This article is part of The Ascender, the Highrise platform for articles and resources.

What are the Different Styles of Leadership?

Andrew Langat
November 16, 2022
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Leadership, at its core, is all about providing direction to a group. This can be done using different leadership styles, depending on the circumstance, objectives, leadership mentoring, and organizational culture.

There is nothing like the best leadership style; a leader's role is to deliver the right leadership style to realize set objectives. This can be a daunting task for anyone new to a leadership role as often the results and not the process will judge them.

No matter the leadership style, it should be flexible enough to adapt to various situations but firm enough to withstand negative influences. Thomas Jefferson put it succinctly when he opined that in matters of (leadership) style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.

Mentoring and Coaching leadership initiatives can help refine leadership skills, impart Fundamentals of Leadership, and make one an effective leader. 

This article will detail the eight common leadership styles and how they are applied.

An infographic listing the various styles of leadership.

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1. Democratic Leadership style

Democratic leadership is based on group involvement. Democratic Leaders prioritize team members’ participation in generating ideas and voicing opinions when making decisions. In some quarters, this leadership style is also known as the participative leadership style.

At first glance, democratic leadership appears to be based on a free flow of ideas that could undermine leaders; however, with this leadership style, a leader still decides who contributes to the decisions being made. 

A Democratic leader must be honest, intelligent, courageous, competent, and fair. If done right, this leadership style could yield significant benefits in creativity and engagement, boosting organizational productivity.  

To paint a clearer picture of the potential and limitations of democratic leadership, here are some pros and cons of the democratic leadership style:

Advantages of Democratic Leadership style

  • Democratic leadership can help a team generate more ideas and creative solutions to problems. 
  • This style of leadership can boost team engagement and commitment. 
  • In almost all circumstances, democratic leadership leads to higher productivity.
  • Enhances innovation as ideas are openly debated
  • It can enhance team cohesion as members feel we are in this together.

Disadvantages of Democratic Leadership

  • Relying on group participation could lead to miscommunication. 
  • Poor decisions could be made due to input from unskilled team members. 
  • Popular-albeit bad decisions could overrule good decisions by the minority from the majority. 
  • Unlike, for example, the authoritarian leadership style, it can lead to a slower decision-making process.
  • How to Become a Democratic Leadership styles

Given the significant advantages of the democratic leadership style, one might adopt it to boost team productivity. Here are some ways to boost your democratic leadership credentials:

  • Emphasize accurate and timely communication between team members
  • Study team strengths and weaknesses to maximize organizational efficiency. 
  • Work to improve efficiency in accepting and proce0ssing team feedback and input.
  • Study how great democratic leaders have applied this style.

When to Use the Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic style is an effective leadership style under the following circumstances:

  • When leading a highly skilled and knowledgeable team whose feedback will enrich the decision-making process, for example, the head of an engineering division in a company will greatly benefit from the input of other members, such as junior engineers.
  • When the goal is to improve team cohesion and to promote innovative ideas, this is important when leading a creative team where various viewpoints will enrich the process.

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2. Autocratic Leadership style

Unlike other leadership styles, Autocratic leadership is all about control. The leader is central to team decisions and often works without the input of other team members. This leadership style is best suited for companies or organizations needing quick decision-making.  

Elon Musk is a good example of an autocratic leader. His preference for this leadership style has been reported in engagements in Tesla and his recent acquisition of Twitter, where with little consultation, he is working at implementing changes, often with little or no consultations.

While this leadership style might seem outdated and counter-productive in modern times, it still has some advantages. 

Here are some pros and cons of the autocratic leadership style:

Advantages of Autocratic Leadership Styles

  • Autocratic leadership makes for quick decision-making. 
  • It establishes a clear hierarchy and chain of command.
  • Autocratic leadership allows team members to operate without the stress of leadership decisions. 
  • It is easy to set clear expectations for team members

Disadvantages of the Autocratic Leadership Styles

  • Autocratic leadership discourages team input which could hurt team morale and even lead to resentment. 
  • It excludes skilled team members from leadership decisions. 
  • Autocratic leaders can miss out on potentially creative solutions to problems facing the company or organization.
  • It can lead to abuse, especially if the leader uses it to settle personal scores

When to Use Autocratic Leadership approach

Autocratic leaders work best when there is a need for quick decision-making. Moreover, it works best in small groups where leadership is absent or there is a history of factionalism or lack of team cohesion leading to poor results.

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3. Charismatic Leadership Style

A charismatic leader uses communication skills and charm to influence team members and external parties. In essence, charismatic leaders connect with people on a deeper level, letting them extract more from team members or employees. 

An example of a Charismatic leader is Barack Obama, who charmed his way to the American presidency.

It is difficult to pin down what makes one a charismatic leader; nevertheless, leaders who use this style are typically more confident, motivational, charming, optimistic, and possess excellent communication skills. 

Given the nature of charismatic leadership, this style has the following pros and cons:

Advantages of Charismatic Leadership

  • Charismatic leaders are inspirational, so they can motivate the team to achieve set goals and objectives. 
  • This leadership style could result in greater camaraderie within the organization or company. 
  • Charismatic leaders can make each team member feel heard and understood. This could deepen team engagement and commitment. 

Disadvantages Of Charismatic Leadership

  • An emphasis on charisma could create an unhealthy reliance on a single leader. 
  • Charismatic leadership could appear to be self-serving rather than working to achieve team goals. 
  • Unconventional leadership methods can alienate team members. 

