When you take a hard look at successful leaders, you’ll notice not all have become successful the same way. The truth is there are lots of different leadership styles. And no single one of those styles is the “correct” style. In fact, most of the leaders you admire meld several styles to lead. Sometimes they are charismatic. Other times they are participative, and from time to time circumstances will force them into using a situational leadership style.
So what leadership style is right for you?
Here are the primary styles most people use, plus some of the iconic leaders who have used those styles successfully.
If you’re looking for an example of a charismatic leader, here is a one-word hint: Oprah.
She has won over her following so thoroughly that she is known across the globe by a single name.
Charismatic leaders connect at a personal level and they can convey an extraordinary sensitivity to people’s needs.
Research says that charisma is not an always-on aura that only special people possess. Everyone has some degree of it, and when you can identify the traits that make you charismatic, the traits that draw other people to you, you can develop those traits further.
Charisma can be dangerous and some leaders over-use it or rely on it too heavily.
People charge up the hill for a manager with charisma. They’ll run through fire and walk barefoot on glass, and that can be a recipe for burnout.
How would you like to lead an organization where employees are fully engaged and regularly bring new ideas to the table, then chomp at the bit until you give them the go-ahead to run with it?
If so, you might want to spend some time practicing something called participative leadership.
This is a style of leadership in which the leader involves subordinates in goal setting, problem solving, team building, etc., but retains the final decision making authority.
Some refer to it as democracy in the workplace. Call it what you will, participative leadership values the input of team members and peers, while the ultimate responsibility of making the final decision rests with the participative leader.
This style is a natural morale booster because employees make contributions to the decision-making process, which helps make them feel their opinions matter. The downside: too many cooks can spoil the soup.
Still, this participative leadership style helps employees accept changes because they play a role in the process. It’s especially effective when decisions must be made and implemented fairly quickly.
Ever wonder what would happen if you tried to lead by yelling andscreaming and stomping?
How about threats? It worked for Napoleon. It’s working right now for Kim Jong-un in North Korea.
It seems to work for Donald Trump, at least on TV.
In a nutshell, that’s the authoritarian leadership style, and while it has its shortcomings, it also has a long history of success, even if only short-lived success.
Which is its short-coming.
Authoritarian leaders, also known as autocratic, provide clear expectations for what needs to be done, when it should be done, and how it should be done. Got it!
There is also a clear division between the leader and the followers. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group. Got it!
Coaching is a leadership style that develops people by offering hands-on advice to problem solving. If this style were summed up in a phrase, it would be “Try this.”
The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help staff build lasting personal and professional strengths that make them more successful overall.
To rely on a coaching style requires a strong leadership mindset in that you have to believe in yourself first, and sell it.
The coaching style adheres to the theory that to be successful, you must understand that people come before spreadsheets.
In other words, if the coach successfully puts the professional growth of the team first, the spread sheet results will follow.
Coaching has become so popular in the business world because it:
- levels the playing field
- builds confidence and competence
- promotes individual and team excellence
- develops strong commitment to common goals.
- produces valuable leaders.
An affiliative leader builds harmony among his or her followers with a strong eye toward solving interpersonal conflicts.
This type of leader will also build teams that make sure that their followers feel connected to each other. This leader is a master at establishing positive relationships.
Because the followers really like their leader, they are loyal, share information, and have high trust, all of which helps climate.
The affiliative leader gives frequent positive feedback, helping to keep everyone on course. Typically the followers will receive much praise from this style of leader, however poor performance tends to go unchecked.
Good leadership consists of showing average people
how to do the work of superior people.
— John D. Rockefeller
Now there’s a guy who knew what he was talking about.
And for anyone interested in this Rockefeller-style approach of raising people up to higher performance, consider putting the words “transformational leadership” on your to-do list.
Transformational leadership boosts morale, motivation, and performance by creating a singular sense of identity and purpose for a project, and getting people to embrace it and partake of it. Think e pluribus unum – “from many, one.”
A transformational leader is a role model who inspires others and makes them want to take greater ownership for their work. As such, it requires a heightened understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of people, so the leader can align staff with tasks that enhance each individual’s own performance.
Bureaucratic leadership is most commonly on display in large, classically-corporate organizations. Think U.S. Army, actor R. Lee Ermey in Full Metal Jacket.
The bureaucratic style is born out of a mandatory obedience to authority that is both ingrained and enforced over time. “Followers” simply do as they are told because it is both easier and safer to follow the chain of command.
In these types of very-defined structures, influence and authority is based on position. It is more a management style, than a true leadership style. But because the bureaucratic approach can leverage a great deal of influence to move lots of people in a certain direction, it is undeniable an effective leadership tool.
When someone begins taking on tasks voluntarily, helping others do their jobs better and encouraging consensus among co-workers, this person is an emergent leader.
This type of leadership is distinguished by the leader stepping up before being formally given a leadership title. Emergent leaders make it clear by their actions they are ready for the next promotion.
This type of leadership can also garner the leader respect among colleagues who know the person has shown the ability to work hard. The key element of emergent leadership is that it emerges over a period of time from a highly respected person not initially meant to lead.
Co-workers actually come to expect this type of leader to demonstrate more empathy for the employee than the employer. This can be a real pitfall in cases where the emergent leaders sides with management on a touch issue, leaving co-workers to feel betrayed.
Laissez-faire leaders steer clear of sweeping policies. Instead, groups or individuals are left to be responsible decision-making and problem-solving.
Successful laissez-faire leadership is built on trust, and works best when the leader oversees a highly trained and reliable group of people.
Laissez-faire leadership is appropriate in particular settings such as science laboratories or established companies with long-term employees and a strong company culture of support.
Laissez-faire leadership is not suited to environments in which the members require feedback, direction, oversight, flexibility, or lots of pats on the back.
Situation leadership is what you do when you practice every style of leadership on this page at the situations requires.
Situational leaders have no single style but adapt their leadership style as needed. They not only adapt themselves and their personal styles, but they may also need to adopt the goals, responsibilities and tasks based on the experience and performance of the group.
Effective situational leadership varies person to person and group to group depending on the functions that need to be accomplished.
Pacesetters are obsessed with getting things done faster and better. On the surface, there is a lot to admire about that quality. But when you look beneath, and there can be a lot of baggage that comes with being a Pacesetter.
These folks set the bar high for themselves and others. What’s more, they’d never ask others to do something they wouldn’t’ do. Sounds great, for a while.
But there is little room for niceties with this style, as pacesetters are stingy with praise and quick to criticize. Employees are often overwhelmed by the pacesetter’s demands for excellence, and morale soon drops.
One reason pacesetters tend to get their own hands dirty is they fail to communicate goals clearly.
A servant leader is someone, regardless of level, who leads simply by meeting the needs of the team. The term sometimes describes a person without formal recognition as a leader.
These people often lead by example. They have a high level of integrity and lead with generosity. Their approach can create a positive corporate culture, and it can lead to high morale among team members.
Supporters of the servant leadership model suggest that it’s a good way to move ahead in a world where values are increasingly important, and where servant leaders can achieve power because of their values and ethics.
However, others believe that people who practice servant leadership can find themselves left behind by other leaders, particularly in competitive situations.
This style also takes time to apply correctly: it’s ill-suited to situations where you have to make quick decisions or meet tight deadlines.
This person rules by fear.
“My way or the highway!” They take charge and invite no contrary opinions.
This style had the most detrimental impact people, but it is often the style of choice when a company is in crisis. Many organizations in serious trouble have gone to this style as a last resort.
A big downside is that once the crisis resolves itself, and the coercive style goes on unchecked, it will create other problems of its own.
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