10 Different Types of Leadership Styles

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1. Visionary

In today’s complex business world, leaders should be prepared to use different leadership styles to effectively manage their teams based on the needs of the organization. Often, it is necessary to use more than one leadership style, and which ones can depend on what challenges a business leader currently faces.

Visionary leadership is the ideal management style to use when a business leader needs to introduce a new concept or new direction to current staff. With this technique, business leaders can inspire employees by presenting them with a powerful and progressive future outlook. To be successful with this method, leaders must make a strong connection with their team to earn their commitment. This can be achieved by creating unity and focusing on how important their team is to helping the organization achieve the new agenda or direction.

2. Coaching

Coaching leadership involves honing a staff member’s individual talent so that they can develop their experience and expertise within their industry or field. With this approach, the leader’s goal is to identify the key skills of its employees and instill knowledge to help further develop the candidate’s career. To be successful with this approach, leaders will need to possess a strong understanding of each team member’s strengths and weaknesses, as well as their inspirations and motivations. This can be achieved by taking the time to get to know their staff and asking strategic questions surrounding their perceived strengths and what they feel they need to be successful.

3. Affiliative

Affiliative leadership is used to nurture workplace morale, helping staff members reconnect with their organization and their peers. This leadership style focuses on the group as a unit; however, it is important to hold each employee accountable for their role in the team re-building process. When morale is low, some workers need more motivation than others to encourage them to invest their hearts into rebuilding workplace relationships.

4. Democratic

The democratic leadership style involves soliciting group opinion to help find the solution to a difficult problem. The democratic leadership style tallies the staffs’ opinions for a possible solution, which is then presented to the organization’s leadership who makes the final decision. When business leaders include staff in the decision-making process, staff members are more likely to offer genuine support for the agenda, because they helped to devise the plan. The democratic leadership style is not appropriate for dealing with business emergencies.

5. Pacesetting

The pacesetting approach requires setting performance standards and holding team members accountable for meeting those goals. Although performance can be measured based on quantifiable metrics, it is especially important for leaders using the pacesetting approach to understand and consider all possible factors that can influence performance. Additionally, the pacesetting method should not be overused, as it can lower staff morale when they do not achieve the goals.

6. Autocratic

The autocratic leadership style is primarily the traditional boss-worker structure, where management makes a majority of decisions and workers do what is asked of them. An advantage of this method is that companies and organizations are able to execute their vision in an efficient and effective manner. A great example of when this leadership style is appropriate is for extremely complex projects – such as construction – where conformity is necessary for worker safety and project completion. However, if an autocratic leadership style is used inappropriately, workers may become extremely dissatisfied and can feel as though they provide little to no value.

7. Commanding

Modeled after the military, the commanding leadership style is similar to the autocratic leadership style but involves no input from subordinates. The commanding method of leadership has long been known as the style used in a time of crises when there is no time for leadership to explain what is happening but immediate action is necessary. In the daily workplace, this is the most ineffective leadership style, as there are rarely daily crises and workers enjoy understanding what they are doing, as well as having a say in work-related projects and situations.

8. Laissez-faire

The laissez-faire leadership style involves leadership empowering staff with minimal directives. With this style, leaders often provide their staff with the tools needed to complete their work, and as appropriate, let staff resolve issues on their own. Although this method results in the highest job satisfaction rating, the success of the style can be largely dependent on the composition of the team and specific to highly skilled and motivated staff members.

9. Bureaucratic

The bureaucratic leadership style relies on the positions individuals hold within their organizations and businesses to definitively outline their responsibilities, rules and regulations within the organization. An advantage of this leadership style is that it is highly efficient and controllable. This is due to the fact that bureaucratic leadership can be thought of as a system with several levels of management, each reporting to the level above it. The cons of this style are that it is quite hierarchical, and workers or managers on the lower level have a difficult time expressing good ideas or input to those in charge, as they often have to travel through a vast chain of management.

10. Servant

With servant leadership, people are the most important business component and their needs are key priorities. This leadership style focuses on the concept that a satisfied team will produce good work, and it works best when coupled with other, more authoritative, leadership styles. When using servant leadership, it is important to consider whether this style is appropriate for the organization’s corporate culture.

Depending on the circumstances a business leader is dealing with, they may need to incorporate different leadership styles to move their organization forward, especially as organizations face growing complexity and ongoing change. Whatever styles business leaders use, it is important to remember to apply the right style to the right situation to help enhance employee performance and morale.

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Norwich University’s online Master of Science in Leadership program is designed to help you demonstrate the skills and knowledge needed to lead teams and inspire progress, while also growing your career. The program is practical and pertinent, allowing students to apply leadership concepts immediately to their job and workplace.


Leadership Styles - Choosing the Right Approach for the Situation, Mind Tools

Leadership Styles – Management, The Wall Street Journal

6 Leadership Styles And When You Should Use Them, Fast Company