Leadership style refers to the way that the leader interacts with his or her subordinates, influences their behavior, motivates them, makes decisions for them and for the organization. A specific leadership style can deeply influence the quality of work, the commitment, the work satisfaction of both leader and subordinates.
Throughout their career, to be successful, leaders need to continually assess and improve their leadership style, identify its strengths and weaknesses, adapt it to their environment, their organization and to their followers, and even combine them into one suitable and adaptable leadership style.
For leaders to adapt their leadership style to the context, they must get to know themselves and be authentic to their values and beliefs beforehand, get to understand their team members working style and expectations from a leader, get to acknowledge the company culture.
Wondering what leadership styles you have developed across the years or would like to acquire and which one is suitable to your work environment?
In order to determine the best leadership style, the leaders have to contextualize, consider the situations and the people that they face on a daily basis.
There are many leadership styles that are common to most workplaces, that most leaders identify with the most, that are more or less efficient depending on their personal background, their employees personalities and background, and on the organization culture. These leadership styles are to possibly be combined into one and modulated to different situations.
Democratic or Participative leadership
Democratic or participative leaders listen to their followers and consider their opinions, are generally high performers and high achievers. Even though they have the final say, they gather information from their employees before making a decision.
Democratic leaders influence their employees by:
- including them in the decision-making process,
- informing them about the company’s strategies and decisions,
- sharing adequate responsibilities with them,
- instilling trust, cooperation, values, synergy in their employees,
- allowing them to set their own goals,
- enabling them to improve their skills and knowledge,
- promoting, recognizing and encouraging accomplishments.
The democratic leadership style is appropriate when the leader:
- is directing a small team,
- has highly skilled and experienced employees,
- desires to be transparent, keep employees informed and involved in the decision-making process,
- wants to build up his or her employees self-worth and job satisfaction,
- is implementing changes in work processes, job roles and organizational structures,
- resolves conflicts that necessitate the employees input
The democratic leadership style is ineffective when:
- gathering employees input requires time that is lacking,
- gathering employees input is not cost-effective
Visionary or inspirational leadership
Visionary leaders share their dreams and purpose with their employees, possess an ability to inspire people, and develop drive and purpose.
Visionary leaders influence their employees by:
- stating, defining, creating and sharing a vision of the organization with them,
- acting on that vision,
- being decisive,
- winning them over.
The visionary leadership style is appropriate in innovative and complex situations.
Coaching leaders align their employees’ aspirations with the organization goals and values.
Coaching leaders influence their employees by:
- delegating challenging assignments,
- demonstrating faith that demands justification,
- teaching them how to manage their time and solve problems accurately,
- giving them some authority and independence over their work,
- promoting transparency and authenticity,
- instilling high levels of loyalty.
The coaching leadership style is appropriate when :
- employees need to build strong long-term competencies and are willing to learn from their experiences,
- employees are responsible,
- employees lack motivation or faith in the project,
- employees want to improve on their weaknesses and commit to the process,
- a toxic workplace need a turn around.
The coaching leadership style is inefficient when:
- employees resist change,
- the leader lacks expertise in the field,
Affiliative leaders bring themselves and their employees into association and create a sense of belonging. Affiliative leaders help in solving conflicts and in building teams up.
Affiliative leaders influence their employees by:
- welcoming and valuing them,
- providing frequent positive feedback,
- healing rifts between coworkers and curing toxicity,
The affiliative leadership style is appropriate when:
- employees need reassurance,
- the organization is facing stressful and volatile situations,
- morale and harmony are low,
- the organization is in reconstruction.
The affiliative leadership style is inefficient when:
- employees are complacent in their work performance,
- needing to predict the rise of conflicts and problems.
Pacesetting or Task-Oriented Leadership
Pacesetting leaders are task-oriented and directive, plan and execute assignments, make followers meet deadlines, accomplish challenging projects and reach goals, are concerned with the general effectiveness of their team. They are by the book and enforces the rules and regulations of the company.
Pacesetting leaders influence their team by:
- defining set outcomes and means to achieve these goals,
- using conditional reinforcement,
- providing rewards on performance tasks,
- differentiating employees in regards to their contributions to the team,
- showing additional support for employees that achieve set goals
- relying on deadlines, structured tasks, definite standards for performance and procedures,
- making sure that their team is effective and productive enforce standardized procedures,
- researching employee performance and behavior rather than employee satisfaction.
Pacesetting Leadership style is most appropriate when the leader has to:
- repetitively perform routine tasks,
- reinforce procedures and policies,
- mobilize an already motivated and skilled team,
- deliver results quickly.
