10 Proven Types of Leadership Styles You Need to Know

Knowing various types of leadership styles and when to use them is important in becoming a strong leader. Different situations call for different forms of leadership. Also, all the people you lead respond differently to the various types of leadership styles.

Recognizing various types of leadership styles and knowing the right time to use them will increase your abilities as a supervisor, a father, a mother, and many other areas of your life. Knowing these types of leadership styles will help you identify areas you need to improve in your leadership.

It can also be a huge benefit to recognize these types of leadership styles in others. It can help you better deal with a supervisor. Additionally, it can help you better deal with a leader underneath you. If you understand what their predominant style is, you can help them increase that ability and make them aware of other types of leadership styles that may be more useful in certain situations.

Common Types of Leadership Styles

1.  Coaching Leadership Style

Image of a coach rallying and motivating his team for a game for the coaching leadership style.

Coaching leadership is a type of leadership style focused on developing subordinates. Another focus of coaching leadership is getting teams to perform well together. This type of leadership is used to motivate employees. Furthermore, it helps build a collective vision.

In this leadership style, leaders are open to feedback and ideas from subordinates. Leaders understand that great ideas can come from anyone on the team. Coaching leaders don’t micro-manage. Instead, they motivate members of their team to achieve both personal and professional goals.

Disadvantages

In this type of leadership, there are some disadvantages. Results and tasks can sometimes take some time because of the coaching leader’s need to teach. This may not be the best type of leadership style when results are needed immediately. Also, when there are long-term lessons to be learned the coaching leader accepts short-term failure. This may not be optimal in no-fail situations.

Advantages

Although there are some disadvantages, coaching leadership may be very useful over other types of leadership styles at times. Knowing when to use coaching leadership can be very helpful for a leader. There are many situations where you should use this style over other types of leadership styles. When using this style, you will likely see a decrease in short-term results but long-term results will be significantly increased. This makes the organization stronger and stronger over time.

Coaching Leadership Example

There have been a lot of great leaders that have chosen coaching leadership over other types of leadership styles to put their mark on history. For instance, Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and Apple’s Steve Jobs inspired and motivated their employees to innovate new products and services.

2.  Visionary Leadership Style

Image of a man walking into an eye representing visionary leadership style

Visionary leaders have a vision of where a company or organization should be. They tend to see the big picture and normally don’t worry as much about the small details. These leaders shift people and processes in a way to get them closer to their vision of what the company should be.

Visionary leaders are charismatic and determined to strive for their goals. They are this way because they really believe in the change they are making. This type of leadership is great before and during transition phases within a company. These leaders are great at rallying the troops and keeping them moving forward.

Disadvantages

There are times where other types of leadership styles are more useful. For example, this type of leadership can be very difficult when employees are stuck in their ways. Another downside to this type of leadership is the leader may become too pivotal. When the leader becomes the face and the only driving force the area can revert in the leader’s absence. To avoid this, leaders must instill their vision in others, so they can lead the charge in the leader’s absence.

Advantages

In the ever-changing world, we live in, this type of leadership can be very valuable for companies or organizations looking to improve. Adaptability is very important. These leaders encourage employees to push forward and get better. Knowing when to use visionary leadership can be very helpful for a leader.

Visionary Leadership Example

Many great leaders have used visionary leadership over other types of leadership styles, making an impact on the world. For example, Martin Luther King was an extraordinary visionary leader that was able to get millions and still motivates people toward the great cause of equal rights. Even over 50 years after his death.

3.  Servant Leadership Style

Inside a church representing servant leadership style

The key concept behind servant leadership is to take care of your people and they will take care of the job. Servant leaders believe in people first. Although they may be the boss, they work for their employees.

A servant leader will put the problems and goals of their subordinates over their own. Employees typically like servant leaders because of their ability to fulfill the employee’s needs.

A good servant leader understands the difference between needs and wants. Contrary to popular belief, taking care of somebody’s needs is not the same thing as giving them everything they want. Giving people everything they want can be very counterproductive to the goals of the organization.

