Leadership styles are the different approaches that leaders use to influence and guide their followers. Understanding one's own leadership style is important because it can help leaders to better understand their strengths and weaknesses, as well as the situations in which they are most likely to be effective.
In this blog post, we will take a look at the 11 most common leadership styles and explore the pros and cons of each one. We will also discuss strategies for identifying your own leadership style and the benefits that it can bring.
11 Most common leadership styles
Here are the 11 most common leadership styles.
1. Autocratic leadership
Autocratic leadership is a style in which leaders make decisions independently and without input from their followers. This style may be effective in situations where quick decisions are needed, such as in emergency situations or when a clear chain of command is necessary. However, it can also be detrimental to a leader's relationship with their followers, as it can be seen as unapproachable and unresponsive to their needs.
- Deczisions are made quickly and effectively
- Clear hierarchy and chain of command
- Strong and decisive leadership
- Lack of input or ideas from team members
- Low morale and motivation due to lack of participation
- Possibility of poor decisions due to lack of input from others
Real life examples
- Vladimir Putin - As the former President of Russia, Putin had complete control over the government and made decisions without consultation or input from others.
- Kim Jong-un - As the supreme Leader of North Korea, he has complete control over the country's political and economic systems and makes decisions without input from others.
- Steve Jobs - As the co-founder and former CEO of Apple, Jobs was known for making unilateral decisions and having a strong vision for the company's future, without compromising the quality of decisions.
2. Bureaucratic leadership
Bureaucratic leadership is a style in which leaders make decisions based on established procedures and rules. This style may be effective in situations where consistency is of great importance. In situations where order is needed, such as in government or large corporations, this style has its own benefits. However, bureaucratic leaders may also be seen as inflexible and slow to adapt to changing circumstances. They may also be seen as unresponsive to their followers since they are more concerned with following rules than listening to their subordinates.
- Clear rules and procedures provide stability
- Fair and consistent treatment of all team members
- Objectivity in decision making
- Slow decision-making process
- Lack of flexibility and adaptability
- Rigid adherence to rules can stifle creativity and innovation
Real life examples
- Angela Merkel - As the former Chancellor of Germany, Merkel was known for her methodical approach to decision making, relying on data and analysis to inform her policies.
- Jack Ma - As the founder and executive chairman of Alibaba Group, Ma has established a bureaucratic management style that emphasizes strict rules and procedures to ensure consistency in decision making.
- Janet Yellen - As the former Chair of the Federal Reserve, Yellen led the institution with a bureaucratic approach, relying on data and analysis to make monetary policy decisions.
3. Democratic leadership
Democratic leadership is a style in which leaders involve their followers in the decision-making process. This style may be effective in situations where creativity and collaboration are needed, such as in a team or in a business where innovation is important. The democratic style of leadership can help to motivate and engage followers, as they feel they have a say in the decisions that affect them. It also allows a leader to gather the input and perspectives of the people they lead to make better decisions.
- Team members feel valued and included in the decision-making process
- Encourages creativity and innovation from all team members
- High morale and motivation from participation
- Decisions can be slow and may lack decisiveness
- Group decision-making can lead to conflict or confusion
- Lack of clear hierarchy or chain of command
Real life examples
- Barack Obama - As the former President of the United States, Obama was known for his democratic leadership style, frequently seeking input and feedback from his advisors and stakeholders.
- Jacinda Ardern - As the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Ardern has a reputation for being a collaborative leader, seeking input from her team and the public when making decisions.
- Mark Zuckerberg - As the CEO of Facebook, Zuckerberg has a democratic leadership style, regularly soliciting input from his employees and encouraging them to share their opinions.
4. Laissez-Faire leadership
Laissez-faire leadership is a style in which leaders provide little or no direction and allow their followers to make decisions on their own. This style may be effective in situations where followers are highly skilled and motivated, and in which a leader wants to give more autonomy to their followers. However, it can also be detrimental if followers lack the skills or motivation to take on the additional responsibility.
- Team members have high autonomy and creativity
- Low micromanagement, leading to higher job satisfaction
- Team members take ownership and responsibility for their work
- Lack of direction and guidance
- Can result in poor performance and lack of accountability
- Can lead to confusion and lack of teamwork
Real life examples
- Richard Branson - As the founder of Virgin Group, Branson is known for giving his employees a lot of autonomy and freedom in their work, allowing them to take risks and make decisions without constant direction.
- Warren Buffett - As the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, Buffett has a laissez-faire leadership style, allowing his subsidiaries to operate independently and make decisions without close supervision.
- Azim Premji - As the chairman of Wipro, Premji is known for his hands-off management style, allowing his employees to work independently and make decisions without constant oversight.
