What are the Different Leadership Styles in Management?

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31 July 2020

Every successful business needs a brilliant leader. The best thing about leadership is, there isn’t one route to success. There are various leadership styles in management you can adopt that suit you and your employees the most.

Your personal  approach is likely to be a blend of these styles, depending on your preferences, your people's needs, and the situation you're in. Examples of bad leadership styles in management exist, but they all have uses and are only bad if misused. 

Types of Leadership Styles in Management

Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed his framework in the 1930s. And it provided the foundation of many of the approaches that followed afterwards.

We will look at the various styles and outline how effective they are. Here is a list of leadership styles in management:

  • Democratic
  • Autocratic
  • Laissez-Faire
  • Strategic
  • Transformational
  • Transactional
  • Coach-Style
  • Bureaucratic

Democratic Leadership - Commonly Effective

Described by many as the most effective leadership style, a democratic leader can help energise team members. We also know it as participative leadership or shared leadership.

It’s a leadership style in which members of the group take a more participative role in the decision-making process. The leader will still usually make the final call, but each employee has an equal say on the end decision.

Ideas are exchanged freely and discussion is encouraged. Researchers have found that the democratic leadership style is one of the most effective types and leads to higher productivity, better contributions from group members, and increased group morale.

  • Pros: The benefits of this style are that, because it encourages members to share their thoughts, it can lead to creative solutions to problems. Group members also feel more involved in the project and care more about the end results. This increases productivity.

Autocratic Leadership - Rarely Effective

Autocratic leaders, as the name implies, focus on control and chain of command to achieve results.

While you don’t have to be a dictator to use this leadership model, the authoritarian leadership  style involves direct supervision, unwavering support of the message from leadership, and more one-sided feedback and communication than other styles.

It has some benefits and weaknesses. It is essential to utilise this only in the right circumstances and with the right group, else you could alienate the team.

  • Pros: If paired with a strong manager/leader, it helps provide direction to disorganised groups. By setting clear roles, assigning tasks, and establishing deadlines, the group is more likely to finish the project on time and with everyone providing equal contributions. With a clear leader, it also relieves stress from the rest of the team as it shifts responsibility.
  • Cons: Discouraging group input can often result in resentment and a lack of creative solutions, as there is only the one decision-maker. It can also affect the morale of the group. People feel happier and perform better when they are making contributions to the future of the group. Since autocratic leaders rarely allow input from team members, followers felt dissatisfied and stifled.

Laissez-Faire Leadership - Sometimes Effective

The French term "laissez-faire" literally translates to "let them do," which means a laissez-faire leader gives nearly all authority to their employees.

These types of leader will put trust in their employees to manage their own workload while  they see to overall running of the company. Many charismatic leaders have followed this style, such as Steve Jobs.

Working in a creative field where people are highly motivated, skilled, creative, and dedicated to their work can be conducive to getting excellent results with this style.

Because team members are well-trained and highly creative, they likely need little in the way of direct management. Instead, an effective leader can provide minimal oversight and guidance and still produce high-quality results.

  • Pros: As the work is very employee-led, the leadership style often encourages personal growth and innovation. With little micromanagement, skilled employees can make these innovative decisions quickly and easily. This style is effective in situations where group members are more knowledgeable than the group's leader.
  • Cons: This style relies heavily on employee engagement and their skill. It is not effective in situations where team members lack the knowledge or experience they need to complete tasks. It can lead to confusion on job roles and their direction. The perception of the leader may also be negative, as with little involvement in the group, they come across as withdrawn and passive. Many leaders also use this style to avoid responsibility for results.

Strategic Leadership - Commonly Effective

Strategic leaders sit at the intersection between a company's primary operations and its growth opportunities. He or she accepts the burden of executive interests while ensuring that current working conditions remain stable for everyone else.

  • Pros: This is a desirable leadership style in many companies because strategic thinking supports multiple types of employees at once. This strategic leadership adds more clarity to operations, allowing a defined role for employees.
  • Cons: Leaders who operate this way can set a dangerous precedent regarding how many people they can support at once and what the best direction for the company really is if everyone is getting their way at all times.

