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Common Leadership Styles and How to Create Your Own Style

No matter what level you may be on your career path, at some point you will have to take up leadership roles. What type of leader you will become depends on factors such as your personality, your experience under previous superiors or even a leadership style you choose to adopt. Many leadership styles can be grouped under the broad categories discussed in this article. Continue reading for all you need to know about the best approaches and what kind of a leader you can become.

Here's what this article will cover:

  1. What Is Leadership?
  2. What Makes an Effective Leader?
  3. Why Is It Important to Understand Different Leadership Styles?
  4. Common Leadership Styles and Their Pros and Cons
  5. Choosing Leadership Styles
  6. How Hard is it to Change Your Leadership Style?

What Is Leadership?

Leadership is not only about having the designation as a manager or the head of a department. It is fundamentally the capacity of a person to influence or guide the actions and behaviors of others to achieve a common goal. That means, anybody can rise up to take up a leadership role as and when the situation demands it.

What Makes an Effective Leader?

Effective leaders have a set of common traits that comes naturally as a result of their personality type or as an acquired skill. They are highly driven individuals who also have a desire to drive others to accomplish any challenge. Leaders possess business knowledge and intelligently mobilize resources and people for the task at hand. They also set examples through their honesty and integrity and are looked up to by their teammates. Being open-minded and extraverted are also essential qualities of effective leaders.

Why Is It Important to Understand Different Leadership Styles?

Understanding different types of leadership styles will bring more awareness to the way you lead and help improve upon it. To become an effective leader you must have a good understanding of your natural strengths, values and abilities and align it with known approaches to leadership to have a better control over the scope of your reach and its impacts. It also sets a baseline for you to work and incorporate newer attitudes that go with your leadership style.

Common Leadership Styles and Their Pros and Cons

Autocratic Style

The autocratic leadership style is one where the leader takes control completely. It is often described as the “my way or the highway” approach and is quite opposite to the democratic leadership style. Autocratic leaders can find that brainstorming and group discussions can slow things down and it is better to make decisions alone.

Pros: The decision process in autocratic styles occurs faster and teams remain on track without delays.

Cons: The employees can feel disconnected, restricted or ignored. It can also become abusive in extreme cases.

Authoritative Style

The authoritative style or also called visionary style of leadership has a central leader figure who drives progress by inspiring the employees. Authoritative leaders have tremendous support for new ideas and work by establishing a strong organizational bond. Authoritative leadership works well for starts ups or small organizations experiencing rapid growth under the leadership of the visionary.

Pros: Authoritative leadership work well during times of rapid growth and change. It can unite teams by boosting

The morale of the company and bring in new practices and technology while phasing out the old ones.

Cons: Since visionary leaders are heavily future-oriented they would sacrifice the present-day issues.

Pacesetting Style

A pace setting leader is a highly effective agent to drive change and deliver fast results. They are mainly focused on measurable performance and strictly adhere to associated practices. The leaders often set high standards for their employees and hold them accountable for achieving it. The pacesetting style work in organizations with highly motivated individuals who thrive in fast-paced environments. The leaders are also highly competent, set higher bars and are slow to praise their employees.

Pros: It promotes fast-paced, high-energy work environments which gives measurable results.

Cons: It does not work well when team members need mentorship and feedback. It can also lead to burn out of employees.  

Democratic Style

The democratic leadership style as the name suggests involves the leaders running their organizations like a democracy. It is also called a s a “participative leadership” as the leaders get down to the level of employees and work together with them. They value the inputs from everyone and involve the teams in the decision making process. Instead of handing down orders from a higher ground, democratic leaders use a collaborative approach to accomplishing tasks.

Pros: This style fosters creativity and innovation in the team members. It improves job satisfaction for everyone.

Cons: It can inefficient and costly when approval from people can get delayed and hold projects back.

Coaching Style

A coaching style leader can swiftly identify the strengths and weaknesses of team members and motivate them to improve. They help the team with smart goal setting strategies and offer regular feedback for continuous improvement. Coaching style leaders also set realistic expectations from their team and create a positive working environment. This type of leadership is helpful for organizations of all sizes but is often an underutilized methodology.

Pros: Coaching style of leadership is highly positive in its approach and motivates employees to develop new skills and take up challenging tasks confidently.

Cons: It is time consuming and can fall short with short deadline tasks.

Affiliative Style

The affiliative style leadership takes a “people first” approach where the leader promotes harmony and conflict resolution among teams. Affiliative leaders focus on building highly cohesive groups that work diligently to meet organization goals. They have a genuine interest of the well being of the employees at heart and ensure that the teams feel connected to one another.

Pros: Affiliative leaderships create tighter-knit teams that work in complete harmony and resolve conflicts quicker. Workers feel more warmly towards their bosses and have higher employee morale.

Cons: It can be challenging to get groups of different individuals to work in harmony at all times. And since the leaders use a more hands-off approach they are more prone to failing.

