Most Common Leadership Styles (and How to Find Yours)
Leadership styles involve a leader’s methods and behaviors while managing a team. Many factors can influence a leader’s approach, from personal experiences to personality temperaments to organizational culture. Leadership styles are crucial — they can impact a team’s relationship and overall success.
Leaders often use a combination of styles to guide team members and identify the leadership method that best suits the situation. Usually, leaders display one dominant style over others. Understanding your approach helps you determine strengths and areas for improvement. Learning more about the most prevalent leadership styles can help you determine which matches yours most closely.
6 Most Common Leadership Styles
You can categorize leadership techniques based on their characteristics and how they impact the team. Each style has specific benefits and drawbacks and might suit some situations better than others.
Here are six frequent leadership methods:
1. Transformational Leadership
Transformational leadership focuses on motivation and change. These leaders inspire team members with empathy, dedication and praise. They encourage teams to exceed standard goals, inspiring members to reach their full potential. Transformational leaders usually have a central vision that guides their approach, often based on company values. This leader type is especially common in organizations experiencing restructuring or other significant changes.
Other transformational leadership traits include:
- Dedication to unity: Transformational leaders place a strong emphasis on teamwork. They empower members to work together toward shared goals, displaying the value of collaboration.
- Encouragement for confidence: These leaders want to build confidence in each team member. They look for individuals’ strengths and highlight them through specific tasks or praise. Transformational leaders are persistent and inspiring, always emboldening the team and looking for ways to improve even more.
- Emphasis on change: Transformational leadership is beneficial during organizational changes. These leaders are comfortable with change and understand its importance for company success. They pose new ideas and curricula, then inspire the team to approach the changes positively.
One example of a real-world transformational leader is former president Barack Obama. During his presidency, he focused on comprehensive change for the United States. His speeches and documents used motivational and hopeful themes, inspiring Americans to work hard for a better future.
A transformational leadership style can bring many benefits to teams, such as:
- Making transitional periods easier to navigate.
- Boosting team members’ confidence levels, which can lead to higher workplace wellbeing and productivity.
- Inspiring teamwork and collaboration, helping members focus on a central goal.
However, these leaders often focus too much on the larger picture and might miss important details of daily work. They should carry their visions into the overlooked areas of company life.
2. Authoritative Leadership
Authoritative leadership takes a mentorship approach to guiding teams. These leaders see themselves as mentors and group members as mentees. They typically thoroughly understand the field and use their expertise to move toward success. Instead of passing out instructions and taking a hands-off approach, authoritative leaders place themselves into workflows. Then, they encourage members to follow their guidelines and suggestions for achievement.
Authoritative leadership also includes characteristics like:
- Motivation techniques: Motivation is a crucial aspect of authoritative leadership styles. The leaders use a “follow me” methodology that works best when their vision encourages and challenges team members. As the group follows the leader’s vision, the director offers specific feedback to each individual. They tailor their guidance to encourage each team member according to their personalities and preferences.
- Personal relationships: Authoritative leaders work hard to understand team members closely. This style needs high levels of emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage group emotions. They develop strong relationships with individuals, understanding their personalities and strengths. The leadership style also uses empathy to anticipate others’ feelings when facing challenges or responsibilities. Then, they adapt plans to meet the team’s needs or preferences.
- Strong self-confidence: These leaders must develop a clear vision and inspire others to believe in it. To achieve this, authoritative leaders need significant confidence in their abilities. They must also trust in their team’s capacity to complete and succeed at their jobs.
Bill Gates is an industry example of an authoritative leader. He used his extensive field knowledge to move Microsoft in a direction that matched his vision. Using his expertise and motivational techniques, Gates transformed Microsoft into a top-performing global business.
Authoritative leadership has advantages like:
- Identifying clear visions and directions for team members, which can make it easier to follow instructions and complete tasks.
- Creating close connections with individuals, which builds a positive work environment.
The style can sometimes come across as overbearing. Authoritative leaders shouldn’t micromanage or become so strict with their vision that workplace enthusiasm suffers as a result.
