Find out what style fits your personality and how to adopt the best qualities in leadership.
“Leadership is the capacity to translate vision into reality.” – Warren Bennis
Every leader has a style. Some of you probably borrow a little something from many leadership styles.
There’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, some leadership styles are exactly right for certain scenarios but not excellent for others.
Here’s a simple truth: no matter what position you currently hold, you are a leader. Even if you’re just beginning your career, you’re already taking on the qualities that will advance you into your future leadership role.
Every one of us is a leader. We have the opportunity to learn from each other and inspirational leaders who have come before us. At the same time, we get the privilege of avoiding mistakes because we have access to lessons others learned through trial and error.
There are eight types of leadership styles that we’ll address here. You’ll learn the definitions for those leadership styles, and the qualities that these types of leaders bring forth in their roles.
We’re also going to explore what kind of leadership style you’re naturally using. learn what type of leadership style is the best one for the goals and dreams that you have for your business and team. And you’ll learn what questions to ask yourself to determine the type of leader you are.
What are the 8 Types of Leadership?
There are eight common leadership styles we’re going to cover in this post. Most leaders will fall into one of these categories.
Many of you will have traits from more than one style. And that’s okay!
In fact, it’s amazing. A great leader will cultivate qualities that help them lead. That means improving skills in a variety of areas, depending on the demands of your team and your position.
The eight leadership styles are:
- Transformational Leader
- Charismatic Leader
- Transactional Leader
- Servant or Coach Style Leader
- Participative or Democratic Leader
- Autocratic Leader
- Laissez-Faire Leader
- Situational Leader
There is a distinct difference between transformational leadership and other styles of leadership. One of the key traits that resonates with this style is that it serves the highest need in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, Self-Actualization.
Without getting too far into the psychology, a Transformational Leader helps their team grow and flourish in self-actualization. This is the ONLY leadership style that honors this highest level of human needs.
As your team has their self-actualization and growth needs met, they actually become more motivated to continue. With all the other human needs, motivation diminishes as the need is realized.
So you can see why transformational leadership really juices up and inspires the team to push to amazing heights.
Some characteristics inherent in the transformational leader include a very high level of emotional intelligence. Transformational Leaders are concerned with people, their own team members and the world around them. They have a growth mindset and are visionaries concerned with the big picture. Their biggest asset is the ability to motivate people to unlock their own unlimited potential.
Transformational Leaders are wonderful communicators who create an environment that allows for innovation and is intellectually stimulating. Their teams get jazzed up with the energy of their leadership. The environment these leaders create through this style makes it easier for team members to bring their best self to the forefront, every day. And it’s contagious.
Teams flourish under a Transformational Leader because each team member feels valued and empowered. They continually pass that high level support and encouragement to each other throughout projects and workflows.
Charismatic Leaders take up the entire room with their energy. They have a charm and personality that draws people to them. This is why so many people aspire to this leadership style.
Think of the most eloquent speaker or dazzling superstar. You’re probably looking at someone who is a Charismatic Leader (or that person takes on many of this style’s traits). In leadership style, this person will have a powerful self-image and be someone others aspire to emulate and please.
They are confident in words and deeds. They also generally know that there is something unique or special about them. Not only that, but they understand that the trait of charisma is the thing that differentiates them.
The best of these leaders will leverage their significant influence to help their company, team, and the world around them. People tend to feel good in their presence, so these leaders can influence great company culture and high morale.
Transactional leadership is the traditional business style that many of us are familiar with. This type of leader might be classified as, “old school”. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with that, as long as it doesn’t squelch innovation.
A Transactional Leader leverages rewards to inspire performance. Employees and team members receive bonuses or promotions to encourage productivity. This is the type of leadership style that documents everything and encourages action through punishment and reward. These leaders follow the rules of their organization. They have a clear hierarchy of authority and are organized in the way that they manage their staff.
Transactional Leaders are task oriented. They focus on goals and expect team members to follow the structure of their organization.
Servant or Coach Style Leader
Servant Leaders, or those who employ a coach style, are often working in service of others. You’ll find these types of leaders gravitate toward businesses and organizations whose purpose is to serve a greater need in the world or community.
As a style, Servant Leaders encourage a collective type of decision-making. They might split their teams up into smaller groups to make this more efficient, but they rarely rely on one person to have ultimate authority. They like to empower their team to bring creative solutions forward.
Like Transformational Leaders, coaches focus on boosting morale, enriching their staff’s lives, and reaching lofty goals. They take risks and empower others to overcome fears and reach their full potential.
Participative or Democratic Leader
The Democratic Leader makes their decisions based on input from the team. In this leadership style, the employees have an equal say in the strategic direction of the organization. This gives even entry level employees some influence within the company, which can be an excellent way to boost morale.
These leaders listen to employees and make team suggestions and innovations a priority. They know that their best asset is their talent, and they seek to foster an environment where their staff thrives. This type of leadership style is encouraging and prizes honesty. Teams do well under this leadership style and often show a high level of commitment and loyalty for their organizations.
