Definitive Guide to 9 Leadership Styles & How to Develop Your Leadership Style

9 Common Leadership Styles & How to Develop Your Own Leadership Style

by Sara J. Baker, Ed.D.

Do you know what your leadership style is? If not, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many people don’t understand the different leadership styles out there, and they struggle to identify which one they are using. In this blog post, we will discuss the different leadership styles and how to determine which one you use. We’ll also provide tips on how to improve your leadership skills if you feel like you could use some guidance!

What is a Leadership Style and Why Does It Matter?

A leadership style is a way in which a leader leads their team or organization. There are many different leadership styles out there, and each one has its own strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to understand the different leadership styles so that you can determine which one best suits your needs. Additionally, knowing your leadership style can help you to identify areas in

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes, but they all have one thing in common: the ability to motivate and guide others. But what separates a good leader from a great one? One important factor is leadership style.

Why Is It Important to Know Your Leadership Style?

Whether it’s commanding and authoritative, compassionate and supportive, or visionary and creative, the way a leader leads can have a big impact on their team’s performance. That’s why it’s so important for leaders to understand their own style. Only then can they put together a cohesive leadership plan that takes their strengths and weaknesses into account. So if you want to take your team to the next level, start by taking a closer look at your leadership style.

The Types of Leadership Styles

There are many different leadership styles out there, but they can generally be grouped into eight categories.

  1. Autocratic Leadership Style
  2. Bureaucratic Leadership Style
  3. Coaching Leadership Style
  4. Democratic Leadership Style
  5. Laissez-faire Leadership Style
  6. Servant Leadership Style
  7. Transformational Leadership Style
  8. Transactional Leadership Style
  9. Situational Leadership Style

Autocratic (or Authoritarian) Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about control. The authoritarian leadership style is one in which the leader exerts complete control over the group and makes all decisions without input from others. This style is often seen in organizations where there is a hierarchical structure and a clear chain of command. Authoritarian leaders typically have a highly directive approach, telling team members what needs to be done and how to do it.

This can be an effective leadership style in situations where time is limited and there is no room for error. However, it can also lead to low morale and low levels of creativity and innovation.

Definitive Guide to Leadership Styles

Advantages

This can be an effective leadership style in situations where quick decisions need to be made. It can also be helpful if the team is inexperienced or needs clear direction. Autocratic leaders typically have a strong vision for their team or organization.

They know where they want to go and how they want to get there. This can provide much-needed clarity and purpose for employees who might otherwise be directionless. This can be especially helpful in times of crisis when quick and decisive action is needed. Autocratic leaders tend to be very active and involved in their team’s work. They are usually accessible and available to answer questions or offer guidance.

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of the autocratic leadership style are that it can lead to employees feeling closed off from their leader, leading to feelings of disconnection and a lack of trust. Additionally, this leadership style can sometimes result in employees feeling unfairly treated, as there is often a clear hierarchical structure with little room for input or feedback from subordinates.

If used excessively, this style of leadership can also lead to high levels of stress and anxiety among employees, as they may feel constantly under pressure to perform perfectly. Autocratic leaders may have difficulty delegating tasks or sharing decision-making power, which can limit the effectiveness of their team overall. This leadership style can stifle creativity and innovation. It can also lead to resentment among team members who feel like they have no input or ownership over the project.

Example

This type of leader might say: “I’ve made my decision, and that’s final.”

Suzie was always a strict leader. She never hesitated to make her employees feel the consequences of their actions. Suzie worked hard to be fair, but she also knew how to lay down the law when needed. She demanded respect and loyalty from her team, and would often resort to yelling and intimidation tactics if they didn’t comply. This caused a lot of stress and tension in the workplace, as employees felt that they couldn’t trust their leader or each other. Morale was low, and productivity suffered as a result.

Bureaucratic Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about following the rules. The leader focuses on procedures and systems, and they expect the team to do the same. The bureaucratic leadership style is characterized by a clear hierarchy, stringent rules and regulations, and a focus on efficiency. This type of leader typically delegates tasks and gives clear instructions, expecting team members to complete their work with minimal supervision. The bureaucratic leader often relies on standard operating procedures to achieve objectives and may be reluctant to deviate from established protocols.

While this leadership style can be effective in certain situations, it can also lead to rigidity and a lack of creativity. In addition, team members may become frustrated with the lack of autonomy and feel that their input is not valued. When used appropriately, however, the bureaucratic leadership style can help organizations to run smoothly and efficiently.