Disadvantages

In a culture where hierarchy is very important, servant leaders may struggle because all the decisions are expected to be made by the leader. In this type of environment, a servant leader may be looked at as weak and ultimately may have a hard time gaining the respect of others. More so than most other types of leadership styles.

Advantages

Knowing when to use servant leadership can be very helpful for a leader. This type of leadership can be very useful to keep employees focused on the job. The servant-leader takes care of others’ needs removing roadblocks to production.

Servant Leadership Example

Many religious leaders are a good example of servant leadership. Their job is to serve others. They build their following and power because of their willingness to serve others.

4.  Autocratic Leadership Style

A person on a royal throne representing autocratic leadership style

In autocratic leadership, the boss or manager makes all the decisions. Employees follow the boss’s directions without any hesitation or deviation. Ultimately, the autocratic leader has absolute control over the group, unlike most other types of leadership styles.

Autocratic leaders rarely accept advice from others. They base their decisions on their own views and judgment of situations. Furthermore, autocratic leaders tend to have clearly outlined and communicated rules. Many times, employees are micromanaged, because the boss doesn’t trust subordinates with decisions.

Disadvantages

With this type of leadership, creativity and innovation can be very limited because input is not accepted by others by the boss. Employees may not feel valued, in this environment, diminishing morale. In the long run, this can lead to employee resentment of the boss.

Advantages

Although this type of leadership sounds very negative it can be useful if used in the right situations. Knowing the right time to use this autocratic leadership is very important. When decisions must be made quickly, the autocratic leadership style is very effective. Another good use of this style is when employees are very inexperienced and require very clear and direct instructions. Use this leadership style on a very limited basis, so morale and creativity are not destroyed.

Autocratic Leadership Example

Donald Trump is an example of a leader that has utilized the autocratic leadership style. In many of his business ventures, all decisions went through him. His subordinates make very few calls of their own.

5.  Laissez-faire Leadership Style

A koala being lazy on some vines representing laissez-faire leadership style

Laissez-faire is a hands-off style of leadership. Members of the team are free to make most job-related decisions. The expectation is for the team to solve problems with minimal input from the boss. Supervisors will step in during crises or major decisions but for the most part, are hands-off.

The key to this type of leadership is trust. A leader must have a high level of trust in their subordinates since they have the freedom to make so many decisions.

Laissez-faire leadership is built on the idea that if you build a strong team, they will take care of the job. On the other hand, this leadership style doesn’t work if you don’t have the right people on the team. Employees that are self-starters and require little direction fit in well in this leadership style.

Disadvantages

There are situations where this style is not as effective as other types of leadership styles. With the wrong type of employees or in the wrong situation this leadership style doesn’t work. Employees that aren’t self-starters will be very unproductive in this environment. Additionally, inexperienced employees will have a hard time learning how to do their job effectively with the lack of direction and feedback. Furthermore, superiors can look at this type of leadership as laziness in certain industries and situations. In these scenarios, other types of leadership styles are better to use.

Advantages

Although this type of leadership is not ideal for all situations, knowing when to use laissez-faire leadership has many advantages when used correctly. For starters, giving subordinates freedom fosters creativity. Leaders can focus their time and efforts on other areas when employees don’t need much guidance and direction. This type of leadership can give the right team members a better sense of satisfaction because they take greater ownership of the job.

Laissez-Faire Leadership Example

Although Warren Buffet used many types of leadership styles, he is known for using Laissez-Faire leadership at times. He is known for allowing his high-level associates to run the companies he owns. Buffet uses a hands-off approach allowing his managers to take the ball and run with it after making many of his investment decisions. He trusts that his managers know how to achieve the results he wants. Warren Buffet was quoted saying “Pick out associates whose behavior is better than yours and you’ll drift in that direction.”

6.  Democratic Leadership Style

A person putting a vote into a box representing Democratic Leadership Style

Democratic leadership is a form of leadership where decision making is shared with members of a group unlike most other types of leadership styles. Participative or shared leadership are other common names for this leadership style.

Even though there may be a clear-cut manager or supervisor, in this type of leadership it’s important that everybody’s ideas are equal, and discussions are encouraged. All members are given the opportunity to participate and get their voices heard.

