The 8 Most Common Leadership Styles and How To Find Your Own

Understanding your leadership style gives you a baseline to analyze your capabilities as you seek to identify the improvements you need to make. 

Fundamentally, leadership is all about guiding people in a group or organization through their own behaviors and action. This could mean heading a department or institution with the primary aim of making sure things run as smoothly as possible. That said, it is important to note that leadership is a fluid process that constantly changes as situations demand — and this is where leadership styles come in. 

By definition, a leadership style is a leader’s style and methods of directing and managing others. It basically determines how you strategize and run things in an organization for the benefit of the stakeholders. Therefore, your specific leadership style is defined by how you handle responsibilities and how effective you are at it. 

Why it is important to understand your leadership style

Understanding the different types of leadership models is crucial because it gives you a better sense of control over your reach and scope. Moreover, it allows you to align your goals, values, and vision with those of the organization you are leading. In other words, knowing your leadership style gives you a baseline to analyze your capabilities as you seek to identify the improvements you need to make. 

Types of leadership styles

Below are the eight common leadership styles you need to be aware of:  

Democratic leadership

As the name suggests, a democratic type of leadership is where a leader makes decisions based on the input of the team members. It is considered one of the most effective methods because it involves all the relevant parties (including junior members) in the decision-making process, ensuring they participate in the affairs that are of concern to them. It also ensures they are able to handle bigger responsibilities in the future or even in the absence of senior leaders.

For instance, a democratic leader can give the members decision-related options, where they could open a discussion or cast a vote. The decision that wins is adopted and implemented, and in case of a tie, the leader casts the final vote to break it.

Autocratic leadership

In this leadership style, a leader makes decisions without the involvement of the rest of the team members. The leader expects those who report to them to adhere to any changes made without raising questions, even when a decision directly affects them (the employees). For the most part, it is an ineffective approach and can lead to employees quitting, especially when they begin to consider the administration as dictatorial. 

A good example of autocratic leadership is when a manager conducts reshuffles or changes working hours without consulting the affected employees. 

Bureaucratic leadership

A bureaucratic leader goes by the book – this means that, while they do not dictate to employees, they tend to oppose ideas or input that do not align with established practices and traditions. Their resistance is mostly because the organization has had success with existing practices and therefore sees no need to introduce newer practices that might end up costing the company money if they don’t work. 

A problem with this style of leadership is that it does not support creativity and innovation because employees lack the freedom in what they can do within their roles. Also, it tends to suppress ideas that are not congruent with existing policies.  

Laissez-faire leadership

In a laissez-faire style of leadership, employees are afforded all the freedom to manage themselves. It is a common practice in young startups where employees are trusted to handle their responsibilities while senior members focus on more demanding tasks and the overall running of the company. 

Although this approach can empower employees to experiment with new and viable ideas, it can limit development and undermine critical growth opportunities. So, there should be some level of monitoring to ensure everything runs accordingly. 

Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership seeks to transform employees by allowing them room to innovate and think outside the box. Ideally, it does not confine workers to rigid ideologies and ways of doing things; rather, it encourages them to try new ways of getting things done. Transformational leaders inspire and empower junior members to challenge themselves to reach their highest potentials. 

It is an ideal form of leadership where a company focuses solely on growth. However, leaders should know that this method can only be successful when employees are provided with leadership coaching to guide them through new responsibilities and challenges. 

Transactional leadership

In transactional leadership, leaders reward employees for work done and give penalties for targets not reached. Here, a leader will praise an employee who does a commendable job and penalize one who fails to attain the set goals. It is effective in helping to establish roles and responsibilities for employees, although it can encourage bare minimum work since employees know the worth of their effort every time. 

Leaders who adopt this leadership style should use incentives to motivate their employees and ensure that the incentive programs are unscheduled so that employees don’t see them as so predictable. 

Authoritative leadership

These leaders are also known as visionary and are mostly known to apply the philosophy of ‘follow me.’ Typically, they map the way for their followers, but unlike autocratic leaders, they seek the input of members and generally explain their decisions as opposed to just issuing orders. Also, they allow people choice and engage them to have a better perspective on how to achieve goals. 