Pacesetting leadership style is ineffective when:
- employees have ingrained certain work habits and refuse to break them,
- employees are no longer motivated,
- employees are burnt out,
- employees don’t go the extra mile to meet the expectations.
Commanding or Authoritarian leadership
Commanding leaders create a fearful environment to instill respect and get quick results from followers, rely on threats and punishments as incentives, lack trust in their employees and make decisions without employees input and without giving any explanation. Commanding leaders tend to retain power and demand immediate compliance.
Commanding leaders influence their employees by:
- disallowing any input, power and decision-making responsibilities to their employees,
- wanting complete and blind obedience from their employees
- using punishments and rewards as incentives,
The commanding leadership style is appropriate when:
- employees are inexperienced or lack training in a field,
- employees are not receptive to other leadership styles and there is no other way,
- time is lacking to make a decision,
- employees challenge their authority,
- the organization is facing a crisis.
The commanding leadership style is ineffective when:
- employees do not respond to threats anymore,
- employees are disengaged, unmotivated, fearful or resentful,
- the rate of employees quitting is high.
Relationship building or Bridging Leadership
Relationship building leaders are generally supportive and accepting of subordinates, use communication skills to create synergy and motivation among their subordinates, foster a climate of trust, transparency and confidence, promote collaboration and inclusion.
Relationship building leaders influence their team by:
- using unconditional reinforcements,
- recognizing the worth of their employees,
- building the self-esteem of their employees,
- building quality relationships with their employees,
- assessing how their decisions will impact their employees,
- being concerned about the welfare and satisfaction on the job of their employees.
The relationship building leadership is appropriate when:
- the leader needs a collective response from their employees,
- team cohesion has previously been fractured.
Laissez-Faire or Hands-Off Leadership
The laissez-faire or hands-off leader gives his employees as much as freedom, authority and power as possible. Little or no directions is given to their subordinates that are able to determine their goals, plan and execute their tasks unsupervised.
The laissez-faire leader does not manage his or her subordinates nor use his or her influence. The laissez-faire leader interfere the least possible with employees savoir-faire and jobs to increase employees pride and motivation.
The laissez-faire leadership style is appropriate when the leader has:
- experts or consultants on his or her team,
- highly skilled, experienced, educated employees, trustworthy, prideful and driven people in his or her organization,
- employees are well-educated and experienced, are good decision makers, feel in control,
- need freedom to thrive on their job and to love their job,
- plans to expand the business and to delegate leadership responsibilities to other employees,
- employees who are in remote locations or who don’t require a lot of face to face time.
The laissez-faire leadership style is ineffective when:
- employees are worried about making mistakes,
- employees don’t have good communication skills,
- the leader’s absence, lack of feedback, lack of validation and lack of recognition makes their subordinates feel insecure,
- the leader doesn’t understand his or her responsibilities and rely on his or her subordinates to pull all the weight.
Charismatic leaders influence through their personality, share vision, captivate and persuade an audience, are self-confident, eloquent, have high energy and are emotionally intelligent. Charismatic leaders use their charisma to achieve their own goals and ambitions.
The charismatic leadership style is appropriate when:
- the leader has to inspire and raise morale,
- the leader is involved on short-term projects or projects that are lacking energy and motivation.
- the organization needs to promote its brand and expand in the marketplace.
The charismatic leadership style is inefficient when:
- the leader believes too deeply in himself or herself and feels invincible,
- the project is chaotic and needs immediate guidance and direction.
Analytic leaders analyze figures, hard data to solve problems, to make better decisions, to increase in productivity. Analytic leaders are also good at controlling their emotions.
Analytic leaders influence their employees by:
- requiring hard data from them to closely follow the execution process,
- valuing accuracy and logic,
- dismissing feelings and opinions of their employees.
The analytical leadership style is appropriate when the organization needs facts and data to advance and make a decision.
The analytical leadership style is inefficient when:
- there is too much emotional distant between the leader and the subordinates,
- the organization is facing a stressful situations and there is no time for over analysis.
Reflective leaders are introspective and often quiet or reserved, trust their insights and intuition, are emotionally intelligent, are self-aware, promote self-awareness, reflect on the impacts of decisions before taking them, and seek opportunity in failure. Reflective leaders decode observations about their organization and coworkers and excel in analyzing the behavior, body language, tone of voice of themselves and others.
