What are the 7 Leadership Styles?

February 26, 2020

leadership styles

Depending on certain factors like the nature of your business, the sociocultural environment, and your personal values, a particular style of leadership can serve you better than others. Sometimes it’s necessary to dictate everything that happens in the workplace, and in other instances, you need to trust in your employee’s ability to work and deliver results autonomously. 

Sometimes you might need to command the spotlight and lead from the frontline, and in other times, you might need to play the backseat driver, guiding your organisation from behind closed doors.

Likewise when choosing a team building event you might need something like the Amazing Race, and in other instances another activity will be better-suited to your requirements.

In this article, we review the 7 main types of leadership styles and their main characteristics. The most effective choice for you might either be one or a combination of many. 

1. Democratic Leadership

As the name hints, democratic leadership gives everyone the power to influence the decision-making process. It works well when the team comprises highly skilled and experienced members. In a democratic leadership, you trust your employees to make valuable contributions to the management of projects. Democratic leadership is sometimes called participative leadership because it’s all-inclusive and allows everyone to participate in critical deliberations. 

When used in the right context, democratic leadership can benefit an organisation in many ways, including through enhancing creativity, sense of belonging, fairness and equality, and innovative thinking.

However, in some contexts, a democratic leadership style can be a total misfit. Democratic leadership style is ineffective in contexts where there are rigid roles, or a lack of experienced personnel, or ineffective communication.

2. Autocratic Leadership

In direct contrast to the democratic style, the autocratic style reserves all decision-making privileges and prerogatives to the leader. Directives cascade from top to bottom, with the leader determining who does what and when exactly. Suggestions and recommendations from employees are rarely required. The employees mostly just take orders from the employer.

Unlike the democratic style, the autocratic style is a one-man-show, with only the leader calling the shots. It’s ideal in situations where the leader possesses all the required knowhow to run the business, and there’s a well-designed organisational structure that can generate results effectively. 

If you’re not prepared to supervise your employees closely, make quick decisions on your own, and take full responsibility for the success of your organisation, then you’re not cut out for autocratic leadership. Another drawback of autocratic leadership is that it can easily precipitate disenchantment and disengagement among workers, making them think they’re merely cogs in a machine going through the motions.

3. Coaching Leadership 

This is a typical leadership style where the leader takes the backseat, allowing employees to pull the strings and steer the wheels of the organisation. It’s a relatively nascent form of leadership, where the emphasis is on the employees’ ability to make critical decisions on behalf of the organisation.

Here, the leader is more of a supervisor who monitors and advises employees on the choices they need to make to move the business forward. The leader focuses on honing the capabilities of employees and equipping them with the knowledge they need to excel in their roles. The leader also focuses on improving the team’s productivity through effective communication, collaboration, and delegation.

If this leadership style pans out well, it can supercharge employee motivation and problem-solving skills. But if the people put in charge of the critical decision-making processes are incompetent, coaching leadership can lead to frustrations, stagnation, and poor performance.

4. Transformational Leadership

In transformational leadership, the main currency that keeps the organisation running is inspiration from the leader. Rather than make efforts to direct the efforts of employees, the employer merely focuses on motivating them to put in their best in their roles. 

Like the coaching and democratic styles, the transformational style also places emphasis on the employee’s ability to deliver results independently. The leader focuses on creating a nurturing and energetic environment that stimulates meticulous plans and action among employees. 

Goal setting and deadlines are highly instrumental to a transformational leader. However, setting unrealistic expectations is one drawback of this style, as the leader might be overzealous about challenging employees and pushing them out of their comfort zones. 

But with its emphasis on transforming employees to improve productivity, transformational leadership is one of the most desirable leadership styles in modern times.

5. Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership operates with a rigid set of conditions. Like in transactions, the terms of work are clearly fixed, and employees agree to be rewarded or punished based on their ability to fulfil the role requirements.

This style operates with a rigid management structure that has clearly-defined roles and objectives. As a result, it disables creativity and innovation among employees, and makes the organisation quite resistant to change.

Employees are encouraged to excel in specified work routines like filling out paperwork, sending out marketing emails, and checking up on automated processes periodically. In most instances, this leadership style can only elicit bare-minimum efforts and consign employees to simply go through the motions.

6. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire is a French term that translates simply to “Let them do”. In this leadership style, the employer completely hands off from managing daily routines, decision-making processes, and delegation of responsibilities. It’s an ideal leadership style if the team members are self-starters and highly motivated-individuals who’re also good at what they do. 

However, this passive, less-intrusive approach to leadership can limit the potentials of the business if employees fail to make effective decisions. It’s therefore always advisable for laissez-faire leaders to limit the level of autonomy they give employees.

7. Strategic Leadership

Another classic type of leadership where the leader takes the backseat, strategic leadership is contingent on the adoption and implementation of strategic visions by the employer. The leader introduces goals, strategies, tools, and the employees are persuaded and inspired to run with them.

With a team of highly talented people, this leadership style facilitates the flexibility and fluidity that can mitigate the effects of risks and uncertainties. The leader also remains in the fore, albeit passively, providing guidance and support to enable employees take the right steps.

Still Undecided about what Leadership Style to Choose?


Regardless of the leadership style you choose, you need to be prepared to give your employees the guidance and support they may need to excel in their roles. From team building activities like an Amazing Race to incentives and perks, you should always look out for various measures that can help you boost the productivity and engagement levels among your team members.


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