3. Delegative Leadership
Delegative leadership is one of the least invasive forms of guidance. It’s also known as laissez-faire leadership, which is French for “let them do.” The style emphasizes autonomy and creative freedom. These leaders assign tasks to team members, then offer limited supervision. Delegative leaders trust their employees to use their own resources and knowledge to complete tasks and finalize decisions.
Delegative leaders exhibit characteristics like:
- Big picture focus: The delegative leadership style uses a mostly hands-off approach by assigning responsibilities and letting employees use their own strategies to complete them. Delegative leaders are more interested in the completed final project than the techniques used to achieve it. Instead of pinpointing small details, they consider how individual projects fit into the larger framework and goals of the entire company.
- Strong employee trust: Delegative leaders trust employees to complete tasks with little direction. This leadership style is common in workplaces where employees have extensive field experience and knowledge. They might also encourage team collaboration to resolve questions or problems rather than relying on management. Because these leaders spend less time with close management, they have more time to complete higher-priority tasks.
- A relaxed approach to mistakes: This leadership method also uses a relaxed viewpoint for small mistakes or differences in employee work. Delegative leaders believe the overall picture is more important than tiny details, so they value independent processes less. If employees use different techniques or have a few inaccuracies, delegative leaders are likely to remain calm.
Steve Jobs displayed many delegative traits during his leadership role at Apple. He trusted his employees with complex tasks and encouraged them to use their own ideas. Instead of relaying instructions, he allowed workers to use their expertise to design unique solutions.
Benefits of delegative leadership include:
- Workers feel empowered to make decisions, leading to higher job satisfaction.
- Increased creativity throughout the workplace.
- A relaxed work environment, causing improved employee wellbeing.
Delegative leaders often face challenges when working with new employees or those that need extra directives. These workers need more support to complete responsibilities and might not meld well with a delegative environment. Leaders should address their team’s needs and adapt to support them as closely as possible.
4. Transactional Leadership
Transactional leadership concentrates on order and efficiency. Leaders use rewards to reinforce preferred structures and techniques. For example, transactional leaders might use bonuses to compensate workers that follow the correct guidelines. If employees don’t meet standards, they might face negative results for underperformance. A transactional structure limits creativity but creates consistent work quality and output.
Other transactional leadership components are:
- High levels of control: The transactional structure relies on the belief that clear directives motivate employees. It emphasizes following exact procedures and a clear chain of command. Because following instructions is most important, the style uses punishments to discourage misbehavior.
- Reliance on company systems: Transactional structures are common in companies with specific company rules. Managers want employees to complete tasks according to business values or regulations. Transactional leaders often work in environments with strict standards, such as workplaces that deal with sensitive client data.
- Focus on efficiency: Efficiency is usually vital for transactional leaders. They prioritize productivity, wanting workers to achieve short-term goals within certain periods. If employees fail to meet these goals, they face consequences.
A significant example of real-world transactional leadership is in athletic teams. Players who follow the coaches’ rules are rewarded with wins and prizes. But if they underperform or lose their games, leaders might punish them with extra practice time or rigorous exercises. Vince Lombardi, a coach for the Green Bay Packers, had a reputation for using a transactional leadership style.
Transactional leaders can bring benefits to workplaces like:
- Enhanced efficiency due to emphasis on productivity and clear rules.
- A stable and consistent environment for employees.
- Cost-effective structures that maintain company resources and finances.
However, transactional leadership strategies are usually less effective in creative workplaces. Employees don’t have opportunities to use their own methods or suggest new ideas. Depending on a worker’s temperament, the rigid rules might create a negative work environment.
5. Participative Leadership
Participative leadership, also known as democratic leadership, involves leaders seeking and listening to employee input. These leaders value employee opinions and consult them before making any major decisions. Workers feel valued and appreciated, resulting in more workplace collaboration and engagement. Democratic leaders are inclusive, communicative, understanding and able to share power with others.
