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18 Best Leadership Styles from A to Z

Leadership Styles

Leaders can choose one of a number of leadership styles depending on the situation.  This list of leadership styles is a starting place to learn about leadership.  One leadership style is not necessarily preferable over another as they all have their time and place.  To implement a leadership style one needs to understand their abilities, follower’s capabilities, and the situation.

 

Affiliative Leadership

This type of leadership style is about solving and addressing conflict so that all parties can work in harmony.  The hope is that teamwork can be effective when everything is in harmony.  The leader recognizes top performance while the leader attempts to ignore poor performance.  This leadership style is useful when there is low morale and the focus is on team building.  Leaders emphasize emotional well being over accomplishing goals.

 

Autocratic or Authoritarian Leadership Styles

Authoritarian leadership style is one of the oldest and mainly endures as it comes naturally to many leaders.  The leader makes all decisions and control over the situation.  Team members have very little input over the situation.  Followers may provide feedback or input, but the leader may not head this input since the autocratic leader makes all choices.

Authoritarian leadership is appropriate during occasions of high stress, danger is present, or their followers have a lack of familiarity.  When followers are not responsible for decision-making they can follow.  On the other side, an autocratic leader who abuses their power can become a dictator and create excess tension in the relationship between leader and followers.  This leadership style may lead to micro managing as the individual closely monitors work performance of those they are leading.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Under a bureaucratic leadership style, individuals have responsibilities through a chain of command and apply rules according to regulations.  There are four elements of bureaucratic leadership which are fixed official duties, hierarchy of authority, technical expertise, and a system of rules.  Leaders attempt to rectify problems with the implementation of more rules and regulations, thus creating more layers of control.  Leaders receive authority by managing the flow of information.  The best time to employ this leadership approach is in highly regulated industries or those that have a low demand for creativity and innovation.

 

Charismatic Leadership

A charismatic leader does not solely receive their level of authority from positional power, but rather their authority stems from their personality.  A leader who employs this leadership style will be mindful of the individual with whom they are communicating.  A charismatic leader evaluates the people within the environment and responds according to the needs of the situation.  This type of leader is very effective in communication and uses body language to complement their verbal message.  When an individual is a charismatic leader, there may be a perception that the leader is theatrical through their grandiose storytelling.

Charismatic leaders attempt to differentiate their followers from others.  This practice tends to make people feel special building a stronger bond with the follower.  This bond translates into a stronger commitment to goal attainment.  The nature and values of the leader play a significant role as good intentions can lead to great transformations while a selfish approach may lead to corrosion in the follower or a cult type of setting.

A charismatic leader who is self-confident may lead to a sense of infallibility where they perceive themselves as doing no wrong.  Their style may also make it challenging to develop future leaders due to intolerance for fear of loss of authority and power.

 

Coaching Leadership

Coaching leaders serve as influential people that help people identify strengths and opportunities in light of the followers set goals.  These leaders work with followers to establish a strategy to build upon opportunities to attain long-term goals.  Coaching leaders provide direction and feedback to help individuals improve.

Coaching leaders, balance challenges and outcomes with the objective of helping individuals expand their skills so they can accomplish more in the long-term.  Finding this balance of risk and rewards comes at the potential expense of short-term failure.  The chief focus of the leader is toward follower development rather than accomplishing tasks.

 

Command and Control Leadership

Command and control originates from the military system of management.  The command and control leadership style comes from the desire to put them in a position to preserve power and direct followers and processes.  A leader may use this approach, as they believe they are the most knowledgeable.  Command and control by the leader prevents deviance from the strategic approach to accomplish set goals.

This type of leadership style occurs frequently in bureaucratic organizations.  In these cases, command and control occur because of positional power in a top down approach.  There is a clear difference between the leader and followers.

Historically, command and control was popular in the 20th century.  Typically, these leaders were in positions where they oversaw repetitive actions such as an assembly line.  For this reason managers who are in charge of factories use command and control.

Democratic Leadership

The democratic leadership style occurs when members share leadership and decision making responsibilities.  Under this style of leadership, productivity rises due to the involvement of members, thus leading to an increase in confidence.  When members share ideas and actively engage, the team becomes aware of better solutions.

In many cases, the democratic leadership style produces some of the best outcomes.  However, when a situation has time constraints, democratic leadership may not be the best due to potential communication problems and potentially lack of completion of projects.

 

Facilitative Leadership  Using Leadership Styles is a Puzzle

The objective of the facilitative leadership style is to help make things possible in order to get work done.  Synergy occurs by calling upon the strengths of individual members.  The components of facilitative leadership are establishing relationships through communication and listening.  When a leader is able to establish relationships, they are more likely to receive new ideas and constructive feedback, which both have the power to make situations better.

When a facilitative leader incorporates feedback from their followers, they are more likely to receive support.  When a member feels as though they have a voice, they respond by increasing their interest in the outcome and the leader creates a collective movement.

 

Laissez-faire Leadership

The laissez-faire leadership style is essentially a hands off approach.  By taking a hands off approach, the leader is allowing the team to make the decisions that affect them.  Research suggests this style produces minimal results due to low productivity among team members.

