9 Common Leadership Styles: Identify yours

Different leaders have different ways to achieve the desired results. Some motivate through strong decision-making, some inspire with their charisma, while some are task-oriented. The efficiency and performance of their teams are directly related to the behavioral methods exhibited by them to get the required outcomes.

Hence, it is essential that you, as a leader, focus on the techniques you use to govern your team; this can be the differentiator between your success and failure. For instance, if you push your decisions on a team that is driven by collaborative behavior, you are bound to fail.

It is your leadership style that can help you decide which procedures, methods, and techniques to choose.

So, what is leadership style?

The pattern of your behavior while leading others defines your leadership style. It is your approach to achieve leadership goals by implementing plans and motivating people.

Your personality traits and organization’s culture play a significant role in deciding your leadership style. For example, if you are ambitious and your organization is growth-focused, you may be a task-oriented leader. You may also have a mix of styles, with a few being your dominant ones.

But why should you know leadership styles?

Awareness of leadership styles can help you evaluate your current standing as a leader. You can alter your style to suit the demands of your current and future leadership roles.

You can also find out which leadership style fits your business scenario. It can help you identify the traits that you need to develop to enhance your leadership potential.

Let’s discuss the most common leadership styles and find out the environments in which you can use them.

1. Democratic (Participative) leadership style:

Democratic leadership style is about taking input from each of your team members to make a decision. It is also called as Participative leadership style.

In a meeting, for example, you will give decision-related options to your team. After discussing those options within the team, you will consider the inputs to arrive at the final decision.

This style of leadership increases the engagement level of your employees. Work satisfaction improves, and they are more committed to the goals of the organization.

On the downside, the productivity is less than other leadership styles. If there are a variety of inputs from the team members, it will be difficult to arrive at a consensus.

Where should you use a democratic leadership style?

The democratic leadership style can be used in all types of organization. It works best in a team of highly experienced professionals who can give valuable inputs to make decisions. You can use these inputs to make better decisions.

However, this leadership style is not effective when you want to arrive at a decision quickly.

2. Autocratic Leadership Style

An autocratic leadership style involves making decisions without taking input from anyone. You need not consult employees and can expect them to abide by the decision you take. You issue commands and exhibit control, i.e., you tell your employees what to do and exactly how to accomplish it.

This leadership style is effective in raising the productivity of your employees. It removes confusion by assigning clear responsibilities. However, your subordinates can get demoralized. They can feel ignored and restricted. In some cases, autocratic leadership can lead to an increase in absenteeism.

When is autocratic leadership style effective?

In an environment of strict guidelines for compliance with processes and operations, this style can drive discipline in the system. For example, if your organization or project is data sensitive, or you constantly need to meet strict deadlines, this style can help you increase productivity.

When you want to make quick decisions and focus entirely on results, autocratic leadership can push employees to give their best. If your business provides emergency services, or your project sends and receives crucial information of customers, you may use this leadership style to improve efficiency.

You can also use it if you need to supervise professionals with little or no experience. Autocratic leadership can help you inculcate discipline in them.

3. Laissez-Faire (Delegative) Leadership Style

The French term Laissez-Faire translates to ‘let them do.’ In this style of leadership, you delegate tasks to your team members and do not intervene further, i.e., you allow them to complete the work assigned by choosing their methods themselves. Hence, it is also called Delegative or hands-off leadership.

You delegate tasks, provide your team with the resources they require, and don’t give any further guidance. Your group members are expected to solve problems on their own. They also have the liberty to set deadlines for themselves to complete the work assigned. Thus, there is no need for your supervision.

These methods allow your team to have independent thinking and develop problem-solving skills. However, it can cause an impression of you being uninvolved. Also, not giving direction to your employees can confuse them on their roles and responsibilities. As a result, they may blame each other in case something goes wrong.

Where does this leadership style work?

– In young startups where you need not make any significant office policies like work hours and deadlines.

– If you have self-motivated employees in your team.

– If you are leading a creative team who need independence and are at their best when left alone.

– If you are leading people, who are highly qualified experts.

