In times of challenge and change, our leadership style can have a profoundly negative or positive impact on the people we lead and the outcomes we’re trying to achieve.
Typically, as leaders we will gravitate towards one of 8 defined leadership styles so understanding our preference, how each style differs and what impact these styles have on the teams we lead provides a really valuable insight into how our business operates.
Attached to each leadership style is a set of advantages and disadvantages. What works for some employees doesn’t resonate with others and this represents one of the key challenges of effective leadership today. Despite this, we know that the best leaders are those who live authentically by their leadership style and personal values.
The 8 leadership styles are:
Some styles, such as Autocratic and Transactional Leaders, lead from the front; making all the decisions and asking (or telling!) the team to follow them. Others, such as Coach and Democratic, lead from the middle and they’ll roll up their sleeves to help get the job done. There are other styles, such as Laissez-Faire, that lead from behind to let the team shine and take on added responsibility.
Some styles are hands on, and others hands off. Some value highly structured environments while others harness this instability to create new, innovative ways of working. Some challenge the status-quo, others live by it.
We might also adapt our leadership styles over time and depending on the types of teams we lead. Typically, younger employees need more direction so we find ourselves defaulting to a more autocratic style with extrinsic motivations to help them settle in, learn the ropes and grow. When we lead highly experienced teams, we tend to shift to intrinsic motivations and thus, a more democratic or coach style of leadership.
Below is a summary of each leadership style, including a definition and what to look for as the characteristics of this leadership style. Have a think about which style resonates most with you. Is this a style you think you authentically live each day or is it a style you want to develop to better reflect the type of leader you wish to be? As a lesson in self-awareness and self-reflection, it can be a real eye-opener for some.
The Democratic Leader involves and takes into consideration the opinions of the entire team, however makes the final decision.
This type of leader asks, “what do you think?” and will always involve and consider all opinions, empowering the team to be part of the solution.
The Autocratic Leader makes decisions without taking input from anyone who reports to them. Employees are neither considered nor consulted prior to a direction, and are expected to adhere to the decision at a time and pace stipulated by the leader.
This style allows the leader to dictate work methods and processes. This tends to create a highly structured and ridged work environment but establishes defined rules and boundaries through clearly outlined communication.
The least intrusive form of leadership; the French term “laissez faire” literally translates to “let them do,” and leaders who embrace it afford nearly all authority to their employees
A hands-off approach to leadership, Laissez-Faire Leaders will provide all the training, support and resources to the team and let employees make decisions. They’re comfortable with making mistakes and take accountability on behalf of the team when things go wrong.
Strategic Leaders sit at the intersection between a company’s main operations and its growth opportunities. He or she accepts the burden of executive interests while ensuring that current working conditions remain stable for everyone else.
Strategic Leaders will say “I need your help…” and “how can I help you…”. They are clear and purposeful communicators who are dedicated to getting the job done. Strategic Leaders thrive in an environment where they can challenge old conventions to create better solutions and do so knowing that everything will likely not happen as it is supposed to. They are disciplined in always keeping the objective first and maintain a structure to their decision-making process.
Transformational Leaders are always “transforming” and improving on conventions. While the team will have a requirement to complete set tasks and goals within their role, Transformational Leaders are constantly pushing them outside their comfort zone.
Transformational Leaders lead with vision; it’s a leadership style focuses on inspiration and motivation. Attuned to the feelings of their team members, Transformational Leaders know how to keep their ego in check. They’re proactive and can make difficult decisions, entertaining new ideas and easily adapting to change.
Transactional leaders are fairly common today. These managers reward their employees for precisely the work they do.
Based on extrinsic motivations, Transactional Leaders reward performance and practicality. They tend to micromanage their teams and place emphasis on the corporate structure and their own self-interests.
Coach Leaders will focus on identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of each member within the team. They also focus on strategies that will enable their team to work better together. This style offers strong similarities to strategic and democratic leadership, but puts more emphasis on the growth and success of individual employees.
Coaches are known for their positive outlook and enthusiastic attitude. They’re supportive, goal-oriented, observant and patient. As clear communicators, Coaches come across as very knowledgeable and trusting.
Bureaucratic Leaders go by the books. They create power structures and relationships that discourage dissent, typically by centralising decision making and forcing compliance using rules and procedures.
Bureaucratic Leaders favour well-structured management and more formal, hierarchical structures. They’re hard working and task-oriented and can sometimes be strong minded.
Understanding your leadership style is a great step towards your self-awareness and development in authenticity. After all, the ultimate goal is to become an Authentic Leader. Understanding the leadership style you naturally lean into can help you refine the type of leadership style you’d like to emulate as well as how to get the most out of the teams you lead.