Definitive Guide to Leadership Styles

Advantages

The main advantage of the bureaucratic leadership style is its stability. This leadership style can create a sense of order and predictability. It can also help to ensure that tasks are completed correctly and efficiently. Clear rules and procedures are provided that everyone must follow, which can help to prevent chaos in organizations. Additionally, this leadership style can create a chain of command that helps ensure tasks are completed efficiently and effectively. 

Disadvantages

The disadvantages of the bureaucratic leadership style are that it can lead to a lot of red tape, slow decision making, and inflexibility. It can also lead to a top-down management approach in which decisions are made by those at the top and passed down through the ranks. This type of management style can be less effective in fast-paced, constantly changing environments. And since decisions tend to be made slowly in bureaucracies, there is often a lack of responsiveness to change.

Example

This type of leader might say: “This is the way we’ve always done it, so that’s the way we’ll continue to do it.”

Angela was a leader who showed the bureaucratic leadership style. She made sure that everything followed the rules and procedures to the letter. This caused lack of buy-in and low productivity among her team. Her team felt like they couldn’t do anything without getting approval from her, which slowed down their work. As a result, the team’s overall productivity suffered.

Coaching Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about developing team members. The coaching leadership style involves providing guidance and support to team members as they work to improve their skills and achieve their goals. This type of leader focuses on helping others to grow and develop, rather than simply telling them what to do. The coaching leadership style can be particularly effective in situations where team members are struggling to meet a challenge or complete a task.

By providing encouragement and offering suggestions, the coach can help team members to find new ways to succeed. In addition, the coaching leadership style can build strong relationships between leaders and team members. This is because the leader is focused on helping the team member, rather than on dictating what should be done. As a result, the coaching leadership style can be an extremely effective way to lead a team.

Definitive Guide to Leadership Styles

Advantages

This leadership style can help to develop new skills and knowledge among team members. It can also create a more supportive and positive work environment. The coaching leadership style is an effective way to develop and motivate employees.

Coaching allows leaders to provide feedback and guidance while maintaining a supportive relationship. This approach helps employees feel valued and appreciated, which can improve job satisfaction and work performance. Additionally, coaching can help leaders identify and cultivate new talent within their organization.

Disadvantages

One of the main disadvantages of the coaching leadership style is that it can be time-consuming. Coaching requires a certain level of emotional intelligence and patience, so not all leaders may be suited for this type of leadership.

Another potential disadvantage is that the coaching leadership style may not be effective in every situation. For example, if a leader is dealing with a crisis or an emergency, coaching may not be the most appropriate approach. In such cases, a more directive or authoritarian leadership style may be more appropriate.

Example

This type of leader might say: “Let’s brainstorm some ideas on how we can improve this.”

Isabel is the leader of a small team of engineers. When she was promoted to her current role, she knew that she would need to start coaching her team members in order for them to grow and develop their skills. Since taking on this new role, Isabel has been working hard to create a supportive environment where her team can feel comfortable asking questions and sharing ideas.

At first, her team was hesitant to take direction from her. But Isabel was patient, and she continued to work closely with them. Over time, they began to see that she truly cared about their success, and they started to respect her more. They also began to feel more confident in their own abilities, thanks to Isabel’s guidance.

She begins each meeting by outlining the goals for the day, and then provides plenty of opportunity for her team members to ask questions and share feedback. Isabel is always willing to offer help and guidance when needed, but she also allows her team members to figure things out on their own whenever possible. Thanks to Isabel’s coaching leadership style, her team has made great progress over the past year.

Participative Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about collaboration and group decision-making. The participative leadership style is one in which the leader takes a hands-on approach to leading and working with their team. This type of leader is focused on developing a strong team dynamic and involving all members of the team in the decision-making process. Participative leaders strive to create an open and inclusive environment where everyone feels like their voice is being heard.

This leadership style can be extremely effective in situations where there is a need for creative problem-solving. However, it is important to note that this style of leadership does require a certain amount of trust from the team members. Without trust, participative leadership can quickly become ineffective.

Definitive Guide to Leadership Styles

Advantages

This style of leadership allows for greater input from team members, which can lead to more successful and innovative solutions to problems. Additionally, participative leadership can foster a greater sense of buy-in and ownership among team members in regard to both the leader’s vision and the goals of the team as a whole. Finally, this type of leadership often results in higher levels of job satisfaction and motivation among employees, as they feel that their voices are being heard and valued.

When used effectively, the participative leadership style can offer a number of benefits for both leaders and teams. With that said, it is important to note that this style is not without its challenges.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantages of the participative leadership style are that it can be time-consuming and can also lead to low decision-making efficiency. When a leader takes on a participative role, they are essentially asking for input from their team members before making a decision. This can be a great way to get buy-in from team members and to ensure that everyone is on board with the final decision. However, it can also slow down the decision-making process and lead to gridlock if team members cannot agree on a course of action.