Reflective leaders influence their subordinates by:
- understanding their observations about their organization and coworkers,
- understanding the reasons for a flow of events and connecting the dots,
- understanding their employees, their way of thinking, their preferences, their motivations, capabilities, strengths, weaknesses and blindspots in order to achieve a specific goal,
- being flexible in their responses, being open and sharing their thoughts and conclusions with your employees,
- actively listening to their employees and confronting their ideas or assumptions,
- setting goals, giving feedback, effectively distinguishing obstacles and picking out effective problem-solving approaches.
The reflective leadership styles is appropriate when:
- the workplace climate is conflictual and volatile,
- change is needed in the organization,
- the leader’s position is unstable.
Corrective leaders identify the past mistakes of the organization, find solutions and apply corrective actions to set it back on an ideal track, facilitate collaboration and synergy with their team.
Corrective leaders influence their subordinates by:
- setting clear goals and timelines,
- communicating effectively to identify the root of the problem,
- focusing their employees attention on the goals to correct the mistakes,
- monitoring step by step the implementation of the solution,
- implicating their employees in the planning process,
- avoiding experimenting with new ideas and untested solutions,
- keeping reports on the mistakes and the change process.
The corrective leadership style is appropriate when:
- the organization is in a state of emergency and is deteriorating,
- impactful mistakes have been made by employees,
- organizational procedures have not been followed.
The corrective leadership style is inefficient when:
- employees are skilled, educated and aware of their strengths and weaknesses,
- the organization is stable and is increasing.
Change leaders embrace innovation, system alterations, problem solving. Change leaders are determined, persistent, resistant and eager to make change happen.
Change leaders influence their subordinates by:
- explaining that change is a necessary good,
- sharing the visions of the change process results,
- removing their employees and organization out of the comfort zone,
- encouraging their employees to implement the change process and to adapt to the new versions and norms of the organization,
- sustaining the change process and incorporating it in the company’s culture,
The change leadership style is appropriate to most types of situations and organizations that have plateaued because change is nowadays detrimental to any organization’s success.
Multicultural or Cultural Intelligence Leadership
Multicultural leaders enjoy ambiguous situations and see problems as opportunities, gain energy and motivation through cross-cultural interactions, encourage innovation by taking into account their subordinates multicultural differences, advocate for understanding and mutual respect, render their subordinates effective.
Multicultural leaders influence their subordinates by:
- understanding, learning and harmonizing with the cultural backgrounds of their employees,
- adapting to diverse cultures and encouraging their employees to do the same,
- being open-minded and accepting of different cultures,
- being accountable for their actions around different cultures.
The multicultural leadership style is appropriate for multicultural or multinational corporations.
Servant leaders lead by example and choose to serve their subordinates highest needs first and lead afterwards.
Servant leaders influence their team by:
- giving all the credit to their employees,
- staying out of the spotlight,
- involving their employees in the decision-making process.
The servant leadership style is appropriate when:
- the leader is head of an association or community,
- employees pull their weight on their own.
The servant leadership styles is uncommon and inefficient in:
- corporate and organizations where leader has to make quick decisions,
- in competitive situations.
Transactional leaders gain compliance by offering rewards for good performance and severe punishments for lack of performance or of compliance.
Transactional leaders influence their employees by:
- working by the book,
- encouraging the status quo,
- compensating them for achieving goals and enforcing the company rules,
- clarifying everyone’s role and responsibility.
The transactional leadership styles is common in large administrative organizations, in urgent and conflictual situations.
Transformation Leaders share visions and goals with their subordinates, create intense emotions in them, align them with core values, unify them with a purpose and involve them in the decision process, encourage change in others and themselves. Transformational leaders wholeheartedly embrace change, challenge the status quo and invest in the development of their employees.
Transformational leaders influence their employees by:
- openly communicating a vision with them,
- not using positional authority to convince,
- encouraging them to view problems with a different perspective,
- supporting and stimulating their innovative ideas,
- challenging the status quo,
- expecting the best of them and strengthening their optimism and enthusiasm,
The transformational leadership style is appropriate when:
- the organization is dormant and require change,
- employees require optimism and enthusiasm,
- employees are detail oriented.
There are several leadership styles to choose from or that you have already identified with. No leadership style is the absolute best but is relative to a given situation.
Hope that I’ve helped you get it together on your way to leadership!
Don’t forget to like, share and leave a comment below.
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37 thoughts on “Which Leadership Styles are You?”
I would like to think that I am a mashup of a democratic and visionary leader.
You definitely have the new age leadership style! Democratic + Visionary leadership style is what works best currently and with millenials. Thank you ezel Kealoha for commenting!
I think I’m a mixture of a few types… is it possible?
Yes, thans to your different experiences in life, it is possible that you are a combination of several leadership style. Thank you for commenting!
