What are the common types of leadership?

Not all leaders are the same, and there are various types of leadership you will see in the workplace and throughout your career. Understanding your style of leadership is important so that you are aware of your strengths and weaknesses, and how you interact with staff to get the best performance from them.

Since the goal is to create a culture and vision that motivates and leads a team and organisation’s success, looking at the best leadership style for the job is critical for continued success, creating a competitive advantage, and being a more effective leader.

In working to achieve motivating others to perform, innovate, and inspire change, a leader may incorporate different elements of the different types of leadership depending on the situation as well. It is a fluid and constantly changing outlook at the situation a leader finds themselves in.

What are the types of leadership found in the workplace?

Here are some common types of leadership you may encounter, or identify with yourself:

  • Authoritarian/Autocratic Leadership

This type of leadership can be identified by its clear directions and expectations delivered to those around the leader. It is about when, and how, something should be done and is focused on independent decisions and guidelines from the leader; it is top-down, with a lot of authority and responsibility resting with the leader and less consulting occurring with followers.

  • Participative/Democratic Leadership

Recognised as one of the more effective types of leadership, this style is categorised by leaders not only offering direction and guidance to their followers, but also participating in activities with them and allowing their input. Group members tend to feel more engaged and motivated because of this, leading to higher quality output. Whilst the leader will have the final say and make decisions, communication moves in both directions.

  • Delegative/Laissez-Faire Leadership

A form of leadership which gives greater authority and decision-making power to employees and followers, it is a more “hands off” approach. It allows them to manage their own tasks, and can work if the leader has a highly engaged and motivated team. It is often employed in remote or freelance work situations.

  • Transformational Leadership

One of the more dynamic types of leadership, this style motivates and inspires those around them in order to direct, and achieve, positive change. Due to the empowerment followers experience, active communication, and the nature of big picture visions and goals being shared, this type of leadership achieves higher performance levels and efficiencies. Day-to-day details and tasks are left with managers so that the leader can focus on moving towards the overall objective.

  • Transactional Leadership

The focus of this leadership style is maintaining status quo, providing clearly defined roles and expectations, and involves a distinct employer-employee relationship, focusing on the follower completing the tasks assigned to them. It is about immediate and tangible results, a clear chain of command, and rewards for carrying out the leader’s direction and vision.

  • Servant Leadership

A servant leader will stay out of the limelight and tends to lead their followers from within their group, allowing the focus to be on them and their cause. Collective decision-making is encouraged and team needs are prioritised. Often this style of leadership occurs in not-for-profit organisations.

Are there good and “bad” styles of leadership?

Every style of leadership will have pros and cons and there are no right or wrong, good or “bad” types of leadership.

For example, an authoritarian style is useful when presented dealing with situations with little time for group decision-making, when the leader is the best person to make the decision, or the staff are more junior and don’t have the experience to make an informed decision themselves. A downside of this is that is can create and “us vs them” mentality if followers don’t appreciate this style, as the leader can be seen as domineering.

Democratic leadership styles usually have staff with higher levels of job satisfaction and creativity, however it also takes longer to implement any change and new ideas, so may not work in environments where quick-decision making is required.

This is similar to a laissez-faire style, where it’s strength lies in empowering employees and followers to do their work and relying on their internal motivation and skills, but it can limit or side-track direction, and can even lead to blame, lack of responsibility and accountability, and decreased productivity overall.

Whilst transformational leaders are fantastic in inspiring their employees to achieve their best, which can then lead to greater productivity and a positive work environment, followers also need to be able to be practical and detail-oriented. On the reverse, transactional leaders provide and communicate the clear directions and details they require and driven staff will succeed in this environment. The downside is it can lead to high staff turnover and work limitations if your teams do not appreciate this style of leadership and need to be creative in their roles. Servant leaders may not even be recognised as a true leader. 

Different people will prefer to be led in different ways, and different situations will call for different types of leadership to be exercised, too. It is about choosing the right approach for the situation and people.

Your own, personal leadership approach likely combines elements from each of the above styles.

What aspects of each style are important to know?

It’s important to know that there is no “one size fits all” style to leadership. Each company, each team, and each individual will have their own preferences. Certain elements of each will be more useful and successful in some circumstances over others.

By understanding the different styles and frameworks, and applying what you know to the situation you are in, you will be able to adapt your approach and achieve the best possible outcome and results.

If you would like to discuss the types of leadership in your organisation, what type of leadership you need in your team, or how to recruit the best leader for your team, contact us today.