Example

This type of leader might say: “I’d like to hear your thoughts on this issue.”

Sonia was a new leader in an organization that had been struggling for years. The company was in the middle of a recession and morale was low. Sonia’s first instinct was to come up with a plan and start ordering people around. However, she soon realized that this type of leadership would not work in this situation. She needed to engage the staff and get them on board with her vision.

So Sonia started meeting with individuals one-on-one and listening to their ideas. She also asked for their help in coming up with solutions. Over time, the staff began to trust Sonia and feel more invested in the company. They were excited to be a part of the team and help turn things around. Thanks to Sonia’s participative leadership style, the company was able to make a successful turnaround.

Laissez-faire Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about delegation and freedom. Laissez-faire leadership is a style of leadership in which the leader takes a hands-off approach and allows subordinates to make decisions and solve problems on their own. This style of leadership can be beneficial in situations where subordinates are highly skilled and experienced and are able to work independently.

However, it can also be detrimental if subordinates lack the knowledge or expertise to make sound decisions. In addition, laissez-faire leadership can lead to a feeling of isolation among subordinates and a sense that their work is not valued. As a result, laissez-faire leadership is best used in moderation and only in situations where subordinates are truly capable of working independently.

Advantages

There are a few advantages to this type of leadership. First, it allows subordinates to use their own judgment and expertise to do their job. This can lead to better results since they are using their own knowledge and skills instead of following someone else’s instructions.

It also shows trust in subordinates. By allowing them to do their job without interference, the leader is indicating that they have faith in their abilities. It can encourage creativity and innovation among subordinates. Since they are not being micromanaged, they have the freedom to experiment and try new things.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of this leadership style is that it can lead to poor performance. Subordinates may not have enough direction or guidance from the leader, which can lead to confusion and mistakes. It can also lead to a lack of communication and collaboration among employees. This leadership style can create confusion among employees about who is in charge and what their job responsibilities are. Finally, this leadership style can often lead to chaos and dysfunction within the organization.

Example

This type of leader might say: “Do whatever you think is best.”

Michelle was a new manager and she decided she would try a hands-off approach and use the laissez-faire leadership style. This type of leadership is one where the leader does not interfere with their employees and allows them to work freely. Michelle thought this would be a great way to show her team that she trusts them and believes in their abilities.

However, within just a few weeks of using this approach, it became clear that it was not working. Employees were not meeting deadlines, their motivation appeared to be pretty low, and overall productivity had decreased. Michelle realized that she needed to step in and start setting some weekly goals and making sure her team had everything they needed in order to get things back on track.

Servant Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about the leader helping team members and meeting their needs. The servant leadership style is a way of leading based on service. The leader provides guidance and support to followers, but ultimately puts their needs above their own. This style emphasizes teamwork and collaboration, as well as a deep concern for the welfare of others.

Servant leaders often build strong relationships with their followers and work to create a supportive and inclusive environment. They typically avoid using authority or coercion, instead relying on persuasion and example to motivate and inspire others. This type of leadership can be effective in many different settings, including business, government, and education. Ultimately, the goal of servant leadership is to create a more just and equitable world.

Advantages

This leadership style can create a supportive and positive work environment. It can also help to develop new skills and knowledge among team members. The Servant Leadership Style builds trust, develops people, and creates a sense of community.

Servant Leaders develop trust because they are focused on the needs of their followers, not themselves. They are also willing to put their followers’ interests before their own and to help them grow both professionally and personally. Finally, Servant Leaders create a sense of community by valuing everyone in the organization and by fostering a culture of mutual respect.

Disadvantages

One potential disadvantage of the Servant Leadership Style is that it can be difficult to establish boundaries and maintain a sense of authority. As a servant leader, you may be more likely to put the needs of your team members ahead of your own and this can lead to feelings of ambiguity about who is in charge. Additionally, some people may view servant leadership as being too passive or weak.

Example

This type of leader might say: “How can I help you?”

Sam was always the type of person who wanted to help others. When she was younger, she would often volunteer in her community and do whatever she could to make a difference. So, when she became a leader, it was only natural for her to adopt the servant leadership style.

She made it her mission to know everything about her team and their individual strengths and weaknesses. She then worked tirelessly to ensure that they had all the resources they needed to be successful. And if there was ever anything she could do to help them personally, she was more than happy to do so.

The team responded well to her approach and they were able to achieve great things together. They felt appreciated and valued, which made them want to work even harder.

Transformational Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about change. Transformational leadership is a type of leadership that creates positive change in followers by increasing their motivation and encouraging them to take risks. This type of leader is interested in the development of their followers and works to inspire them to reach their full potential.