The name of the game here is “team work”. Professionals who do not function well in a team environment will not enjoy working under a Democratic Leader. However, those who enjoy working on a fully engaged team where every member is equal will thrive.
The Autocratic Leader makes firm decisions and rarely considers employee or staff suggestions. These leaders grant authority for decision-making in a clear and documented manner, so that all strategic decisions are made primarily at the highest levels of management.
Autocratic Leaders organize their business with a clear hierarchy of authority. Job descriptions and responsibilities are clearly defined, and work life in these companies is structured.
The Laissez-Faire Leader hires experts who they trust and delegates responsibility. He or she allows their team to make decisions and encourages autonomy in the decision-making and creation of business processes.
They are comfortable with mistakes, knowing that sometimes these can propel the greatest growth for their staff and organization. This type of leader takes a hands-off approach. They prioritize hiring excellent talent, and then they trust their team to shine.
This type of leadership style looks laid back and carefree, as the name suggests. But the reality is that this type of leader inspires respect through their unwavering trust in their teams’ ability. They know they’ve put the right team members in charge of tasks that they have experience and a passion for.
This leader will concentrate on their own core abilities and allow their team members to do the same.
The Situational Leader is one who will make decisions based on the specific situation. They boost employee motivation and encourage collaboration in their teams.
This leader makes each decision based on the capability of the team members working with the project. They put a high priority on understanding the specific traits of each team member.
For instance, if this leader had a manager in charge of a project with no experience or background with marketing, they might hire an outside company to manage that area of the project for the team. In another scenario where the manager did have marketing experience, the Situational Leader would make the decision to let that manager determine his or her own needs for the project.
What Leadership Style Do Most Effective Leaders Use?
Here’s a question I get asked all the time:
What is the BEST leadership style? You know my answer is going to be the one where the leader is a person of increase for themselves and their team. That’s, of course, the Transformational Leader, which I talk about often.
But I do want to note that there are some scenarios where each of these leadership styles really puts you in an advantageous position.
For instance, the Authoritarian Leader is often seen as the most detrimental for employee growth and satisfaction. But, on the flip side of that, the Authoritarian Leader is unbeatable in high pressure situations because they can make firm, excellent decisions without wavering.
As I mentioned in the transformational leadership section, this is the only leadership style that inspires motivation to do more, and grow more. So that would be my choice for the most effective leadership style.
I still encourage you to learn all about the other leadership styles in as much detail as possible. Look at the benefits for each style and choose to adopt them where you can if it inspires your team and your own growth. Also, use these bits of knowledge from past leaders to find qualities to avoid.
2 Questions to Answer to Determine Your Leadership Style
How do you determine your own leadership style? It sounds more complicated than it is. The reality is that you choose your leadership style. It’s not a predetermined characteristic that you can’t avoid, it’s the style that you actively cultivate.
Every leader I know who is exceptional at what they do has made conscious decisions to move in the direction of that excellence. And knowing the direction to move in comes from noticing what you’re noticing.
There are two questions to determine your leadership style.
- Who was your worst boss, and what made them the worst?
- Who was your best boss, and what made them the best?
Think of your worst ever boss. Really picture them in your mind. Remember what working with them was like, from the overall mood to the most minute detail.
Now, what was it about them that made them the worst?
It might have been the way they communicated or the rules they put in place. It might have been the total experience or the compensation. Ask yourself that question, what was it about them that made them the worst? Write it down. Can you pinpoint why they were your worst?
Because you’re NOT going to make those same decisions that you don’t respect or appreciate. Some of determining your own leadership style will be about determining what you DON’T want to bring forth for your own team.
Now think of your best boss. What made them the best boss?
Did you learn something that made you a better person from them? Did they inspire you? Did they challenge you to grow or help you to leverage your strengths?
If you think about it, there were set things that your best boss did that you ARE going to want to take with you. There are characteristics of that boss that you want to adopt because you want your team to think the same types of things when your name is mentioned. And also because you appreciated that leadership style personally.
Your life experience is a huge part of the type of leadership style you employ naturally.
You can choose to learn beyond your life experience, and I hope that you always do choose that. But the leadership style you currently employ likely comes from that experience.
Do you emulate some of those positive traits? I bet you avoid some negative ones.
Your path as a leader is about continually adding to your experience so that you can become the most exceptional and best version of yourself. As a leader, it’s also about inspiring that in others.
Taking the Best of Your Leadership Style to Become Truly Transformational
You’ve learned about eight of the most common leadership styles. We’ve talked about where your leadership style comes from and how you can choose to add different qualities from styles that will be beneficial to your team.
You’ve also learned what the best leadership style is, and the two questions to ask yourself to help you determine your own leadership style. Great leaders continue to learn and grow throughout the course of their lives and careers.
I encourage you to use every avenue to improve your leadership skills. That might include classes, networking with other leaders, working with mentors, and reading as voraciously as possible on topics that will help you invigorate your imagination and empower your team.
As a gift for you, you’re welcome to download my free ebook, 22 Great Qualities of a Transformational Leader. This resource will help you learn about the leadership skills that will help you motivate and inspire your team and the world around you.
Think Bravely and Act Boldly!