A successful leader has the ability to influence others and inspire change. They’ll be someone who people look up to and wish to emulate. The question is, do all leaders have the same characteristics, or are there different leadership styles? And if leaders do display a range of traits, what is the most effective leadership style? We’ve explored these questions in more detail below:
What Type of Leader are You?
In a business or industry, when it comes to leadership, one size does not fit all. Because there is not a right or wrong way to manage your employees, as each individual will respond differently to styles of leadership, you may have to experiment a little to see which type of management best suits your organisation. Of course your personal strengths will also help to determine what kind of leader you are.
Another thing to consider is the goals of your company. For instance, if the primary aim of an organisation was to significantly increase sales year on year, a laid-back leadership style probably wouldn't work well in such an environment.
So if you’re wondering what kind of leader you are, it’s a good idea to look at the general categories of leadership style people fall into. Once you’ve determined the overarching category that best describes your management style, you can dig deeper into specific leadership types.
General Leadership Categories
In general terms, there are three types of leadership. These are authoritarian leadership, participative leadership, and laissez-faire leadership. With each of these management styles, the key difference is to what extent the leader, as well as the employees, are involved in making important decisions.
- Authoritarian Leadership: This type of leadership places the executive at the centre of the decision-making process. The leader will likely monitor their staff closely and will set defined rather than vague tasks.
- Participative Leadership: With this form of leadership, employees are given increased responsibility and influence. Unlike an authoritarian leader, a participative leader will involve staff in some decision making processes.
- Laissez-Faire Leadership: A laissez-faire leader allows staff to make all the decisions within the business through group consensus. The leader themselves will simply facilitate this decision making process, and will not have the deciding vote.
It’s important to remember that there is no definitive leadership style, and regardless of which one of the above categories you fall into, you can still be a great leader. Your style simply has to mesh well with your team, as well as your industry.
Specific Leadership Styles
As mentioned above, there are various leadership styles you can emulate. You need to work out which style works best for you, as well as the individuals you manage. Without a good match in terms of leadership style and the receptiveness of your employees, your business can’t successfully move forward.
We’ve outlined the main types of management style below, which can be used to determine your own style of leadership. This list could also potentially help you improve your leadership skills.
1. Autocratic Leadership
An autocratic leader will provide very clear direction on what, when, and how tasks should be completed. These leaders will be in complete control of the business, and make all major decisions. The line between executive and employees will be well defined, as the former will possess all the power within the company.
It’s important to note that autocratic leaders are often confident and domineering, thus they need to be conscious of how they interact with others. It is essential that these executives don’t cross the line of becoming overly aggressive or overpowering.
2. Delegative Leadership
This form of leadership is characterised by a hands-off approach. A delegative leader is essentially the opposite of a micromanager, trusting their employees to complete the work delegated to them. This method of management sounds like it would be incredibly empowering to staff, but it can sometimes lead to a lack of employee development, not to mention overlooking growth opportunities for the business.
3. Democratic Leadership
A business with a democratic leadership style means that those in management will not be the only ones contributing to the progression of the company. Team members will be encouraged to become involved in particular projects or tasks, and leaders will often get stuck in too.
Generally, this type of management style will result in a more collaborative work environment, with a more engaged workforce. Staff tend to feel appreciated, as their ideas are valued. A democratic leader will listen to others and consider their perspective, though they may have to make any final decisions.
4. Servant Leadership
As the name suggests, with servant leadership, you serve the people you’re leading. Someone who possesses this management style will approach decision making as a collective effort, encouraging the input of others, and then taking their ideas seriously. Overall, a servant leader will share the power within the business, taking the opposite approach to a democratic leader.
The benefits of servant leadership include a cohesive working environment, as well as boosting employee morale. However, there are dangers with this type of management style - employee preferences could be put above company objectives, and those in charge may lack authority.
5. Situational Leadership
Would you consider yourself to be an easily adaptable manager? If so, you may be a situational leader, able to adjust your course depending on scenarios, personalities and environments. To successfully engage with and influence your staff, you may need to vary your approach in line with who you’re speaking to. These types of leaders are typically social individuals, self-aware and adaptable.
6. Transactional Leadership
When it comes to a transactional leader, the working environment will be ordered and structured. Generally speaking, in such an environment, employees will be disciplined for underperforming, and rewarded when they excel. These rewards may include bonuses or incentives. Typically, the focus of a transactional manager will be the input and output of staff members.
7. Transformational Leadership
If you are a transformational leader, your primary goal will be to transform your business, moving it forward and helping the organisation grow. This type of manager may put the interests of the company before those of the employees, as they’ll be focused on the future of the business. Transformational leaders are often successful at motivating their employees though, and can push them outside of their comfort zones in order to help staff progress.