4. Transformational Leadership

This is the most effective and sought after leadership style. As the name suggests, leaders with this style, transform an organization for the better. They have a vision and use intellectual stimulation to motivate employees to achieve the objectives of this vision.

Transformational leaders inspire people to achieve common goals. They accomplish this by giving employees a list of tasks along with deadlines to complete them. They challenge the conventions and alter the status quo of an organization to achieve transformational objectives.

Transformational leadership helps in creating a positive work environment. According to a study by the University of Cologne, Germany, transformational leaders result in well being of their group, which in turn lowers attrition rates and turnover costs.

However, as a transformational leader, you are primarily concerned with the organizational objectives, which can lead you to miss the aspirations of individuals.

When is the transformational leadership style most effective?

This style can be used by organizations that are undergoing changes like corporate restructuring, mergers, acquisitions. It is also useful in disruptive times like negative economic impacts or the advent of new technology.

Growth-oriented companies use the transformational leadership style to achieve desired results. However, when applying this leadership style, you need to remember that change is never easy. You can find it hard to make alterations in systems where the current processes are valued.

5. Transactional Leadership

In this style, the leader-follower relationship is a transaction. It’s a give-and-take system, in which you set the business objectives of your group members. If they achieve the goal, you reward them with incentives or bonuses, usually monetary. Else, you punish with disciplinary action or penalties.

For instance, if the marketing team generates a certain number of leads, you reward them with coupons for their favorite restaurant. If they don’t, you punish them by reducing their incentives. Thus, you use the self-interest of your subordinates to attain business goals.

You set up the roles and responsibilities of employees as a transactional leader. As a result, there is no confusion among your employees as expectations are clearly defined. Thus, you can achieve short term goals quickly. However, you do not inspire people and focus on maintaining established procedures.

When do you exhibit the transactional leadership style?

This leadership style works best when there is a structured environment with set procedures; the roles need to be clearly defined to accomplish specific tasks.

It is also useful when the model of your organization is revenue-oriented, and you aim to generate profit by achieving organizational targets.

However, this leadership style will not work with creative teams or with teams that require out of the box thinking.

6. Coach-style Leadership

In this leadership style, you adapt the qualities of a coach or a teacher. You find the strengths and weaknesses of employees and constantly motivate them to improve. To achieve this, you need regular interaction with the team, set goals, and check progress through feedback sessions.

For instance, you can head a meeting to analyze the performance of your employees in the last quarter. Then, reward the top performers and set new goals based on the accomplishments and areas of improvement for the team.

Thus, you are not involved in problem-solving or delegating work. Instead, you encourage your team to try something new on their own. As a result, your employee’s skill set increases, and they become capable of making it through a difficult situation.

This leadership style takes a while to generate results as your team will need time to improve their weaknesses and achieve goals. However, according to a report by the Manchester Review, the ROI on coach-style leadership is 5.7 times the cost. Hence applying this coaching in your organization is worth the investment.

Coaching is particularly effective if your employees lack a particular skill or knowledge. It works by motivating them and assisting in developing new skill sets. Note that you will not be able to apply this style if your team is extremely resilient to changes or is not willing to learn new things.

7. Bureaucratic Leadership Style

This leadership style is a rule-based leadership framework with a clearly defined hierarchy of your organization. In this style, you act as a bureaucrat, i.e., you focus on implementing the rules, laws, and ideas of your institution. You have to function according to the official regulations defined by your superiors.

The administrative needs in your organization, like the compliance procedures and safety norms, form the basis of this leadership style. These requirements define the set of rules and procedures that you strictly need to follow. You implement a ‘go by the book’ approach that does not allow any deviation from set procedures.

This leadership style does not encourage new ideas, creativity, or out of the box thinking. Hence, you do not focus on innovation, skills, and knowledge upgrade; instead, you want employees to abide by the rules.

Sounds redundant? Following are some situations where the bureaucratic leadership style is effective:

  • If you are a part of an organization where there is repetitive work and safety procedures are crucial: like manufacturing units or work related to hazardous chemicals, construction, or dangerous equipment.
  • If you are working with an institution in which compliance plays an important role, like a government organization, you should apply the bureaucratic leadership style.
  • You can also use this style if the focus is on the accuracy, like work related to cash-flow in banks or other financial institutions.

