Career Development

What Are Leadership Styles?

June 25, 2021

There are many different leadership styles that you can take advantage of to get the most out of your team. Whether you're a senior manager, or just taking the first steps on your leadership journey, it's important to understand the benefits and downsides of different leadership styles. In this article, we discuss what a leadership style is, why it's important, outline some of the most common leadership styles and give you tips to choose which one you should use.

What is a leadership style?

A leadership style is an approach you take towards leadership and how you manage people. It includes how you delegate work, interact with your team, provide direction, project authority and take disciplinary actions. There are many different ways to define a leadership style. However, there are several commonly accepted definitions of leadership styles.

Why are leadership styles important?

Leadership styles are important because people respond differently to leadership depending on their personality and preferences. As a leader, you need to be aware of how your leadership style impacts your team and what they respond best to. This way, you can adjust your leadership strategy to get the most out of your team and achieve success. It's also important to have self-awareness of what types of leadership you respond best to. For example, you could look for a job with a management team that emphasises a leadership style you prefer.

What are the different leadership styles?

Here's an outline of the most common leadership styles and their benefits and downsides:

Autocratic

Autocratic leadership is sometimes known as authoritarian leadership. An autocratic leader has individual control over decisions and takes little input from group members. They tend to make decisions based on their ideas and avoid external advice. This level of control is useful in some situations because it minimises the number of decision-making process steps and keeps things moving forward, particularly in stressful situations. It also offers a clear chain of command. However, it can be discouraging to team morale.

Democratic

Democratic leadership is sometimes known as shared leadership. It's a leadership style that involves group participation in the decision-making process. A democratic leader favours open discussion and the exchange of ideas while offering guidance as needed. A democratic leadership style is beneficial because it opens the team up to new ideas and solutions. It also promotes teamwork and morale within a team. However, democratic leadership can get bogged down in discussion and requires careful management to ensure that everyone is represented fairly in discussions.

Transformational

Transformational leadership is an inspirational leadership style that focuses on providing a proactive, passionate approach to leadership that gives everyone a chance to succeed. Transformational leadership is beneficial because it can inspire the team to strive for the best outcomes and improve themselves. This empowerment increases productivity and morale in the team. However, transformational leadership can sometimes lack focus, preferring to keep looking at the big picture and long-term improvement.

Charismatic

A charismatic leadership style is focused on getting results by influencing the team through charismatic communication. Charismatic leaders use their personality and communication skills to persuade employees and engage them with their work. Charismatic leaders are motivating and inspirational, which promotes camaraderie and teamwork. However, charismatic leaders must be genuine or they may come across as shallow or disingenuous.

Related: Interpersonal Skills: Definitions and Examples

Strategic

The strategic leadership style is focused on getting others to make decisions in line with the organisational strategy. Strategic leaders are known for thinking ahead and effectively getting everyone on board with a strategy. They are structured and forward-thinking, aiming to create unity. This is beneficial because it creates a framework for the team to work towards. However, strategic leadership is primarily a long-term leadership style and doesn't necessarily offer solutions to urgent problems.

Laissez-faire

Laissez-faire leadership is sometimes known as hands-off or delegative leadership. Laissez-faire leaders approach leadership in a hands-off way and let their team make the decisions. This can work well in some situations because it allows employees to get on with their work and make decisions on their own, which saves time. However, it can lead to low productivity if employers are left without enough direction or motivation to succeed.

Coaching

Coaching leadership is similar to transformational leadership. It's a leadership style that focuses on collaboration, personal improvement, and oversight. Coaching leaders focus on getting the most out of their team by pushing them in the right direction. This can include setting obstacles and goals or promoting training. Coaching leadership is beneficial because it offers a constructive approach to personal and professional development while remaining focused on goals. However, coaching is an intensive leadership style that requires a lot of time and energy input.

Related: Interview Questions: 'What Are Your Greatest Strengths and Weaknesses?'

Visionary

Visionary leadership is a leadership style that focuses on having an inspiring, long-term focused approach to push a team forward. It's a leadership style that focuses on the development of knowledge and skills that drive towards a specific goal. Visionary leadership is beneficial because it allows a team to build towards the future productively. However, aiming for the long-term doesn't solve immediate problems and visionary leaders can get lost in their 'vision'.

Servant

Servant leadership is a leadership style in which the leader is focused on serving their team. A servant leader focuses on the growth and well-being of their team by actively meeting their needs. They need to be empathetic, listen actively and understand the needs of their team. This can be beneficial because it earns the respect of the team and creates a good relationship with leadership. However, this leadership style isn't conducive to quick decision-making and requires an open-minded approach.

Pacesetter

A pacesetter leader is focused on getting things done quick and effectively. They tend to set high standards and strict deadlines. A pacesetter leader is proactive about leading by example and wouldn't expect their team to do something they wouldn't do themselves. The pacesetter leadership style is effective when the goal is creating high-quality output quickly, such as in manufacturing or sales. This, however, comes with the risk of increased stress for the team which can hurt morale.

Bureaucratic

Bureaucratic leadership is a leadership style that focuses on a fixed process and a clear chain of command within a team. It requires strict conformation by the team and can overlap with autocratic leadership. The main difference is that a bureaucratic leadership style focuses on the process, rather than the leader. Bureaucratic leadership is a stable and steady leadership style that removes ego and personality from the leadership process. It has well-defined processes and regulations that allow things to get done to meet requirements.

This does, however, come with the downside of a slower decision-making process because everything must go up the chain of command. It also doesn't allow for much personal and professional development as things are strictly regulated with little room for growth.

Tips to decide which leadership style to use

It can be difficult to decide which leadership style you should use when managing a team. Here are some tips to help you decide:

Understand the needs of your team

It's important as a leader to understand the various strengths, weakness, wants and needs of your team. Once you have a clear picture of your team from the broadest possible viewpoint, you can make a better-informed decision about the leadership style that suits them best. It may also help you realise that you need to take a varied approach to get the most out of your team by integrating different leadership styles in different situations.

Consider how experienced your team is

The leadership style you choose may need to take your team's experience into consideration. For example, a relatively new or inexperienced team would benefit from a more supportive and structured leadership style. This will help them to develop their skills and understanding of their duties and responsibilities. If you have a highly experienced team, you may consider a more relaxed leadership style as you can be confident in their abilities with minimal supervision. As your team progresses and develops over time, you may naturally progress to a more relaxed leadership style.

Remember that no single leadership style is correct

Everyone is different, and a diverse team will have a range of personalities and preferences. Remember that you can't always get it right for everyone all of the time. Instead, take a look at the overall needs of your team and adapt your leadership style to get the best you can out of them. Once you chose a leadership style, you're not stuck with it forever, and you can change your mind any time you want. As long as you're focused on providing the best leadership for your team, you'll find a style that works well.

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