The job of the leader in a democratic leadership style is to facilitate discussions. They ensure discussions stay on topic and don’t get out of hand. The leader also ensures all opinions are voiced before a decision being made. Furthermore, the leader chooses who is part of the decision-making process. The leader maintains the final say in the decision-making process.

Disadvantages

Just like any form of leadership, there are some disadvantages to the democratic style. At times the decision-making process can take a lot longer than other forms of leadership. Members can begin to feel like their not being heard when their decisions or ideas are not followed by the leader. If not headed off by the leader, this type of leadership can lead to in-fighting when members disagree with each other. If group members are very knowledgeable or experienced, group decisions or discussions may not be very productive for a leader in this style of leadership.

Advantages

Although there are disadvantages, knowing when to use the democratic leadership style is very strong in many situations and should be a frequently used tool in any leader’s arsenal. This leadership can help give employees a sense of ownership with decisions. Typically, when employees feel at least partially responsible for decisions, they will work harder to make them a success. Creativity is also increased in this type of leadership because everybody is encouraged to share ideas.

Democratic Leadership Example

Although John F. Kennedy used many different types of leadership styles throughout his presidency, he is a great example of a leader that used the democratic leadership style. He surrounded himself with many knowledgeable and experienced advisors and cabinet members. He relied heavily on these people at times to help him reach the best decisions.

7. Pacesetter Leadership Style

Bicyclists racing representing Pacesetter Leadership Style

In pace-setting leadership, the focus is on high productivity. Very high goals and standards to get things done better and faster are set by the leader. The leader is a very high performer and also expects the same from those working for him or her.

Employees that are not performing well in this leadership are quickly identified. If the leader can’t bring them up to pace, they are typically replaced. Even if an employee is doing their best it may not meet the leader’s standards.

In this leadership style, the leader is quick to jump in and help the team achieve the highest results. These leaders believe in leading by example. Many times, these leaders were very good workers that got promoted because of their hard work ethics. These leaders try to mold or force their subordinates to be like them.

Disadvantages

This type of leader can be devastating to morale, more than many other types of leadership styles. People can get demoralized when the leader jumps in because he/she thinks they are lagging. Also, the employees may feel like the leader doesn’t trust them to do their job. Furthermore, mentorship and feedback are not a priority in this type of leadership. In summary, this can lead to a lack of internal growth over the long run.

Advantages

Although this style of leadership should be used very sparingly, knowing when to use pace setter leadership can be useful. This can be a productive style in certain situations with experienced employees that are self-starters. This would also work with competitive employees to increase production but if used too often may lead to burn out in employees. 

Pacesetter Leadership Example

Many great leaders have used this style at times during their reign. Jack Welch, for example, was known for his lead by example style of leading. He also let nearly 100,000 employees go between the years of 1981 and 1985 while CEO at General Electric.

8.  Transformational Leadership Style

Cocoons transforming into a butterfly representing Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership is a style in which the leader inspires and motivates employees to produce a change in the organization. This change is created through creativity. The leader fosters creativity by allowing employees the freedom to be creative and ultimately grow the company.

A transformational leader is not a micromanager. Furthermore, the transformational leader fosters growth in employees through mentorship and training. This constant development of others strengthens the team and also the organization.

The transformational leader exemplifies moral standards, ethical work practices, and authenticity. They also encourage these qualities in their followers. This produces a mindset in team members of working towards a common good. By instilling their values and vision in others, in the long run, subordinates require less supervision.

Disadvantages

Although transformational leadership is one of the best and most versatile leadership styles, it can have some drawbacks. The transformational leader is very charismatic and very good at building followership. If the leader is unknowingly on the wrong path, others may follow that leader in the wrong direction. Also, at times the leader may not see the problems right in front of them because they are so focused on their vision.

Advantages

There are many advantages to this leadership style. Knowing when to use transformational leadership is essential for a leader. Transformational leadership can be very useful in organizations going through a change or requiring a change. Also, employee morale and satisfaction are typically high under these types of leaders. This can cause many positives like higher production and higher retainability. Furthermore, increased creativity by employees can lead to company growth.