Transactional Leadership

A transactional leader is similar to a pacesetter except that they use rewards, incentives and disciplinary action to motivate their teams to achieve their goals. The manager under this leadership style establishes incentives such as monetary rewards for success which drives employees to perform. It works well in organizations with goals such as sales or revenue targets. It doesn’t work well in environments that need creativity.

Pros: The leadership delivers effectively on short-term well defined goals that exist within a known structure.

Cons: Not all employees are motivated by incentives or disciplinary actions and it can fail when the goals are long term.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership is a style that works well for people who naturally have charismatic personalities. They tend to be magnetic and always inspire others to follow them and maintain plenty of conviction to achieve their goals. Their tool is often eloquent persuasion and clear communication with the teams instead of strict instructions. They are good at motivating and getting the team excited about the set goals.

Pros: This style is good at getting whole teams fired up about goals and shared objectives.

Cons: Charisma is often an innate quality and these leaders are prone to tunnel vision.

Transformational Leadership

This leadership style is similar to the coach type leadership except that the leader is more inclined to commitment to the goals of the organization rather than reaching the individuals goals of employees. The transformational leadership style focuses on goal setting, clear and open communication and employee motivation. Transformational leadership styles works well when tasks are delegated and the teams do not need to be under constant supervision.

Pros: It emphasizes personal values and ethics which can boost the morale of the organization.

Cons: The leaders can often overlook details while focusing on big picture.

Servant Leadership

Servant leaders also swear by the “people first” attitude and are quite opposite to the autocratic leaders. They believe that to bring the best out of the employees they must first be fulfilled professionally and personally.

Pros: This leadership boosts employee loyalty which is good for the long term gains to the organization.

Cons: The leaders can feel burnt out putting the needs of the employees first and setting other goals behind.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is characterised by the leaders who always ‘go by the book’. They maintain strict hierarchal authority and derive their power from it rather than their unique skills to manage people. They always follow their road map and never deviate.

Pros: This works well in stable organizations where the environment is constant such as a production facility.

Cons: They experience a paralysis of paradigm and refuse to change with the trends.

Laissez-Faire Style

The Laissez-Faire style is a truly hands-off approach to leadership as the term literally means “leave it be” in French. It is a management style that is quite opposite to micromanagement. These leaders provide the tools and facilities and let the employees do their thing.

Pros: It works well in environments requiring high creativity.

Cons: It can quickly turn chaotic if the team members are poorly organized.

Directing Style

The directing leadership style involves defined roles as leaders and followers where the decisions are made by the leader and conveyed to the follower. The leader also closely supervises the task to ensure it sticks to plan until completion.

Pros: This leadership style works with well defined tasks that have no deviations and works when the employees are inexperienced.

Cons: The communication is mostly one-way and employs can feel left out.

Supporting Style

The supporting leadership style works similar to the directing style except that the leaders and followers are equally invested in decision making and execution. It works well in environments where the employees are experienced enough for the job but are uncomfortable in the decision making process.

Pros: The leader is always around to boost the morale of the employees during times of slow progress.

Cons: It is prone to mistakes and slower turn-around times.

Delegating Style

The most characteristic feature of the this style is that the leaders share both the authority and responsibility with their employees. The teams are empowered to complete tasks and projects on their own without constant monitoring.

Pros: Employees perform more competently when they feel they have higher control and agency.

Cons: There are chances that leaders could overestimate the employees.

Choosing Leadership Styles

Here are ways you can figure out your leadership style and adopt one that works for you and your team:

  • Experiment with different approaches in different circumstances and measure the outcome. Change the approach to fine tune.
  • Seek a mentor who has years or possibly decades of leadership experience to advice you on what suits you better.
  • Ask for feedback from both your superiors and your teammates regarding how your approach is working and what can be changed.
  • Be authentic throughout your leadership role. Adopting values and methods that go against your personality or principles can cause unnecessary stress.
  • Know yourself and your personality traits before choosing a style.
  • Understand the different styles of leadership and how ideas from one can be borrowed to yours to make it better.
  • Practice makes a leader. Nobody is born with the skill, leadership is forged over time.
  • Develop your leadership agility and be flexible to change and respond quickly to improve your approach.

How Hard Is it to Change Your Leadership Style?

Although you have understood what each one entails you may feel that there isn’t exactly one approach that describe your leadership style. It is true for all leaders as many of them fall in the gray areas of one or the other. The good thing is leadership styles are not set in stone and they can be changed and it is quite often the case that it does. For example if you are autocratic in your approach and it is causing considerable discomfort in your new role, you could adopt a few of the democratic leadership qualities to offer your natural style and bring some equilibrium. The ideal approach to leadership is to be flexible and adopt different leadership strategies that meet specific circumstantial demands.

Last updated on: 
October 30, 2023

Vartika Rai

Product Manager at Interview Kickstart | Ex-Microsoft | IIIT Hyderabad | ML/Data Science Enthusiast. Working with industry experts to help working professionals successfully prepare and ace interviews at FAANG+ and top tech companies

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