There are times when the laissez-faire leadership style is appropriate.  The best time to use this style is when a team possesses a high degree of skill, motivation, and initiative.  The reason is that these skills allow workers to be highly productive on their own with little direction.  A leader who interjects themselves under these conditions may actually reduce performance levels.

 

Level 5 Leadership

Level 5 leadership comes from research by Jim Collins.  Collins research on what makes a company go from good to great, comes down to level 5 leadership.  Level 1 starts with an individual who has the skill and knowledge necessary for high performance.  Level 2 is the ability to work with others in order to see the team succeed.  At level 3, the leader is a competent manager who can organize and use resources as necessary.  An individual who is an effective leader reaches level 4, as they are able to achieve goals.  Finally, level 5 is a great leader who is humble and possesses the desire or resolve to succeed.

 

Pacesetting Leadership

The pacesetting leadership style starts with the leader in setting high standards for themselves and then transitions to their followers.  The pacesetter leads by example and only has follower’s complete tasks they would do themselves.

Feedback is minimal since the leader is also completing tasks and cannot devote the necessary time.  However, the leader will work closely with followers to demonstrate by example, so the follower understands the expectations.  Followers who are unable to meet the standards set by the leader become replaceable.

High demands can be stressful for followers.  Ultimately, the pace the leader set can lead to burnout.  Since feedback is minimal, followers may be unclear as to the expectations of the leader.

 

Participative Leadership

Those individuals implementing a participative leadership style incorporate others into the decision making process.  Under this style, there is a wide range of how much the leader is involved in the thought process.  Deciding how to involve followers and how much to involve followers depends on a variety of variables.

Participative leadership occurs through consultation and empowerment.  When a leader involves others in the decision making process, it tends to take more time so it is best not use this style when there is urgency.  Inviting others to contribute thoughts, allows the leader to show respect and build confidence in their followers.

 

Servant Leadership

The servant leader begins with the desire to serve and permeates into a desire to lead.  The individual starts with trying to address needs originally.  By serving first, the leader helps others to develop and reach high potentials.

The role of servant leader is an overseer who works closely with the group rather than an individual who develops policy and acts as an authoritarian to maintain control and hold power.  The servant leadership style is putting the needs of the followers at the forefront.  Prioritizing the needs of the followers establishes loyalty to the team.

 

Situational Leadership

Situational leaders rely on making adjustments to match the development of the followers.  The leader will change their directive and supportive actions as necessary.  Elements the leader must consider adapting include telling, selling, participating, and delegating.

For a leader who employs the situational leadership style, they must be capable of four critical competencies.  First, the leader needs to be able to identify the demands of the situation.  Second, the leader is able to change their behavior once they identify situational needs.  Third, the leader has the communication skills so that the followers and they can relate to one another.  Finally, they are able to help the team advance and develop to meet set goals.

 

Strategic Leadership

A strategic leader evaluates situations by attempting to understand strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats to position the organization for growth.  Strategic leaders can internalize a situation so they can communicate with stakeholders and motivate them to take action.  Those using the strategic leadership style will routinely establish goals in an effort to keep progressing.  A chief objective of strategic leadership is to increase productivity and utilize resources in an effective manner to leverage productivity.

 

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership occurs by trading rewards or punishments in accordance with performance.  Leaders are not always aware of follower’s emotions or values, but rather a simplistic form of exchange.

Transactional leadership works as long as labor supply is higher than the demand for that labor.  Leaders do not have to offer more rewards than basic exchanges like providing monetary rewards for accomplishing work.  Oftentimes fear of punishment alone may motivate an individual to complete a task.

 

 Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership has the potential to increase integrity and inspire both the leader and follower to new heights.  Transformational leaders provide support and recognition to followers by rousing emotions in followers, helping the team to reach stretch goals.

Transformational leaders begin by establishing a vision.  The leader entices followers to engage in the vision by connecting with followers values with goals.  In an effort to make the vision a reality short and long-term goals are set.  The transformational leader seeks to develop followers by assisting followers in personal goal attainment.

 

Visionary Leadership

As the name suggests, a visionary leader is the catalyst for vision creation and helps others by identifying manners they can provide value in achieving this vision.  There are two components of visionary leadership, which are a vision and a strategy.  The vision is clear as the leader projects themselves into the future to discover new opportunities for success.  A visionary leader understands that people are important to the strategic approach to the vision.

The visionary leadership style possesses a degree of risk.  Visionary leaders typically operate in uncompetitive spaces as they look into the future to determine needs.  They use their creativity and measure risk to leverage strengths and pursue the leader’s beliefs.  The leaders get people to follow by helping them to understand what is possible and why it is possible.

 

Now that you have had the opportunity to read about 18 different leadership styles and have a basic understanding of each, which are you most likely to use and why?  Which style do you tend to gravitate towards?

About the Author David

David Moriarty writes about leadership, life purpose, and cancer recovery. He is a teacher who works with youth. Previously he overcame his battle with cancer. Currently he is pursuing a degree in leadership.

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