Transformational Leadership Example

Many great leaders chose this style over other types of leadership styles to produce change and take their team to the next level. Reed Hastings, the CEO of Netflix, saw enormous growth of his company using transformational leadership. He inspired and motivated his employees fostering creativity, taking the company from a by-mail DVD rental business model to a streaming mogul.

Click here for more information on becoming a better transformational leader.

9.  Transactional Leadership Style

A gold bitcoin representing Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leadership is a style of leadership in which punishments and incentives are used to motivate employees. When employees achieve certain results, rewards are given. When results are not achieved, punishments are administered.

This leadership style focuses on three basic concepts, organizing, controlling, and short-term planning. The leader must keep the team organized and on the same page. The leader must control the team, meaning he/she sets guidelines and measures to achieve results. It’s also the role of the leader to set short term plans and goals for his team.

The best transactional leaders understand what motivates their subordinates. Understanding the motivation of others can be used to get better results from employees. Common motivations are extra time off, higher pay, public recognition, and not getting fired, just to name a few.

Disadvantages

Although this type of leadership can be useful in many situations, it also has it’s drawbacks. At times the leader may not always account for employees’ values and emotions. If the leader misjudges what motivates others, they may not see the results they are looking for. In some situations, the leader may be so focused on results that team strength and chemistry could suffer.

Advantages

Even with the disadvantages, knowing when to use transactional leadership is very useful for many reasons. Since the leader has a structured plan on how to deal with positive and negative results, this is a very easy to manage leadership style. This method can very productive when there is a time crunch.

Transactional Leadership Example

Many companies and organizations use transactional leadership to get more out of their employees. For example, many players in the National Football League have performance incentives built into their contracts. On the other side, if players are not performing well, coaches may make them run laps or other exercises to try to bring their performance up.

10. Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Golden judge representing the structure of Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic leadership is one of the oldest styles of leadership. It is a rules-based style. There is very little flexibility in this system. Rules are expected to be followed with no deviation. Typically, in this type of leadership the leader’s power comes from the position they are in. Even leaders within this style are bound by rules and regulations.

Bureaucratic leadership has a very strict command structure. The command structure is comprised of a formal hierarchy. This hierarchy is apparent to all involved. Very specific roles are assigned to leaders and subordinates based on their skill sets.

Leaders within this style must have a certain set of qualities in order to succeed. They should be detail-oriented, ensuring even the minuscule rules and regulations are followed. Bureaucratic leaders must be hard workers. Since this is a micromanagement leadership style and not a hands-off approach, these leaders are constantly busy monitoring and controlling subordinates. These leaders should be task-focused, getting tasks accomplished efficiently and quickly.    

Disadvantages

This type of leadership style has its disadvantages. Because of the strict rules and regulations, there is not a lot of room for out of the box thinking. This stifles creativity. People within this structure are rewarded for following the rules. Therefore, there is not a lot of emphasis on advancing expertise in people’s specific areas. Changes in this system are very rough because of the reliance on rules and regulations.

Advantages

Although bureaucratic leadership has its disadvantages, there are also some advantages to this type of leadership. Knowing when to use bureaucratic leadership is important. Professionalism is normally high because of the reliance on rules. The introduction of new people into this type of leadership can be easier because roles and responsibilities are clearly defined. This system can be very useful over other types of leadership styles in places where very repeatable processes are accomplished.

Example

Colin Powell is an example of a leader that utilized the bureaucratic leadership style. Due to his military background, he knew the power and strengths of the bureaucratic style. He used systems to maximize efficiency. Powell’s focus was always on the task ahead of him. He believed everyone should know their job.

What to Do with the Different Types of Leadership Styles

A great leader doesn’t just stick with one style, try to utilize the types of leadership styles that are best for the situation. We all have our strengths and may lean toward one type of leadership style but knowing when to use different types of leadership styles is the key to being the best leader you can be. It’s important to understand the different situations and different people you deal with throughout your career. Different types of leadership styles are stronger in different situations and different people respond differently to each leadership style.

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10 Common Types of Leadership Styles for Strong Leadership

10 Proven Types of Leadership Styles You Need to Know

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