5. Transformational leadership
Transformational leadership is a style in which leaders inspire and motivate their followers to achieve a common goal. This style may be effective in situations where a leader wants to create a shared vision and sense of purpose among their followers. It is effective in organizations that require a lot of innovation and change. They may use various techniques to make any team heard.
Transformational leaders may be seen as charismatic and can create a positive environment in which followers can develop to their full potential. However, followers may become dependent on a transformational leader, and when they are not present, it can be difficult for the team to continue working at the same level.
- Inspires and motivates team members to perform at their best.
- Encourages personal and professional growth of team members.
- Creates a positive work environment and culture.
- Can be demanding and time-consuming for the leader.
- Not all team members may respond to this style of leadership.
- May lead to burnout for both the leader and team members.
Real life examples
- Martin Luther King Jr. - As a civil rights leader, King inspired and motivated his followers to work towards a common goal, using his charisma and vision to bring about change.
- Nelson Mandela - As the former President of South Africa, Mandela transformed the country by promoting racial reconciliation and unity, inspiring his followers to work towards a brighter future.
- Steve Jobs - As the co-founder and former CEO of Apple, Jobs was a transformational leader, using his vision and passion to inspire and motivate his employees to create innovative products.
6. Transactional leadership
Transactional leadership is a style in which leaders use rewards and punishments to influence the behaviour of their followers. This style may be effective in situations where a leader wants to maintain a clear structure and order, such as in a factory or military setting. Transactional leaders establish clear expectations for their followers and use rewards and punishments to ensure that those expectations are met. They use goal setting measures that are highly effective. This style can be highly effective in achieving specific goals, but it can be less effective in fostering creativity, innovation and long-term motivation among followers. This leadership style is most effective in maintaining stability, providing structure and creating a sense of order.
- Clear expectations and consequences for performance
- Maintains order and stability in the workplace
- Promotes accountability and responsibility
- Leads to a negative work environment and low morale
- Focuses on punishment for mistakes, not improvement or growth
- Limited creativity and innovation
Real life examples
- Jack Welch - As the former CEO of General Electric, Welch was known for his transactional leadership style, using rewards and punishments to motivate his employees and achieve business results.
- Hillary Clinton - As a former US Secretary of State, Clinton was known for her transactional approach, using incentives and disincentives to achieve her goals and maintain order in her team.
- Bill Gates - As the co-founder of Microsoft, Gates was known for his transactional leadership style, using a results-oriented approach to motivate his employees and drive business success.
7. Servant leadership
Servant leadership is a style in which leaders focus on serving the needs of their followers. This style may be effective in situations where a leader wants to empower their followers, such as in a nonprofit organization or community. Servant leaders put the needs of their followers first, and actively work to support their growth and development. This can foster a strong sense of commitment and loyalty among followers. The drawback is that it can also lead to over-reliance on the leader and can be less effective in achieving specific goals. This style is most effective when a leader is working with a diverse group of followers who need different levels of support.
- Team members feel supported and cared for
- Fosters a positive and empowering work environment
- Encourages personal growth and development of team members
- Can be challenging to maintain a balance of serving and leading
- May not be effective in high-pressure or fast-paced environments
- Not all team members may respond well to this style of leadership
Real life examples
- Mahatma Gandhi - As a political and spiritual leader in India, Gandhi led by serving his followers, working tirelessly to improve their lives and empower them to create change.
- Mother Teresa - As a Catholic nun and humanitarian, Mother Teresa led by serving the poor and sick, putting their needs before her own and inspiring others to do the same.
- Narayan Murthy - As the co-founder of Infosys, Murthy led by serving his employees and stakeholders, putting their needs before his own and inspiring others to do the same.
8. Authentic leadership
Authentic leadership is a style in which leaders are true to themselves and transparent about their values and intentions. This style may be effective in situations where a leader wants to build trust and credibility with their followers, such as in a business setting. Authentic leaders are self-aware, have a strong sense of personal values, and are transparent about their intentions. They provide honest employee feedbacks through multitude ways. They are also good listeners and open to feedback. However, being true to yourself may not always align with the goals of the organization or the expectations of the followers.
- Creates trust and credibility with team members
- Encourages transparency and open communication
- Promotes personal and professional growth and well-being
- Can be challenging to maintain authenticity under pressure
- May not be suitable for high-stakes or high-pressure situations
- Can be perceived as weak or indecisive by some team members
Real life examples
- Oprah Winfrey - As a media mogul and philanthropist, Oprah is known for her authentic leadership style, being transparent and genuine with her audience and employees.
- Sheryl Sandberg - As the COO of Facebook, Sandberg is known for her authentic leadership style, openly discussing her challenges and setbacks to inspire others.