Transformational Leadership - Sometimes Effective

A transformational leader will encourage, inspire and motivate employees to innovate and create things. Through the strength of their vision and personality, transformational leaders can inspire followers to change expectations, perceptions, and motivations to work towards common goals.

The leader is constantly pushing employees outside of their comfort zone, starting with a simple set of tasks and deadlines but ramping up the pressure and challenge as they go.

The motivation, therefore, comes from the transformation of the employee and the company conventions. This allows the employee to shape things and allows them to see what they are capable of.

Transformational leaders inspire their team members because they expect the best from everyone, and they hold themselves accountable for their actions. They set clear goals, and they have good conflict-resolution skills. This leads to high productivity and engagement.

  • Pros: Great for businesses focused on growth as it inspires innovation and creates driven employees. It allows for the development and maintenance of a current product to remain consistent and error-free but doesn’t hinder the progress and growth of future updates and improvements.
  • Cons: Without proper guidance and feedback, this style of management can hamper an employee. There will be individual learning curves that may cause mistakes and problems unless there is suitable coaching for that employee.

Transactional Leadership - Sometimes Effective

Transactional leadership, also known as managerial leadership, focuses on the role of supervision, organisation, and group performance. Leaders who implement this style focus on specific tasks and use rewards and punishments to motivate followers.

This is a fairly common leadership style, with performance-based bonuses being common in the workplace. When starting a job with a transactional boss, you might receive an incentive plan that motivates you to master your regular job duties.

Where this differs from rewards from a transformational leader is that a transactional leader will reward the employee for completing the tasks, whereas transformative leaders will reward them for positive results or outcomes from the tasks.

  • Pros: Helps employees when the situation and problems being faced are fairly simple. It allows focus and motivation to an otherwise unengaging task. It can also work well in crisis situations where the focus needs to be on accomplishing certain tasks. By assigning defined duties to particular individuals, leaders can ensure that those things get done.
  • Cons: This style does not allow for growth and change within an organisation. Instead, it focuses on maintaining current proceedings as they are and enforcing current rules and expectations.

Coach-Style Leadership - Commonly Effective

Taking inspiration from sports coaches, this management style focuses on partnership and collaboration between leaders and followers. This can be a very good leadership style in management.

This leader focuses on identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of each member on his or her team.

They also focus on strategies that will enable their teamwork better together. This style offers strong similarities to strategic and democratic leadership but puts more emphasis on the growth and success of individual employees.

  • Pros: Leaders who adopt a coaching style increase self-responsibility and self-belief in their people by giving choice wherever possible and providing a good balance of support and challenge. This reduces stress for the workers, who feel more in control, and for the leader who no longer feels pressurised to provide all the answers and steer the ship.
  • Cons: The coaching technique falls down in one of two ways. Either the employees will be unwilling or incapable of learning, or the leader will not quite have the best skills in teaching, making it frustrating and difficult for those trying to learn.

Bureaucratic Leadership - Rarely Effective

This is another example of a leadership style in management which is hard to make work in many circumstances. It is a traditional, by-the-books style of management. It has room for employee input, unlike autocratic leadership, but will usually reject it if the input goes against company policy.

Bureaucratic leadership is based on structure, and it requires a clear framework to support its functions. Unlike with certain other leadership theories, such as charismatic leadership, the framework is rather easy to follow and to set up.

  • Pros: This style of leadership, whilst rigid, allows stability. With the strict enforcement of a bureaucratic framework, effective processes can be established. It allows for fair and impersonal treatment of subordinates. As long as the organisational norms are followed, the employee is doing their job well.
  • Cons: It isn’t very suitable for smaller businesses focused on growth. The level of control brings about a lack of freedom in how many people can do in their roles. This can quickly shut down innovation and not suitable for companies who are chasing ambitious goals and quick growth.

Choose the Right Leadership Style for Your Workforce

Each of the above leadership styles can work given the right situation, you just need to look at your own workplace and choose the one that suits you best.

When you pair the perfect style of management with your workforce, you’ll have a happier and more productive workforce.

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