A transformational leader is typically charismatic and has the ability to motivate others through their vision and passion. This style of leadership can be beneficial in situations where change is needed and employees are resistant to new ideas. Transformational leaders are able to create a shared sense of purpose among followers and help them see the value in taking on new challenges.

Definitive Guide to Leadership Styles

Advantages

This leadership style can help to make significant improvements. It can also create a sense of ownership among team members and inspire followers to achieve great things.

Transformational leaders inspire their followers to change their beliefs and behaviors in order to achieve a common goal. They provide a clear vision and give their followers a sense of purpose. And they are able to motivate and energize their followers by setting high standards and challenging them to exceed their expectations. As a result, followers are more likely to be committed to the leader’s vision and more willing to put forth the extra effort required to achieve success.

Disadvantages

One disadvantage of the transformational leadership style is that it can be demanding and require a lot of leaders. It can also be time-consuming, as transformational leaders often invest a great deal of themselves in their work.

Another potential downside is that some followers may feel manipulated or “used” by the leader, especially if they are not fully bought into the vision or mission. It’s also possible for a transformational leader to go too far in pushing his or her team towards change, resulting in chaos and confusion instead of progress.

Example

This type of leader might say: “Let’s brainstorm some ideas on how we can improve this process.”

Alice is the leader of a group of volunteers who are working on a project to help the homeless. She has been working with the group for six months and has developed a close relationship with them. They know that they can rely on her to help them out when they need it. Recently, the group has been struggling to come up with new ideas to help the homeless.

Alice decides to take a step back and let her team members brainstorm on their own. After they have come up with some ideas, she asks them what they think about each idea and why they think it would work. Then, she provides her own input and guidance on how to implement the ideas. Finally, she asks the team to vote on which idea they want to pursue.

Transactional Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about transactions. The leader focuses on exchanging rewards for performance. In other words, followers are motivated by the prospect of receiving something in return for their efforts. This type of leader typically sets clear goals and establishes a clear set of expectations.

When followers meet or exceed these expectations, they are typically rewarded with praise, bonuses, or other forms of recognition. Conversely, when followers fail to meet expectations, they may be subject to disciplinary action. While transactional leadership can be an effective way to motivate employees, it can also lead to a transactional relationship between leader and follower, where each party is more focused on what they can get out of the relationship rather than working towards a common goal.

Advantages

This leadership style can provide clear direction and motivation. It can also create a sense of ownership among team members. The advantage of the transactional leadership style is that it produces short-term results. This leadership style is based on the premise that leaders should reward employees for meeting or exceeding goals, and punish them for failing to do so.

The transactional leadership style is often used in business settings because it’s an effective way to motivate employees to produce results. However, this type of leadership can also be harsh and demanding, which may not be ideal in all situations. Additionally, the transactional leadership style can be limiting since it doesn’t allow for much creativity or innovation.

Disadvantages

The main disadvantage of the transactional leadership style is that it can create a lot of stress and anxiety in the workplace. This is because this type of leader tends to use threats and rewards as a way to motivate employees. As a result, employees may feel like they are always being watched and are under constant pressure to perform. This can lead to high levels of stress and reduced productivity.

Another disadvantage of this style is that it can often lead to unethical behavior. This is because employees may be more likely to act unethically in order to receive a reward from their boss. For example, they may be willing to cut corners or fudge numbers in order to get ahead.

Example

What this type of leader might say: “If you do this, then you will receive that.”

Annabelle was the new boss. She had been transferred from a corporate office to lead a team of salespeople in a regional branch. The team was unruly and under-performing. Annabelle’s first priority was to establish herself as the leader. She needed the team to respect her authority and follow her direction if they were going to improve their sales numbers.

Annabelle quickly realized that she needed to be more transactional with her team. She needed to clearly communicate expectations, give them feedback on their performance, and reward them when they met or exceeded her expectations. She also made it clear that there would be consequences for not meeting goals.

The team responded well to Annabelle’s leadership style. They started meeting their sales goals and became one of the top-performing teams in the company.

Situational Leadership Style

This leadership style is all about adaptability. Situational leadership is a style of leadership that is based on the specific situation at hand. The situational leader adapts their style to fit the needs of the team or individual they are working with. This style is different from other styles, such as command-and-control leadership, because it takes into account the unique circumstances of each situation.

The goal of situational leadership is to provide the right level of support and guidance, so that team members can successfully complete their tasks. This style of leadership has been shown to be effective in a wide range of situations, from small teams to large organizations.This leadership style can be effective in situations where the team or organization is constantly changing.

