Given the uniqueness of every one of us, it’s not surprising that there’s so many types of leadership styles. An authoritative style might be favoured by someone highly conscientious and disagreeable, controlling things to a finite degree to squeeze work out of their team. An agreeable extrovert may make an effective transformational leader, who gets results by shaping team members into highly-skilled workers. And a democratic leader might be one who is open, amiable, and excellent at mediating agreements.
Whatever your leadership style, it’s important to realise that they’re not created equal. Ideally, you’ll want to achieve a good balance of productivity, autonomy, and work satisfaction for everyone involved (including yourself). These are the eleven types of leadership styles that are most common in the business world, prioritised loosely based on their effectiveness.
1. Democratic leadership
“What do you think?”
A democratic leader invites their team to make group decisions, and encourages as many people as possible to share their ideas. This engages team members, brings out their creativity, and makes them feel important. While the leader still has the final say over the decision, the knowledge and feedback she gets from her team can be invaluable in making a good one.
One downside to democratic leadership is that team members may not have the knowledge to make good decisions, and can take a while to come to an agreement. When this is the case, the leader can take charge and decide what she thinks is best.
Democratic leadership is also known as participative leadership.
2. Coach leadership
“Consider doing it this way.”
A coach leader is one who recognises the strengths, weaknesses, and motivations of every team member, and offers advice on how to utilise them. He aims to hone his team’s skills through a personal one-on-one technique, which makes his staff feel valued and important.
Plenty of time is spent with each team member, which includes goal-setting (and diligently revisiting them), plenty of praise and constructive criticism, and help with how to make their time at work meaningful.
The biggest drawback of coach leadership is the large time commitment to each team member. But the commitment can be considered an investment in the company’s future.
3. Strategic leadership
“Follow this plan, and help me improve it.”
Strategic leaders like to create strategies for the business, and motivate their team to follow them. They’re detail-oriented, but also have a knack for seeing the big picture, and are humble enough to ask team members how to improve their strategies. By setting a clear vision for the team, strategic leaders create a sense of unity that motivates them towards a common goal.
Some risks of strategic leadership include being too inflexible and controlling, and spending too much time planning. But on the whole, this leadership style is very effective.
4. Transformational leadership
“How can we improve?”
Transformational leaders want to transform their team into the best possible versions of themselves. They’re highly charismatic people who have great rapport with their staff, and are excellent at motivating them to complete the company’s goals (and improve while doing it). They focus on solving the challenges of the business, and finding new and better ways to solve them.
Team members with a good transformational leader are likely to find them inspiring, and a shining example to follow. But as with coach leadership, this style requires a big time investment with each member of staff.
5. Affiliative leadership
“How can we work better together?”
An affiliative leader focuses on turning their team into a happy, well-oiled machine. They strive to make the team as harmonious as possible by using a range of communication styles, being a confident leader, and helping to resolve conflicts.They have a genuine passion for making the team feel connected to each other, because they understand that people in a unified team are more fulfilled, more loyal, and more productive.
One issue with affiliative leadership is that it’s focused largely on team building, with a tendency to neglect individual work performance and productivity.
6. Laissez-Faire leadership
“Do as you please.”
A laissez-faire leader is one who leaves the decision-making to their team. They still create and oversee strategies, but are happy to let employees take the reins where possible. They also provide minimal feedback, and let team members set their own deadlines.
Laissez-faire leadership is a hands-off style where immense trust is put into employees. This can work well with a team who is self-motivated, but badly for staff who need extrinsic rewards and punishments to get work done.
7. Pacesetting leadership
“Keep up with me.”
A pacesetting leader sets a fast pace for their team, which tells them how much work should be done, how quickly, and at what level of quality. It’s an intense form of leadership that requires a highly-skilled team, and a desire for continuous improvement.
While this leadership style can be effective in the short-term, there’s a risk of the team eventually becoming burned out, stressed, and resentful.
8. Transactional leadership
“These are your goals, and the consequences for meeting them.”
Transactional leaders like order and structure, which translates into rules and procedures for their staff. They create clear goals and tasks for team members, and outline the rewards and punishments for achieving them. This type of leader creates a clear-cut hierarchy of authority, and likes to monitor their team closely to ensure that instructions are being met.
This type of leadership style can feel stifling for team members, who don’t have the freedom to be creative.
9. Bureaucratic leadership
“Follow these rules.”
As with transactional leaders, bureaucratic leaders rely on strict regulations, rules, and procedures, and a clear chain of command to get things done. They rely less on rewards and punishments to motivate their staff, but nevertheless, expect them to complete their work by-the-book.
Team members who like to follow clear-cut procedures can thrive with this type of leadership style, which can make it suitable for Government offices. But creatives will hate it.
10. Authoritative leadership
“Do as I say, here’s why.”
An authoritative leader wants complete control over the strategy and tasks completed by their team. They determine the exact way that tasks are carried out and tend to explain the reason for their choices, but leave little room for feedback from staff members. They are controlling and often stern, which usually gets people’s backs up.
11. Autocratic leadership
“Do as I say.”
An autocratic leader is almost identical to an authoritarian leader, but doesn’t feel the need to explain their reasoning to team members. They dictate exactly what should be done and how it should be completed, and expect it to be strictly followed.