Participative leaders also value these ideals:
- Collaboration: The democratic leadership style values the team above all else. These leaders encourage group work and find ways to get each member involved. For example, they might use team brainstorming sessions to think of new ideas or identify problems. Leaders ask for transparent communication, allowing employees to express their thoughts or concerns freely.
- Consistent feedback: Participative leaders appreciate feedback for themselves and their team members. They often ask employees about their effectiveness or if they need to improve in any areas. In addition, democratic leaders provide regular feedback to team members about involvement and performance. They use a transparent communication style when discussing employee feedback, keeping conversations authentic.
- Adaptability: Flexibility is also important to participative leaders. They let employees take individual approaches to work and encourage creative teamwork. These leaders might delegate responsibilities or trust particular members to take charge of situations.
Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, often displays a participative leadership style. She regularly asks employees about their opinions and feelings on business strategies. In one instance, she handwrote letters to employees’ families, thanking them for their family member’s contributions to the company.
In addition, participative leaders can provide benefits like:
- Employees feel more valued within their environment, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction.
- A fair and balanced workplace with a wide range of creative ideas.
One disadvantage of participative leadership is it can often be time-consuming. The democratic process has many steps — gathering employees, listening to feedback, considering the input and finalizing a decision. Completing this procedure every time can lengthen work projects and strain resources.
6. Servant Leadership
A servant leadership strategy puts others’ needs first. These leaders create close bonds with team members, learning their strengths and personal goals. Servant leaders place employee satisfaction and enjoyment above efficiency or other workplace standards. They base decisions on what benefits the entire team or encourages growth. Similar to participative and transformational leaders, servant leaders also use motivational techniques to inspire their unit members.
Servant leaders display these traits when communicating with workers:
- Empathy: The servant leadership method focuses on deep connections with employees. They genuinely want workers to succeed and reach their full potential. Because of this, servant leaders approach conversations with empathy. They show support and understanding for personal struggles. Instead of treating employees as subordinates, they speak to them as equals.
- Active listening: Servant leaders also use active listening when engaging with others. They consider employee input thoroughly, listening carefully to thoughts and concerns. Servant leaders often encourage an open-door policy where workers feel welcome to approach with concerns or questions.
- Dedication to personal growth: Servant leaders recognize ability in all employees and work to help them reach their individual best. They might encourage extra responsibilities or mentorship opportunities to assist their workplace growth.
Martin Luther King, Jr. is a strong example of a servant leader. He placed the needs of others first and inspired a non-violent approach during the Civil Rights Movement. His dedication to social justice for African Americans encouraged significant changes in the following years.
Servant leadership brings many advantages, such as:
- Improved employee loyalty.
- Strong sense of workplace trust.
- Higher productivity among workers.
One challenge of servant leadership is feelings of burnout. These leaders might prioritize others’ needs so often that they neglect their own needs.
How to Determine Your Leadership Style
Understanding your leadership style can help you improve your technique. If you’re uncertain of which style represents you most, you can use various strategies to narrow down the options:
- Consider your personality traits: First, consider your personality and how it impacts others. You might adopt a different personality style or values when acting in a leadership position. If necessary, you can take an assessment to view typical behavior patterns. Then, determine which leadership strategy aligns most closely with your personality type.
- Ask others for feedback: Asking others for feedback can help you gain an objective view of your leadership techniques. You could ask employees or supervisors for critiques about your typical habits, then compare the notes against leadership types.
- Experiment with new techniques: If you still need to figure out your style, you can experiment with different leadership strategies. Try one of the above methods and see how it affects your leadership approach. That way, you can build a style that suits your preferences and goals as a mentor.
Contact Exude Human Capital Today
At Exude Human Capital, we understand the importance of strong leadership techniques. We offer a wide range of consulting services to help organizations reach their best. If you’re seeking leadership guidance or wondering how to find your leadership style, explore our leadership development training opportunities today. We can help you build the necessary skills to connect with employees, respond to challenges and inspire change.
To get started with Exude Human Capital, contact us today.