8. Charismatic Leadership:

The charismatic leadership style has the basis in your charm and persuasiveness. You need to have excellent communication, interpersonal, and oratorical skills to exhibit this style. You use these skills to evoke a response from your audience and commit them to take action towards organizational goals.

To develop the Charismatic leadership style, you need to use the “others-centered” approach: you are empathetic and relate to the emotions of others. You take a cue from their body language and social status and make them feel comfortable.

For instance, in a meeting, you have eye contact with everyone and let them speak their point of view. You listen carefully and value their inputs.

This leadership style has the downside of being too dependent on you. If your energy levels are down, fewer people will follow you. Another disadvantage is that you compel people to follow your vision, which results in inhibiting their own creativity. This, in turn, may lead to a change in the value system of your followers.

However, the flip side of this style is that you build healthy connections and emotional appeal with your employees, which creates a positive work environment and results in improved productivity.

Charismatic leadership, due to its open communication, makes people feel welcome. Hence it is effective in preventing attrition in your company; people follow you more than your organization.

9. Servant Leadership Style:

The basis of the servant leadership style is that the leader is second to employees. Hence, you need ‘people first’ mindset to apply this style. You need to highlight individuals or your team as opposed to yourself.

If you want to get the best out of people through this style, you have to fulfill their personal and professional requirements. Hence, you should focus on satisfying the needs of employees, which also helps in keeping their morale high.

How do you identify the needs of your employees and satiate them?

Here is a tip- Have regular one-on-one meetings with your employees to discuss questions, thoughts, and concerns about improving your products or services. Such open discussions with your employees, help in finding their needs; it also enables you to evaluate the requirements of people who are using your products or services.

In his book, Leaders Eat Last, Simon Sinek also explains how you can you focus on investing time and energy for the betterment of your group members. A small step from your end, like a discussion on the aspirations of your employees, can go a long way in enhancing their performance.

Though this style can work in all types of business, it is suggested for non-profit organizations or other types of humanitarian enterprises. This style does not work with organizations where you need to follow tight deadlines and make quick decisions.

Here is how you can change your leadership style

Now that you know leadership styles, assess which one is yours. Is your style the best fit for your leadership role? Do you need to change it to enhance your leadership potential?

You need to analyze the requirements of business before choosing the leadership style that fits you the best. Then, you may have to alter your leadership style to get the desired outcomes.

For instance, if there is a sudden increase in the number of millennials and attrition of experienced professionals in your team, you may have to move to an authoritative leadership style.

Let’s find out how can you make this change in your style.

Exhibit Patience: First things first. You cannot change your leadership style in a week or two. Give yourself time to work on the changes you need to practise.

Check your habits: Keep an eye on how you operate. For instance, if you are an autocratic leader and want to move to a democratic leadership style, reduce the number of status reports and micromanagement techniques.

Practise: Read books, install softwares that help you in altering your leadership style. Check your progress against your company benchmarks and protocols.

Mindset: Your leadership style is all about your mindset. You will have to alter your attitude organically. For instance, if you are naturally inclined to ask questions and take advice, you will need to change your psyche to get into an autocratic leadership style.

Feedback: You need to ensure that your leadership style works for the betterment of your organization. Feedback sessions from HR and senior leaders can help you assess if your leadership style is in the right direction.


Leadership style is a reflection of your personality. However, you can train yourself to adopt a style that fits your role requirements. As you go up the hierarchy, competencies like functional expertise take a back seat, and the emphasis is on relationship building.

You constantly need to revisit and reassess your style to bridge the gap of your current role and what the next one entails.

What is your leadership style? Do you wish to alter it? Let us know in your comments.

4 thoughts on “9 Common Leadership Styles: Identify yours”

  1. Dentre os perfis estudados sobre liderança, o qual, mais me identifiquei foi a democrática participativa. De toda sorte, esse exercício de liderança é a mais utilizada pela minha organização ao menos no tipo de atividade desempenhadas no meu cotidiano.


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