Authoritative leaders are effective in times of uncertainty as they provide solutions when most needed and help the company to get through hard times, especially when others are not capable of providing guidance.

Coach-style leadership

A leader who uses coach-style leadership focuses on nurturing employees at an individual level. The ultimate goal is to build the strengths of each member of the team to enable them to work better together. When each employee focuses on a specific area of expertise and skills, they are able to contribute more as a team and can communicate effectively to achieve the organizational goals.

A manager who incorporates coach-style leadership can help employees improve by giving new and challenging tasks, providing feedback, and offering leadership coaching so that team members can better their skills. 

Choosing leadership styles

As a HR leader, it is crucial to know the leadership models that work best for you and your organization. When choosing the most suitable styles for you, consider this: 

  • Understand the different styles
  • Know yourself
  • Practice makes a leader
  • Develop leadership agility 

Indeed, being an effective leader is all about understanding what leadership style brings the best qualities in you and helps you grow both at an individual and organizational level. Keep in mind that you can keep trying different methods until you find what enables you to achieve your goals, and feel free to make adjustments as circumstances change. 

Join Our Newsletter!

Share on linkedin
Share on twitter
Share on facebook

Request A Demo

We Develop The World's Most Impactful Leaders

From leading remote workforces, building productive teams, to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, Sounding Board has virtual and scalable enterprise solutions that are urgently required to adapt to rapidly changing workplace environments.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Play Video
Play Video
Play Video

Piyush Gupta

Chief Product Officer

Piyush Gupta is Chief Product Officer at Sounding Board and champions the voice of customers and users with deep empathy. Piyush envisions Sounding Board to be the first window of coaching experience for professionals and leaders worldwide. His approach is deeply rooted in proven scientific research, modeling human behaviors, and data-informed insights to deliver mindset shifts and desired business outcomes for organizations at scale. He believes that a world-class UX is key to drive simplicity that will lead to millions of professionals to access coaching for their development.

Piyush co-invented the world’s first ‘landmark intelligent driving directions’ technology that led Google to redesign their routing algorithms for the Asian markets. For the next decade, he led two disruptive FinTech companies to the market leadership positions and delivered two award-winning products that serve more than 70 million users worldwide. His teams filed 20+ patents while he himself authored three patents. He is an active startup investor and advises selected AI-driven startups on business and product strategy. He is the recipient of the World Summit Award, one of the most prestigious international honors for product innovators. In addition, he is a James Swartz fellow, the most prestigious fellowship at Carnegie Mellon University funded by the founder of the iconic venture firm, Accel Partners.

Piyush holds an MS in Software Management from Carnegie Mellon University.

Tommy Perkins

SVP OF SALES, PARTNERSHIP & CUSTOMER SUCCESS

Tommy is at his best helping clients think through complex challenges in order to create a positive impact on their organizations. He thrives when interacting with others whether helping his team succeed or working with clients to build long-term partnerships. He has extensive experience consulting with organizations on driving their employee experience, guiding organizations through change, and working to ensure organizations are moving the needle when it comes to their results.

Most recently, Tommy was a Client Services Leader overseeing some of GP’s most prized accounts on a global level. His responsibilities included overall client growth strategy, retention, and satisfaction. He represented all of GP Strategies’ major business lines including leadership, coaching, and engagement, digital transformation, outsourced services, and technology implementation solutions.

Before GP Strategies, Tommy spent several years with TTEC Digital (formerly rogenSI) where he led the sales team,  eventually becoming the regional Learning & Performance practice leader for North America. While managing the P&L and sales team he also led the largest global relationship for the firm (Deloitte Globally). During his time at TTEC, he focused on delivering blended learning solutions that incorporate technology and hands-on training. Before TTEC Digital, he spent several years dedicated to strength-based leadership disrupting the business landscape regarding performance management and employee engagement with thought leader Marcus Buckingham at The Marcus Buckingham Company / TMBC (now ADP).

Tommy has had the privilege of working with some of the most well-known global brands in professional services, retail, technology, and healthcare including Deloitte, Facebook, Microsoft, Bank of America, Novartis, Gap Inc., lululemon, and Intel. Several projects he led for Deloitte were Global GNPS, New Partner Pivot, NextGen Partner Program Deloitte China, Present to Win, the RPM project on performance management, and Unconscious Bias.

