. Hands-Off Leadership
Hands-Off leadership is a style of leadership where leaders allow their employees enough freedom to make decisions and keep developing their capabilities. Leaders using this type of leadership only intervene when necessary and give their employees room for autonomy as it helps them grow and learn independently.
Leaders using hands-off leadership:
- Employees feel more responsible as they are given a chance to prove themselves capable of taking on tasks that might eventually lead to more significant responsibilities within the company.
- Employees do not always look towards management whenever they need advice; some prefer just getting started on what needs to be done as they believe that managers can be trusted should issues arise.
15. Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Leadership
Leader-Member Exchange (LMX) Leadership Style is characterized by relationships between leaders and subordinates where trust and commitment exist. Leaders using this type of leadership style gain the commitment of their employees by offering them opportunities to be part of the decision-making process.
Leaders using leader-member exchange (LMX):
- Employees feel more committed to achieving company goals as their contributions are valued.
- Employees are given more responsibility as they are trusted with important decisions that influence the organization.
16. Participative Leadership
A participative leader is a company or industry leader who actively seeks input from employees. For instance, this type of leader may ask for suggestions on improving internal processes or involving employees in the planning stages of new initiatives. In addition, participative leadership attempts to engage employee morale by encouraging employee creativity and involvement in decision-making.
A participative leader encourages open discussion among employees about work procedures and policies to increase knowledge, expand perspective, improve teamwork, generate enthusiasm among staff members, and strengthen the commitment to the organization’s goals.
Examples of characteristics of participative leadership style:
- Initiates team involvement through frequent meetings and open communication.
- Involves employees in the decision-making process by encouraging input from all staff members.
- Actively listens to employees’ concerns and suggestions, even if they disagree.
- Encourages teamwork among employees rather than competition between individuals.
- Incorporates employees’ ideas and suggestions into the decision-making process.
- Encourages freedom of expression among staff members.
- Expresses genuine interest in employees as individuals.
How to find your leadership style?
Leadership has been around since the beginning of time. It is a natural occurrence in the animal kingdom and human society. There are many different leadership styles, but which is the best? That all depends on who you ask.
Some people would say that democratic leadership is best because it allows everyone to voice. Others might argue that autocratic leadership is better because it results in fast decisions and efficient actions.
The truth is, there is no right or wrong answer – it all depends on the situation and what works best for the individual or group involved. So, what type of leader are you? And more importantly, what style do your subordinates prefer? You may need to adapt your style to fit their needs or vice versa!
Related: Management Styles
Leading a team is complex, and many factors go into figuring out which leadership style will work best for you. The good news is that by understanding what different leadership styles entail, it’s possible to figure out the one that will work best in your organization or company.
There isn’t just one right way to lead; every leader has a unique approach based on their personality, skillset, strengths, and weaknesses. By understanding these different styles (and how they may affect your day-to-day life), you can find the perfect fit for yourself and grow your team’s productivity with only minor adjustments.
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