How to Become a Charismatic Leader focuses

To become a charismatic leader, take the following steps:

  • Practice vulnerability
  • Work on your communication skills
  • Exercise transparency in leadership decisions
  • Be humble
  • Establish a clear vision to help influence others

When to Use Charismatic Leadership style works

Charismatic leadership works best when you want to inspire a group toward a given goal by connecting with them at an emotional level. This way, they can respond to initiatives and firmly believe that a leader's cause of action is worth it.

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4. Transformational Leadership Style

The Transformational Leadership Style is a style of leadership that seeks to motivate and inspire employees to achieve organizational goals. This leadership style focuses on creating a vision for the future and motivating employees to buy into that vision.

A transformational leader often builds trust and creates a sense of shared purpose among employees.

Some examples of transformational leaders include Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and Oprah Winfrey.

Advantages of Transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership has many advantages, such as:

  • It can help bring about change within an organization. This can be helpful when an organization needs to make changes to improve its performance.
  • It is great at motivating and inspiring others. This can lead to increased productivity and creativity within an organization.

Disadvantages of Transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership also has some disadvantages, such as:

Transformational leaders often take a lot of time to achieve results. This is because they often need to slowly build trust and support from others before they can implement change.

Transformational leaders can sometimes be seen as autocratic or dictatorial. This is because they typically have a clear vision of how things should be done and may not be open to input from others.

When to Use Transformational Leadership Style

The transformational leadership style is best used in situations where there is a need for change within an organization. It can be helpful when an organization is struggling and needs to improve.

Transformational leaders can also be successful in team-building situations. They can help inspire and motivate team members to work together towards a common goal.

a group of executives talking in a meeting room.

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5. Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Laissez-Faire leadership, also known as delegative, is a style of leadership in which the leader takes a hands-off approach and allows subordinates to make decisions and take action without interference or guidance.

Advantages of Laissez-faire leadership

  • It Can lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation as group members feel engaged.
  • Team members feel more empowered and motivated.
  • Less need for direct supervision from the leader.

Disadvantages of Laissez-faire leadership style

  • It Can be difficult to maintain control over projects and goals.
  • Team members may feel isolated and unsupported.
  • It may not be appropriate for all types of work environments.

When to Apply Laissez-faire leadership style

This leadership style is best applied when the team has a high level of self-motivation and can work autonomously.

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6. Transactional Leadership style

The transactional leadership style is a leadership style that emphasizes the exchange of rewards and punishments as a means to motivate followers. This leadership style follows the model of “tit-for-tat” or “quid pro quo.”

This type of leadership is ineffective in the long term, as it does not promote trust or respect between leaders and followers.

The transactional leader is more likely to be concerned with tasks, procedures, and outcomes than with people. The transactional leader's goal is to balance rewards for a good performance against punishments for poor performance.

When To Use Transactional Leadership style

This type of leadership works best in organizations with established structures when every team member has clearly defined duties.

When to Use Laissez-faire leadership style

This type of leadership can be effective in certain situations, such as when subordinates are highly skilled and motivated and need a little direction from the leader.

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7. Coaching Leadership Style

Coaching leadership is a leadership style where the leader is like a coach to a group. They exercise leadership by nurturing individual strengths within a team.

Two great example of Coaching leaders are Dale Carnegie and Phil Jackson.

Advantages of Coaching leadership style

  • It helps leaders to understand the needs and expectations of their group members. This helps them assign tasks effectively and understand what the person they are leading needs to succeed.
  • This leadership style helps build trust between the leader and the group members, as both are on equal footing.

Disadvantages of Coaching Leadership Style

  • It can be time-consuming for both parties,
  • It can also lead to less accountability from subordinates as they cannot be held accountable for tasks assigned by their leader due to a lack of ownership
  • It can lead to confusion when there are miscommunications between team members with different leaders who use different leadership styles.

When to Use Coaching Leadership Style

This leadership approach is best if the goal is to nurture individual strengths among team members. A coaching leader should recognize each member's strengths and plan to bring out the best.

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8. Visionary Leadership Style

Visionary leadership style is a type of leadership that emphasizes the importance of having a vision. Daniel Goleman first defined and popularised this type of leadership in his book “Primal Leadership: Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence.

Visionary leaders often have the following qualities: they see the world; differently; they can articulate their vision, help others see the vision, and turn the vision into reality.

This style of leadership is often associated with innovation and change.

The visionary leadership style can be characterized by a sense of inspiration or charisma, Innovation, and a willingness to take risks.

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9. Servant Leadership Style

A servant leader prioritizes serving others as a primary goal of leadership. This leadership style is attributed to Robert K. Greenleaf. Servant leaders are characterized by the following distinct attributes: empathy, a high level of self-awareness, stewardship, and a sense of community building.

A servant leader encourages team members through the provision of growth opportunities.

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Do you have a preference For one?

At Highrise, we believe that a leadership style works best by not applying it unilaterally but by studying whether it will work in a given situation. This can be done through leadership style assessment.

Inspiring, isn’t it ? Want to learn more about connecting self-awareness to professional development? Get in touch today.

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We have experienced coaches to guide you on your preferred route through our executive coaching that will help impact the right leadership behaviors to ensure success.

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Andrew Langat
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Andrew Langat is an experienced content specialist in Leadership, Productivity, Education, Fintech, and Research. He is an avid reader and loves swimming as a hobby. He believes that quality content should be actionable and helpful.