7 Different Leadership Styles – What’s Yours?

What makes a good leader? You might not realise but there are actually countless different ways to lead and countless different leadership styles that come with them.

Just like love languages (yes, this post is going live on Valentine’s Day!), each leadership style is tailored to the person leading. Whilst each team member will respond better to different leadership styles, depending on their personality and preferences.

So it’s pretty important to know what your leadership style is and what your team needs.

That way, you can transition between different styles, guide your company’s leaders to do the same and respond to the needs of your team. All whilst finding the best approach for your organisation.

Introducing: 7 different leadership styles

1. Democratic leadership style

A democratic leadership style is very similar to a democratic government style (don’t worry, we’re not getting political here!).

The leader will base their decisions on their team members’ input.

Each employee is able to share their views and get their voice heard in an open forum. The leader will then make the final decision as to which path is followed.

Whilst individual suggestions might not always be followed through on, they are always heard. Everyone feels included. As they have a say in the way their work is, well, working.

This can be a great way to promote trust and collaboration across a company. Whilst also welcoming in new out-of-the-box thinking and suggestions.

However, it can sometimes be tricky to reach a team consensus. Something that can be particularly challenging for the people pleasers amongst us.

2. Autocratic leadership style

An autocratic leadership style is the polar opposite of a democratic leadership style. Instead of each team member having a platform to share their views, the leader’s view is always front and centre.

This leadership style follows a very top-down approach with no input from other employees.

Instead, the leader makes the decisions and assigns tasks to their team members to follow through on.

Whilst it might sound extreme, this leadership style does actually have its advantages. Especially when rapid implementation is required.

Decisions are made and implemented quickly. Something which can be particularly helpful in disaster situations.

However, as you might’ve guessed, people don’t feel heard. It tends to be an unsustainable leadership style in the long run. And, when the leader leaves the company, the business is often left in the lurch as they are fully dependent on that one individual.

3. Transformational leadership style

The transformational leadership style focuses on moving the team towards a positive impact. The aim is to fulfil the team’s potential through their own development and, you’ve guessed it, transformation.

This positive approach is typically closely associated with the company’s goals. Focusing on growth and development to maximise the possibility of each individual.

However, there are some drawbacks to a transformational leadership style.

With such ambitious goals and evolutions, it’s key that a balanced approach needs to be taken. Otherwise, the team can face a severe risk of burnout.

4. Transactional leadership style

The transactional leadership style follows a relatively traditional business approach. It focuses heavily on rewards and punishments.

You might well recognise this from the benefit and bonus schemes that many organisations follow. When a team member does well, they’re rewarded with financial incentives, cash rewards and other perks.

The approach is simple: if you do this, you’ll get that. This means that it’s very structured, with goals clearly defined across the team.

On the flip side, this leadership style can focus a little too much on rewards over relationships.

It’s worth remembering that each individual will have a different motivational style – financial rewards might not be enough to get them moving. Whilst such a strongly structured system can restrict original thinking as the goal is on achieving pre-set tasks rather than innovation.

5. Laissez-faire leadership style

The laissez-faire leadership style takes a hands off approach. Rather than micromanaging, this leader takes the opposite approach. They’re hands off and let their employees run the show.

The laissez-faire leader will only interfere when truly needed. Otherwise, it’s up to the individual team members.

It’s clear that a lot of trust is involved as this is a very relaxed approach. The leader needs to have faith in their employees that they’re the right hires for the job.

An example of this leadership style in practice might be in working practices, with employees able to work how, where and when they like. Which, in turn, can leave team members feeling respected and valued with better life-work balance and better results.

However, it can cause issues when there isn’t enough oversight from leaders or when a team member needs additional guidance. Whilst good communication skills are essential to ensure that work isn’t disjointed.

6. Situational leadership style

A situational leadership style follows a very fluid flexible approach. The leader will adapt their style to suit the situation, team and environment they’re in.

This means they’re able to easily analyse each situation and tweak their approach accordingly.

Typically, the situational leader is a very good communicator who’s able to verbally share their approach on the fly. This is essential given the fact that the team is experiencing a constant form of change.

However, whilst tailoring your approach to each situation has countless benefits there are some drawbacks too. Especially when changing your leadership style too often as this can lead to confusion.

7. Intentional leadership style

An intentional leadership style tends to be deeply rooted in the leader’s (or company’s) values. There’s a clear overarching vision that the leader is working towards.

Everything they do, everything they communicate, and every task they set is always aligned with that end goal.

At the same time, the leader is developing themselves along the way. They’re growing with intention as they work through a clear plan to bring their vision to life.

Each team member is able to see the connection between their tasks and the overarching goal, meaning each action is deliberate and with intention.

Which different leadership style is best?

The leadership style needs to match the leader and their personality. These can then be tweaked and tailored to the company or team as needed.

You’ll find that there are times when a leader’s leadership style doesn’t match what’s needed in a company and this is where problems arise.

Certain leadership styles might work best when leading certain age groups. Other leadership styles may also be best suited for certain parts of a company.

For example, when safety is required, a more autocratic leadership might be preferred by a leader who has the appropriate experience.

My personal preference is an intentional leadership style, where a leader is clear about their goals and what they want to accomplish. The leader considers both their values and the company’s. Acting as a guide to employees to take action to reach their goals.

Is leading Gen Z different?

I’m hearing this question a lot right now and my answer is simple. It’s just the same as any other team – you need to be able to tailor your leadership style to the people you’re leading.

How to tailor different leadership styles

If a leader’s stuck to one leadership style for the majority of their career, it’s going to be difficult to evolve into a different leadership style overnight. However, that evolution is so important.

Whether it comes from staff, HR or the leader themselves, everyone needs to be open to feedback and open to evolving in their careers. Especially leaders.

1. Visualise the leader you want to be

If a leader identifies that they want to improve their leadership style to be more in line with what is needed in his or her current role, the first step is to identify what they want to evolve into.

What type of leader do you want to be? How do you want to feel? How do you want those around you to feel? Leadership journaling can help you uncover this.

2. Identify your path there

Once you’re clear on the style of leadership you’re looking for, it’s time to break down what you need to do to get there.

It can help to find someone, either in your company, industry or online space, who already embodies the leadership style you want to emulate. Use them as a study to find out more about their habits, what they do, how they do it and so on.

3. Start to practice

This isn’t a TV show overnight transformation. It takes time, effort and work.

Use your inspiration to practice the leadership style. Task yourself with two or three actions that you can try out each fortnight and see how you go.

I often work with my executive coaching clients on these types of projects. You’ll report back to me each session, review whether your experiment worked (or not) and set a series of new actions to try before the next session. It really is a process of trial and error!

Discover your inner strengths. And become the leader you’ve dreamed of being:

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About the author

Lisa is a mother, a business owner, a founder, and an executive leader. She's been through it all and has come out the other side to thrive. Now she's helping you to do the same! Learn how you can find clarity and support through her services for individuals and organisations.