- Dwayne Johnson - As a former professional wrestler and actor, Johnson is known for his authentic leadership style, openly sharing his personal experiences and struggles to inspire others.
9. Charismatic leadership
Charismatic leadership is a style in which leaders have a strong presence and can inspire and motivate their followers. This style may be effective in situations where a leader wants to create a sense of excitement and enthusiasm, such as in a startup or political campaign. Charismatic leaders are often seen as inspiring and confident. Find out here some amazing quotes to motivate your team today. However, if a charismatic leader's behavior is not aligned with their words, it can lead to mistrust, disappointment, and disillusionment among followers.
- Inspires and motivates team members.
- Can bring about significant and positive change.
- Creates a strong vision and sense of purpose.
- Can lead to overconfidence and poor decision making.
- May not be sustainable if charisma fades.
- Can lead to favoritism and division within the team.
Real life examples
- Donald Trump - As a former President of the United States, Trump was known for his charismatic leadership style, using his confidence and charisma to rally his supporters.
- Tony Robbins - As a motivational speaker and life coach, Robbins is known for his charismatic leadership style, inspiring and motivating his followers with his dynamic speaking style.
- Elon Musk - As the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, Musk is known for his charismatic leadership style, inspiring and motivating his employees with his passion and vision for innovation.
10. Visionary leadership
Visionary leadership is a style in which leaders have a clear and compelling vision for the future and can inspire their followers to work towards that vision. This style may be effective in situations where a leader wants to create a sense of purpose and direction, such as in a business or government setting. Visionary leaders are able to articulate a clear and compelling vision for the future, and inspire their followers to work towards that vision. They consistently motivate the team through various methods. However, if a visionary leader does not have a clear plan for how to achieve their vision, it can lead to confusion and frustration among followers.
- Provides a clear direction and purpose for the team
- Encourages creativity and innovation
- Inspires team members to work towards a common goal
- Can be too focused on the future, neglecting present needs and responsibilities
- May not be practical or achievable
- May not be suitable for all team members or situations
Real life examples
- Jeff Bezos - As the founder and CEO of Amazon, Bezos is known for his visionary leadership style, having a clear and ambitious vision for the company's future.
- Mark Zuckerberg - As the CEO of Facebook, Zuckerberg is known for his visionary leadership style, having a clear and ambitious vision for the company's future and inspiring his employees to work towards it.
- Narendra Modi - As the current Prime Minister of India, Modi is known for his transformational leadership style, using his charisma and vision to inspire and motivate the country to work towards a brighter future.
11. Pacesetting leadership
Pacesetting leadership is a leadership style in which the leader sets a high standard for performance and expects the team to follow that standard. This leader is a model of excellence. They lead by example, setting high goals and pushing themselves and others to achieve them. They are highly results-driven and do in-depth performance reviews and may prioritize achieving goals over developing their team. They may also be impatient with less productive team members and unwilling to accommodate their different working styles. It's important for a pacesetting leader to be mindful of the potential downsides of their leadership style and to make adjustments where necessary to ensure the well-being of the team and to maintain a balance between achieving goals and developing their team.
- Sets high standards and encourages excellence
- Promotes efficiency and productivity
- Demonstrates a strong work ethic
- Can lead to burnout and high stress levels for team members
- Can result in low morale and lack of creativity
- Can create a negative work environment if standards are too high and unrealistic
Real life examples
- Jack Welch - As the former CEO of General Electric, Welch was known for his pacesetting leadership style, setting high standards for himself and his employees and expecting them to work at a fast pace.
- Marissa Mayer - As the former CEO of Yahoo, Mayer was known for her pacesetting leadership style, setting high standards for her employees and expecting them to work at a fast pace to achieve results.
- LeBron James - As a professional basketball player, James is known for his pacesetting leadership style, setting a high standard for his teammates and pushing them to work at a fast pace on the court.
4 Reasons: why it’s important to know your leadership style?
Knowing your leadership style can be beneficial for a number of reasons.
- First, understanding your own leadership style can help you to better understand your strengths and weaknesses as a leader. This can help you to identify areas where you may need to improve and also allow you to capitalize on your strengths.
- Second, knowing your leadership style can help you to be more effective in different situations. By understanding the situations in which your leadership style is most effective, you can adapt your approach to match the needs of the situation.
- Third, understanding your own leadership style can help you to be a better leader by identifying your unique strengths. This can help to give you a sense of purpose and make it easier for you to communicate your goals and vision to your followers.
- Fourth, by understanding your own leadership style, you can communicate better with people you lead. Knowing your leadership style and how it aligns with others’ can help you to better understand the needs of your followers and respond to their needs effectively.
