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. 

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