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10 Leadership Styles

Leadership is often seen as a nebulous concept, raising questions about its true nature, defining traits, and practical application. What exactly constitutes leadership and how does one go about being one?

The effectiveness of leadership can vary depending on various factors such as career stage, job role, and personal motivations. Different leaders have distinct approaches that bring out the best in individuals.

By categorising the diverse types of leaders, we not only gain insight into who inspires us to perform at our peak but also uncover our preferred leadership styles. This understanding is instrumental in fostering effective leadership dynamics within teams and organisations.

1: COACHING LEADERSHIP STYLE

Coaching leadership is a type of leadership style focused on ongoing development to drive performance

This type of leadership is used to motivate employees and build a collective vision

Coaching leaders understand that great ideas can come from anyone on the team and actively encourage ideas and feedback

Coaching leaders don’t micro-manage. Instead, they motivate members of their team to achieve both personal and professional goals.

Results and tasks can sometimes take some time because of the coaching leader’s need to teach

When there are long-term lessons to be learned the coaching leader accepts short-term failure

Creates environment for ongoing improvement in team skills, confidence and motivation

Long-term results can be significantly increased, making the organisation stronger and stronger over time

2: VISIONARY LEADERSHIP STYLE

Visionary leaders have a vision of where the organisation should be

They tend to see the big picture and normally don’t worry as much about the small details

These leaders shift people and processes in a way to get them closer to their vision of what the company should be

Visionary leaders are charismatic and determined to strive for their goals. They are this way because they really believe in the change they are making and are great at “rallying the troops” to keep them moving forward

This type of leadership is great before and during transition phases within a company.

This type of leadership can be very difficult when employees are stuck in their ways

The leader may become too pivotal as “the face of the change” and the business can revert in the leader’s absence

The leader must be effective in instilling their vision in others so they can lead the charge in the leader’s absence

Can be very effective in an uncertain, ever-changing world where big ideas and big picture thinking can be the difference

Can be very effective for when getting teams to “think outside the box” and create something novel or disruptive

3: SERVANT LEADERSHIP STYLE

The key concept behind servant leadership is to take care of your people and they will take care of the job

Servant leaders believe in people first. Although they may be the boss, they work for their employees

A servant leader will put the problems and goals of their team over their own. Employees typically like servant leaders because of their ability to fulfill the employee’s needs

A good servant leader understands the difference between needs and wants. Contrary to popular belief, taking care of somebody’s needs is not the same thing as giving them everything they want. Giving people everything they want can be very counterproductive to the goals of the organization

In business cultures where traditional hierarchies remain, servant leaders may struggle because all the decisions are expected to be made by the leader

In this type of environment, a servant leader may be looked at as weak and ultimately may have a hard time gaining the respect of others

Can be very useful to keep employees focused on the most important jobs and removing roadblocks to effectiveness

Can be very effective at engendering team buy-in, alignment and enabling performance if executed correctly

4: AUTOCRATIC LEADERSHIP STYLE

In autocratic leadership, the boss or manager makes all the decisions

Employees follow the boss’s directions without any hesitation or deviation. Ultimately, the autocratic leader has absolute control over the group, unlike most other leadership styles

Autocratic leaders rarely accept advice from others. They base their decisions on their own views and judgment of situations

Autocratic leaders tend to have clearly outlined and communicated rules. Often employees are micromanaged, because the boss doesn’t trust subordinates with decisions

Creativity and innovation can be very limited because the input is not accepted by others by the boss

Employees may not feel valued, have diminishing morale and resentment of leadership

When decisions must be made quickly, the autocratic leadership style is very effective

Can be useful when employees are very inexperienced and require very clear and direct instructions

5: LAISSEZ-FAIRE LEADERSHIP STYLE

Laissez-faire is a hands-off style of leadership

Members of the team are free to make most job-related decisions with the expectation for the team to solve problems with minimal input from the boss. Supervisors will step in during crises or major decisions but for the most part, are hands-off

The key to this type of leadership is trust. A leader must have a high level of trust in their team since they have the freedom to make so many decisions