How to identify your leadership style?
Identifying your leadership style can be a challenging but worthwhile process. Here are some strategies you can use to help identify your own leadership style:
1. Reflect on your experiences
Think about the situations in which you have been most successful and least successful as a leader. Consider the leadership style you used in each case and whether it was effective or not. This can give you a sense of the leadership styles that come naturally to you.
2. Take an assessment test
There are several different leadership assessment tests available, such as the Leadership Styles Assessment or the Hersey-Blanchard Situational Leadership Assessment. These tests can provide you with insight into your strengths and weaknesses as a leader and can help you to understand your leadership style.
3. Seek feedback
Ask your followers, colleagues, or supervisors for feedback on your leadership style. Ask them what they think your strengths and weaknesses are as a leader. This can give you a different perspective on your leadership style and help you to identify any blind spots.
4. Seek mentorship
Find a mentor who has a leadership style that you admire, and seek their guidance and advice. They can help you to understand what it takes to lead effectively in your specific context and how to develop your own style.
5. Read books
Read books or articles on different leadership styles: There are many resources available that can provide you with an understanding of the different leadership styles and the situations in which they are most effective.
6. Observe other leaders
Observe other leaders in your organization or community, and pay attention to their leadership style and the situations in which they are most effective. Reflect on what you observe and how it relates to your own experiences as a leader.
It's important to note that identifying your leadership style is an ongoing process. You may find that your leadership style evolves as you gain more experience and as you take on new roles or responsibilities.
Can you have more than 1 leadership style?
Yes, it is possible for a leader to have more than one leadership style. Remember that different situations may call for different leadership styles, so don't limit yourself to just one style. You may find that you use a combination of different styles and blend them depending on the situation, which is completely normal and a sign of a flexible and adaptable leader.
How to find the prominent one, and what to do?
It can be challenging to identify your dominant leadership style. A leadership assessment test can be helpful in identifying your dominant style, but it's important to keep in mind that it is not an absolute measure and you should also consider feedback and reflections from others and your own experiences.
Once you have a sense of your dominant leadership style, it's important to understand that it's not the only style you should use. It's important to develop your leadership skills and knowledge about different styles and to be adaptable, flexible and open to trying new styles. It's important to continuously reflect on your leadership style and assess whether it is still the best fit for your current context and whether it is getting the best results for you, your team, and your organization. So don't be afraid to challenge yourself and try out new styles.
How a CEO of a SaaS company can use multiple leadership styles?
Consider a CEO in a Saas Company.
Style 1: Bureaucratic leadership
When the CEO is dealing with day-to-day business operations, such as managing budgets and keeping the team on track with deliverables, they may use a more bureaucratic leadership style, which emphasizes rules, procedures, and maintaining stability. This style may be effective in keeping the business running smoothly and ensuring that everyone is following established procedures.
Style 2: Visionary leadership
However, when the CEO is working on strategy and planning for the company's future, they may shift to a more visionary leadership style, which emphasizes having a clear and compelling vision for the future and inspiring others to work towards that vision. This style allows the CEO to think big and inspires the team to aim for ambitious goals.
Style 3: Autocratic leadership
When the CEO is dealing with a crisis, such as a security incident or a downturn in the market, they may switch to an autocratic leadership style, which emphasizes taking quick and decisive action to resolve the problem. This style may be more effective in ensuring the stability of the company and its ability to navigate the crisis.
Style 4: Transformational leadership
Finally, when it comes to managing employee performance, the CEO may use a more transformational leadership style, which emphasizes inspiring and motivating employees to reach their full potential. This style may be more effective in fostering a sense of ownership and accountability among employees, and keeping them engaged with the company's vision and mission.
Through this example, it's clear that one leadership style doesn't fit all situations and individuals, the CEO has the ability to shift to different leadership styles as per the situation demands. By being aware of the different leadership styles and how they can be applied in different situations, the CEO is able to be more effective in leading the company and ensuring the best results for the business.
Understanding your own leadership style can help you to be a more effective leader, foster better working relationships with your followers, and help you to achieve your goals more effectively. The key to identifying your leadership style is to be reflective, self-aware, and open to feedback.
Suffice it to say, the importance of understanding your own leadership style cannot be overstated. It is the key to unlock the potential of your leadership abilities. Without an understanding of one’s own style, it is easy to become trapped in ineffective habits and miss opportunities to improve and lead more effectively. As you learn more about your own leadership style, you'll be able to better understand the situations in which you are most effective and adapt your approach to meet the needs of your followers and the organization. With this knowledge and understanding, you'll be able to develop the skills and strategies you need to become a more effective leader.