Executive Coaching Articles

Top 10 Leadership Styles: What’s Your Style?

It doesn’t matter whether you’re the CEO of a major corporation or manage a small team of employees, you probably use or will use one or more of the leadership styles in this article at some point in your career.

From Mother Teresa to John Kennedy to Richard Branson, it’s apparent that there are many different kinds of leadership styles employed by leaders all over the world. From politics to the boardroom, every leader has certain executive traits and leading styles. If you’re an aspiring leader, how do you ascertain which style is best for you?

Psychologists and business leaders have narrowed down and categorized the ten most common styles of leadership. This leadership styles article will help you understand the different leadership styles out there and learn how to pick the style that’s right for you:

  1. Autocratic leadership Autocratic leadership is one of the most extreme forms of leadership, where leaders have full power and control over their workers. Employees have almost no say in expressing their opinions and getting their voices heard. Although this type of leadership style is rarely used in the West, it still prevails in many countries around the world. If used correctly, it works best for low-skilled jobs that just needs a supervisor to explain what needs to be done and oversee workers.
  2. Bureaucratic leadership Bureaucratic leaders are all about following rules and regulations. They make sure they adhere to the rules themselves and their staff follows suit. This leadership style is most suited for working in a risky environment that deals with worker safety issues including working with heavy machinery, toxic chemicals, quality assurance and large financial dealings. It may not be the best approach for developing a new product or re-defining a brand where an out-of-the-box approach and creative thinking is required.
  3. Charismatic leadership Charismatic leaders are the driving force behind their teams. They generate a lot of enthusiasm in the team by inspiring employees and helping them stay motivated at work. The one risk with this sort of approach is too much motivation without action. Charismatic leaders may succumb to overconfidence rather than analyzing the realistic ability of the team to take a project to completion. However, as long as the leader maintains realistic expectations, his or her team may be inspired to reach new heights never thought possible.
  4. Democratic leadership Even though a democratic leader reserves the right to make the final decision, he or she may invite the opinions of team members involving key decisions that need to be made. This increases job satisfaction as employees feel they are a part of the decision-making process and also helps develop communication and interpersonal skills. Overall employee motivation increases as their ideas are valued, which helps retain top talent. As this process can take time and involve meetings and discussions it might reduce productivity but will most often improve quality.
  5. Laissez-faire leadership A French phrase meaning “leave it be,” laissez-faire leaders give their team all the freedom they need to work on their own. This can be effective when there is a solid channel of communication between the leader and members of the team, deadlines are being met and the project is on track. It can work when employees are very experienced and a micro-management approach can actually work against the team. However, with lack of communication and mismanagement this leadership style may mean never meeting deadlines and a wasteful use of time and resources.
  6. Task-oriented leadership Leaders who are highly task-oriented just want to get the job done. They put forth action plans and monitor their staff to make sure everyone is on track. Task-oriented leaders might set fixed lunchtimes, implement a punch card time system, and demonstrate a lack of trust in their team. This could lead to low motivation among employees and a lack of job satisfaction with staff leaving for another firm. However, task-oriented leaders can often make efficient time use, meet deadlines, and keep staff focused to complete a critical task at hand.
  7. People-oriented leadership The opposite approach to task-oriented leadership, a people-oriented leader is all about helping the team and individual employees by offering support and flexibility and meeting the needs of the team. This style focuses on team building skills and building positive work relationships, increasing overall work satisfaction and helping retain star employees. Competent leaders know that combining both task-oriented and people-oriented styles of leadership can prove to be most effective.
  8. Servant leadership A servant leader is one that has no official title and is not formally recognized as a leader but is a role assumed by a person at any level in the organization that leads the team simply because they seem to meet the needs of the team. This particular style is close to democratic leadership where the entire team is involved in the decision-making process. A servant-leader style is based on gaining power through ideals and values, which may not work in a highly competitive situation where other, more assertive, styles are employed.
  9. Transactional leadership Transactional leadership is more of a management style involving a “transaction” between leader and worker–getting paid in exchange for doing the job. In this style, the leader has the right to punish workers and take action if their work is not of the standard discussed when the job was accepted. Although this approach may be effective in achieving short-term tasks and making sure routine work is done reliably, only employing this one approach does not encourage employees to take initiative, be creative thinkers in the workplace, or enjoy work.
  10. Transformational leadership The transformational leadership style is one of the most popular leadership styles today and can be applied to a wide range of corporate opportunities. The transformational leader is one that has integrity, defines clear goals, encourages steps to clear communication, coherently expresses a vision and sets a good example. This style of leadership encourages, motivates, and supports employees, often recognizing and rewarding people for their good work. A transformational leader inspires the team to work together toward a common goal.Transformational leaders combine the best practices of most other leadership styles and are leaders who are trusted and can motivate employees and get them to take action. In practice, they are supported by transactional leaders who work as managers, making sure tasks are accomplished and the job gets done.

Although the above approaches are often used, there is not one right way to lead that fits all situations. Before you decide the right fit for you, recognize your own skills and experience and that of your team and ask yourself what you are trying to achieve. Does the task involve routine work or does it need creative thinking? How is your organization structured, and what is your team most comfortable with? You may need to combine various styles to come up with the style that works best for you.

Do you need help uncovering your own unique leadership style? Read more of Joel’s articles on leadership styles, management, and career advancement, or contact Joel today for personalized executive coaching services.