Laissez-faire leadership is built on the idea that if you build a strong team, they will take care of the job

Employees that aren’t self-starters will be very unproductive in this environment

Inexperienced employees will have a hard time learning how to do their job effectively with the lack of direction and feedback

This type of leadership can be falsely interpreted as laziness in certain industries and situations – leading to loss of trust

Offering teams freedom to problem-solve fosters creativity and innovation

Fosters a high level of employee satisfaction and accountability

Leaders can focus their time and efforts on other critical areas when employees don’t need much guidance and direction

7: PACE-SETTER LEADERSHIP STYLE

In pace-setting leadership, the focus is on high productivity with very high goals and standards to get things done better and faster

The leader is a very high performer and also expects the same from those working for him or her

Employees that are not performing well in this leadership are quickly identified. If the leader can’t bring them up to pace, they are typically replaced – even if an employee is doing their best it may not meet the leader’s standards

In this leadership style, the leader is quick to jump in and help the team achieve the highest results. These leaders believe in leading by example.  Often these leaders got promoted because of their hard work ethic. These leaders may try to mould or force their team to be like them

This type of leader can be devastating to morale as people get demoralised when the leader jumps in because he/she thinks they’re lagging

Employees may feel like the leader doesn’t trust them to do their job

Mentorship, coaching and feedback are not a priority in this type of leadership, leading to a lack of development

Can be a productive style in certain fast-paced situations with experienced employees that are self-starters

Can be effective in generating very high-productivity and competitive environment in specific situations that call for it 

8: TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP STYLE

Transformational leadership is a style in which the leader inspires and motivates employees to produce a change in the organisation

This change is created when the leader allowing employees the freedom to be creative and ultimately grow the company

Transformational leaders fosters growth through mentorship, training, moral standards, ethical working practices and authenticity

They encourage these qualities in their team, which produces a mindset of working towards a common good

If the leader is unknowingly on the wrong path, others may follow that leader in the wrong direction.

At times the leader may not see problems right in front of them because they are so focused on their vision

Can be very useful in organisations going through a change or requiring a change

Employee morale and satisfaction are typically high under these types of leadership, resulting in higher staff effectiveness, retention and innovation

9: TRANSACTIONAL LEADERSHIP STYLE

Transactional leadership is a style of leadership in which punishments and incentives are used to motivate employees

When employees achieve certain results, rewards are given. When results are not achieved, punishments are administered

This leadership style focuses on three basic concepts, organising, controlling, and short-term planning.

The leader must control the team, meaning he/she sets guidelines and measures to achieve results. It’s also the role of the leader to set short-term plans and goals for his team

Common motivations include extra time off, higher pay, public recognition, and not getting fired

At times the leader may not always account effectively for employees’ values and emotions – leading to poor morale

If the leader misjudges what motivates others, they may not achieve the results they’re looking for

Lack of focus on coaching, training and ongoing development – leading to talent stagnation

Since the leader has a structured plan on how to deal with positive and negative results, this is a very easy to manage leadership style

This method can very productive when there is a time pressure to deliver results

10: BUREAUCRATIC LEADERSHIP STYLE

Bureaucratic leadership is one of the oldest styles of leadership. There is very little flexibility in this system and rules are expected to be followed with no deviation

Bureaucratic leadership has a very strict command structure comprised of a formal hierarchy – which is apparent to all involved with specific roles are assigned to leaders and team members based on their skill set

Since this is a micromanagement leadership style and not a hands-off approach, these leaders are constantly busy monitoring and controlling rules, procedures and subordinates. These leaders should be task-focused, getting tasks accomplished efficiently and quickly

Due to it’s strict rules and regulations, there is not a lot of room for out-of-the-box thinking which stifles creativity

People within this structure are rewarded for following the rules not on developing skills

Changes in this system can be very difficult to implement because of the reliance on rules and regulations

Professionalism is normally high because of the reliance on rules

The introduction of new people into this type of leadership can be easier because roles and responsibilities are clearly defined

This system can be very useful over other types of leadership styles in situations where very repeatable processes are beneficial

Click here to learn more about Flow State Leadership and Management modules

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