Tommy holds a BS in Health Sciences from Texas A&M University, and an MBA from Universidad del CEMA.

Learn How to Build Agile and Productive Leaders Now!

From leading remote workforces, building productive teams, to improving diversity, equity, and inclusion, Sounding Board has virtual and scalable enterprise solutions that are urgently required to adapt to rapidly changing workplace environments.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

We respect your privacy! Your information will not be shared

Join our coaching team

Our expert coaches combine top notch coaching, business acumen and organizational savvy to truly become your leadership “Sounding Board”. Sounding Board coaches are all industry certified and strongly vetted going through a 3 step qualification process and receiving ongoing supervision and development.

Lori Mazan

Co-Founder & CCO Sounding Board, Inc.
Lori Mazan is the Co-Founder and Chief Coaching Officer of Sounding Board, the preeminent global leadership development enterprise platform changing the face of leadership development through innovative technology for leaders at all levels of an organization. Lori is a seasoned executive coach who has guided hundreds of corporate executives through 1:1 coaching focused on business outcomes and developing critical leadership skills. Client companies advanced by Lori’s expertise include Fortune titans such as Chevron and Sprint as well as high growth and public companies like Intellikine, and Tapjoy, plus 10XGenomics, which became a public company in 2019 while top executives worked with Lori and the Sounding Board team.
Lori has spent the last 25 years coaching C-Suite executives to leadership excellence. Many of those public and private company CEO’s expressed that they would have liked this caliber of coaching earlier in their careers. Inspired by these experiences, Lori joined with Christine to launch Sounding Board as a feedback-driven, cloud-based leadership coaching platform that could maintain best-in-class leadership coaching while lowering costs to make it affordable and scalable for leaders at every level of their careers.
Before founding Sounding Board, Lori received her Masters’ in Adult Educational Psychology/Counseling from the University of San Francisco and a Bachelors’ in Psychology from the University of Virginia. Lori is an educator and has spent over 10 years as a professor of social psychology and group dynamics while acting as the interim Dean of Students at Holy Names University, She is certified by the industry’s gold standard, the Coaches Training Institute, and is a founding member of the Genentech Preferred Network of Coaches. Sounding Board is one of <3% of sole female founded startups receiving venture funding. In 2019 Sounding Board was selected as 1 of 7 startups (out of 100+ applicants) as part of SAP’s HR tech cohort, a group that represents the rising stars of the next-gen HR ecosystem.

Christine Tao

Co-Founder & CEO Sounding Board, Inc.
Christine Tao is the co-founder & CEO at Sounding Board, a Silicon Valley startup redefining how organizations are developing their leaders. Her extraordinarily rapid career growth to executive management in the media, mobile and tech sectors of Silicon Valley became her inspiration for founding Sounding Board. As she began to manage larger teams and be responsible for growing revenues, it became clear that she needed a “sounding board” to coach her on the development of her leadership skills. That’s where her Sounding Board co-founder, Lori Mazan came on the scene. A seasoned executive coach focused on leadership development, Lori coached Christine on real-world leadership skills that had a direct impact on business outcomes. Based on her positive and impactful experience with leadership development, Christine was driven to make leadership development coaching accessible to people at all levels of the organization.
Christine advises several startups, is a budding angel investor and is also a Tory Burch Foundation Fellow, a foundation dedicated to investing in the success and sustainability of women entrepreneurs.
Prior to co-founding Sounding Board, Christine was a Senior Vice President of Developer Relations at Tapjoy, a venture-backed, leading mobile advertising & publishing network. She led the growth of Tapjoy’s publisher advertising business from 0 to over $100 million in revenues in less than 3 years. Prior to that she led e-commerce partnerships and strategy at YouTube. Christine holds an MBA in Marketing & Operations from Wharton and a BA in Business Administration from UC Berkeley.

Want to learn more about how Sounding Board can help your organization?

Simply fill out the form below and we will be in contact soon. If you are interested in becoming a Sounding Board Coach please visit our careers page.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.