Advantages

The situational leadership style has a number of advantages that make it well suited for many different types of organizations. For one, the situational leadership style is highly flexible and adaptable, meaning that it can be tailored to fit the specific needs of any organization. Additionally, the situational leadership style emphasizes collaboration and communication between leaders and followers, which can help to create a more cohesive and productive team. Finally, the situational leadership style is focused on developing people and encouraging them to reach their full potential, which can lead to higher levels of employee satisfaction and engagement.

Disadvantages

The situational leadership style also has several disadvantages that can limit its effectiveness in certain situations. One potential disadvantage is that it can be difficult to effectively match the appropriate leadership style to the specific situation at hand.

Another disadvantage of this leadership style is that it relies heavily on the leader’s ability to accurately assess the abilities and motivation of followers. If the leader incorrectly assesses either of these factors, it can lead to ineffective or even harmful results. Finally, some critics argue that the situational leadership style excessively focuses on leader-follower dynamics and does not sufficiently take into account other important situational factors, such as task difficulty or organizational culture.

Example

What this type of leader might say: “Let’s see how this situation develops and then we can adapt our approach as needed.”

Joanna had a knack for understanding the dynamics of any group and quickly adapting to meet the needs of her team. She was always able to put herself in other people’s shoes, which allowed her to be an effective leader. On one particular project, Joanna had to lead a team of engineers who were working on building a new product. The team was struggling with meeting deadlines and getting along well with each other.

Joanna took a step back and assessed the situation. She noticed that some of the engineers were trying to take on too much work, while others weren’t pulling their weight. She also saw that the team was having trouble communicating effectively. Joanna decided to adapt her leadership style to fit the situation.

She sat down with the team and explained her observations. She then asked the team to come up with a plan to distribute the workload more evenly and to improve communication. The team came up with a plan and they were able to successfully meet their deadlines.

How to Develop Your Own Leadership Style

Anyone in a position of leadership must recognize and understand the different styles of leadership. However, it is important to note that being a successful leader is not simply about providing the right response in a given situation. It is more important to be authentic and use your natural strengths as a leader to inspire those around you.

When you are genuine in your leadership, people are more likely to trust and respect you. They will also be more motivated to follow your lead. Mimicking someone else’s leadership style is unlikely to result in success because people will see through the act. Being a successful leader requires you to be true to yourself and use your own unique strengths to guide others.

Take Our Leadership Strengths Quiz

Leadership is a complex skillset that requires knowledge, experience, and emotional intelligence. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership, and the best leaders are often those who have honed their abilities through years of practice. However, everyone has the potential to be a great leader, and understanding your strengths is a crucial first step.

Our leadership strengths quiz can help you to identify the leadership actions that come naturally to you. By understanding your strengths, you can begin to develop the other skills that you need to build a successful team. So why not take our quiz today and see which leadership strengths are waiting to be unleashed?

Leadership Skill Development

Leadership is an essential skill in any field, and it’s one that can always be improved upon. The best way to continue developing your leadership skills is to participate in regular leadership development and training.

Our on-demand leadership courses are designed to help you focus on the most important areas of improvement, so you can make the biggest impact in your career. Each course can be completed in 30 minutes or less, so you can easily fit it into your busy schedule. Whether you’re looking to refine your communication skills, build better relationships with your team, or increase your decision-making abilities, our courses will provide you with the tools you need to succeed.

Investing in your continued leadership development is the best way to ensure that you’re always prepared to meet the challenges of leadership head-on.

So there you have it, the definitive guide to understanding leadership styles and how to develop your own leadership style. We hope that you found this information helpful and that you’ll put it into practice in your career. Remember, leadership is a complex skill that takes time and effort to master, but it’s one that is well worth the investment. Thanks for reading!

Be sure to check out our other blog posts for more leadership tips and advice. And don’t forget to take our leadership strengths quiz to learn more about your leadership style.

Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

About the Author

Dr. Sara Baker is a thought leader in the area of positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees face every day.

Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment or who is ready to quietly quit. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

Sara enjoys spending time with her family and friends on her farm in Texas.

Dr. Sara Baker, Founder of the Leadership Reformation

About the Author

Dr. Sara Baker is a thought leader in the area of positive leadership and healthy workplaces. With over 20 years of experience leading private and public organizations, she understands the challenges that employees face every day.

Sara is the author of Toxic Workplace Survival Guide, an essential resource for anyone who wants to thrive in spite of a toxic work environment or who is ready to quietly quit. In addition to her writing, Sara provides online courses for leadership development and coping with a toxic workplace.

Sara enjoys spending time with her family and friends on her farm in Texas.

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