I like the way you’ve described the various leadership styles. I have learned new leadership styles from this post. Thanks for sharing.
Thanks John Mulindi!
Wow!! So much information packed in here! I had no idea there were so many types of leadership, and it was fun going through and figuring out which style each of my past bosses has engaged in! Thanks for all the information.
My pleasure! Thank you Liz W. for commenting!
Wow! I had no idea there are so many different leadership styles. This is very informative.
Having worked with different ‘leaders’ in my life, I was always sure there are so many different leadership styles. Didn’t know how to categorize though. Thanks for the rich info
There are so many leadership styles and different combinations of them. Thank you neha for commenting!
I think many of us have qualities from many of these categories. I think this is a great way to learn more about how you can be an good leader!
This is great, I had no idea there were so many distinct leadership styles. I hope I’m democratic – it has all of the characteristics I value in my workplace!!
The democratic leadership style is the mot common nowadays. Most people are able to relate the most with it. Thank you for commenting!
Awesome post! I see myself possessing attributes of many different styles which also helps me identify my strengths and weaknesses. This can be a great tool to use for training and development as well. Imagine a candidate receiving a complex and clear list of strengths and opportunities with goals designed in collaboration to eliminate the opportunities according to the type of manager and this criteria? Excellent!
This would be a wonderful screening tool that would save health, energy, time and money. Good Thinking! Thank for commenting!
Thank you for this comprehensive report of different leadership styles, their attributes and the CONTEXTS in which they best serve. Context is a critical factor to understand and leaders need to have the emotional intelligence and agility to adjust their styles to fit the situation. Besides using a Leadership 360 with my clients, I use the “Work of Leaders” profile produced by Wiley Publishing to help individual leaders and senior teams understand that the “work of leaders” is crafting a Vision, building Alignment, championing Execution. The profile helps leaders understand their individual leadership styles and (enhanced by their experience and knowledge) how skillful they are in the drivers and behaviors that help leaders be effective. I recommend these resources and happy to share how to access.
Your comment is very insightful! I would appreciate more information about this 360 profiling tool. Also, I see that you support vision building workshop. Can you tell more about this? Thank you in advance and thank you for commenting!
Thanks for your interest. I use 363 for Leaders profile as a 360. The 363 refers to 360 + 3 strategies that the leader can use to leverage strengths and feedback. It is best used in an executive coaching situation. The Work of Leaders is based on 4 years of research working with thought-leaders, authors and practitioners in the field of leadership. Book info here https://www.wiley.com/en-us/The+Work+of+Leaders%3A+How+Vision%2C+Alignment%2C+and+Execution+Will+Change+the+Way+You+Lead-p-9781118636534
You can learn more about the profiles mentioned as well as other assessments here:
I am a strategic coach and an authorized Partner of Wiley Publishing. I have been using these Everything DiSC-based materials in my work with leaders in government, healthcare and business for over 30 years. The tools have been well researched and continually improved for accuracy, clarity, application and ease of use. Certification is available and recommended.
Regarding Visioning: Creating a shared vision is part of the strategic planning process that I do with boards of directors, executive teams and in personal growth workshops at Omega Institute and other venues. It is a powerful (and fun) way to ignite creativity, bring people together and define the elements and benefits of a positive future for the organization or individual. There is a lot of information about visioning available. I was trained with Grove Consultants International in their Strategic Visioning process which built on the work that I’d already been doing for years in organizations.
I’m happy to discuss all of these elements further offline. Just schedule a complimentary Discovery session. https://calendly.com/ingrid-6/discovery-session. I’m looking forward to sharing resources and ideas.
You are extremely qualified. What are the responses of your clients regarding these assessments. Thank you for sharing your knowledge.
You asked about how clients respond to 363 for Leaders. The clients I’ve worked with are very positive and appreciate the clarity of the feedback as well as the 3 strategies for leadership improvement. Raters can respond with behaviorally based feedback. The format of the assessment makes it easy and safe to provide clear and useful feedback…not revenge or “puff” comments. I use a number of Everything DiSC assessments in my work with leaders at all levels of organizations, from new, emerging leaders to senior, seasoned executives. Everything DiSC http://www.everythingdisc.com/bredenbergassociates help people better understand themselves, their leadership styles, and how they impact other people. I use the framework of “emotional intelligence” competencies to set the context for the learning. Feel free to contact me if you’d like to “test drive” any of these resources for your own work with leaders. You are providing wonderful resources and perspectives to leaders. I’ll be linking to your blog on occasion. All the best!
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