Effective leadership is essential for any kind of organization to thrive. Every organization needs leadership and must use the right leadership styles to achieve its goals.

However, there isn’t one success formula. There are several paths that you as a CEO, manager, supervisor, or team leader can take. Leadership styles usually align with the leader’s personality. However, leaders can modify their style depending on organizational needs.

Some leadership styles can only be applied to specific businesses, others are adaptable to any kind of organization. The success of a leadership style usually depends on the organization and staff.

Organizational culture may also play a role in which leadership style will deliver the desired outcome. Leading a team you inherit can be difficult and may require tact and diplomacy.

Whether you are a business student, military personnel, athlete or an executive; learning about leadership styles and the importance of a leader can help you affect change in any environment.

So let’s explore the more common leadership styles.

        1. Autocratic Leadership
        2. Bureaucratic Leadership
        3. Democratic Leadership
        4. Laissez-faire Leadership
        5. Military Leadership
        6. Pacesetter Leadership
        7. Transactional Leadership
        8. Transformational leadership

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8 Leadership Styles Explained

Autocratic Leadership Style

leadership styles - autocratic leadership

As the name suggests this leadership takes an authoritarian approach. No one is ever confused about who is in charge. Decision-making usually falls to one person or select group.

This type of leadership is results-oriented and there is very little wiggle room. Autocratic leaders usually exude confidence, are good communicators, and are self-motivated.

Examples of Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership can be used in companies which have employees that require strict supervision. For example – medical teams have autocratic leaders since there is no room for error with lifesaving procedures.

Pros of Autocratic Leadership

You can expect clear concise communication from autocratic leaders. There is room for growth through delegation.

Cons of Autocratic Leadership

Unfortunately, the entire weight of operations and decision-making falls on the shoulders of an autocratic leader. Team members may also get frustrated if their ideas are constantly disregarded.

Bureaucratic Leadership

leadership styles - bureaucratic leadership

This is by far one of the oldest leadership styles. As the name suggests bureaucratic leadership can be identified by its strict rules and rigid hierarchy.

Bureaucratic leaders make sure that their employees have a list of responsibilities that leaves very little room for deviation.

Examples of bureaucratic leadership

Governmental, public, or military organizations are strong examples of this type of leadership.

In these entities, procedure, protocol, and chain of command are extremely important to smooth operations. Industries that are highly regulated usually adopt this leadership style.

Bureaucratic leaders are often disciplined, task-focused, detail-oriented, and committed to the goals of the organization.

Pros of bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leadership works phenomenally if you have very specific targets that need to be achieved in a timely fashion.

If your organization is driven by deliverables, sales, and revenue, a bureaucratic leader will get the job done!

Cons of bureaucratic leadership

This type of leadership is seen as a killer of creativity. It also has a tendency to be short-sighted focusing on short-term goals instead of a long-term strategy. Change usually happens slowly under this kind of leadership.

Democratic Leadership

leadership styles - democratic leadership

This type of leadership takes the feedback of the team into consideration. Employees’ thoughts and opinions are valued and as such the entire team has a voice.

There is a high level of employee satisfaction and engagement. Democratic leaders are usually good mediators, flexible and rational.

Examples of Democratic Leadership

Social media and technology companies are good examples of organizations that practice democratic leadership.

Pros of Democratic Leadership

Everyone’s ideas are heard and can participate in the decision-making process. This type of leadership contributes to team building. It boosts employee morale and retention.

Cons of Democratic Leadership

Unfortunately, this kind of leadership could be costly with its constant meetings and it may also take a longer time to make decisions and ultimately get the job done.

Laissez-faire Leadership

This kind of leadership takes on a very hands-off approach. A laissez-faire leader is a delegator. Employees and teams are given high levels of autonomy and there is no real supervision to speak of.

Do not be fooled, laissez-faire leaders can take reigns when they need to. However, they cultivate leadership tendencies in their team.

Examples of Laissez-faire Leadership

Organizations with several highly trained professionals usually have leaders who utilize this leadership style e.g., Law or Engineering firms.

Pros of Laissez-faire leadership

Laissez-faire leadership fosters a very relaxed working environment. There is room for creativity and brainstorming. There is also a high level of accountability.

Cons of Laissez-faire leadership

This style is totally ineffective for workplaces that have a lot of new entrants, interns, and people who require training.

Military Leadership

leadership styles - military leadership

This type of leadership style is a hybrid of bureaucratic and transactional leadership that deserves special mention.

Military leaders have to make decisions often under very stressful circumstances. They are always calculating the risk and are great strategists.

By nature of their tasks and roles, military leadership styles and philosophies are very different from all other kinds, and are far more special.

Pros of Military Leadership

Military leaders are competent and can think on their feet. They can change course if needed and often inspire the respect of the soldiers under their command.

Cons of Military Leadership

All arms of the military operate within a chain of command. Simply put, it is about following orders. The rules are rigid and not following them results in punitive action.

Because the chain of command is rigidly observed in a military leadership style, some ex-serviceman suffer from not having a structured system in which they may be challenged by members of the organization below them.

Pacesetter Leadership

Pacesetter leadership is results-oriented with very little focus on how those results are achieved. Pacesetter leaders expect high performance from their team and are not afraid to get their hands dirty to get the job done. They know how to motivate and are highly competent.

Examples of Pacesetter Leadership

You will usually see this type of leadership in fast pace working environments. Organizations and companies that are market challengers who are hungry for their market share.

Pros of Pacesetter Leadership

It achieves maximum productivity and pushes the limits.

Cons of Pacesetter Leadership

Unfortunately, pacesetter leadership can create an extremely stressful environment where there always seems to be a deadline. Often both pacesetter leaders and their employees can suffer from burnout.

Transactional Leadership

leadership styles - transactional leadership

Transactional leadership hinges on the premise that employees/workers/followers can be motivated and directed if you appeal to their self-interest. As such if you meet your deliverables, you are rewarded and often failure comes with punishment.

Transactional leaders tend to be reactionary, practical, and pragmatic. They may also be prone to micromanagement.

Examples of Transactional leadership

Professional sports teams usually employ this leadership style. The executives of large multinational companies usually adopt this management style.

Pros of Transactional leadership

This type of leadership facilitates short-term goals and there is also a clearly defined structure that is easy to follow.

Cons of Transactional leadership

This type of leadership may not appeal to employees who are not motivated by monetary rewards. There may be a lack of long-term strategy and creative ways of doing things may not be encouraged.

Transformational Leadership

leadership styles - transformational

Transformational leadership is an encouraging, motivational leadership style that inspires people to achieve their goals.

This is a very positive form of leadership because it values growth, development and motivates people to see what they’re capable of.

Examples of Transformational Leadership

A great example of a transformational leader is human rights activist Malala Yousafzai who provides encouragement, motivates others with her words and can be seen to create positive changes by her actions.

Pros of Transformational Leadership

Transformation leadership creates an atmosphere of innovation and develops organizational customs that individuals love being part of.

Cons of Transformational Leadership

As this leadership style is usually personality based, there is a danger of manipulation whether deliberately or not.

Other Main Leadership Styles

Business Leadership

In essence, business leadership is how leaders go about achieving their goals and exercising their authority in a business environment.

Business leadership teams can take many forms. Most of the time there is a CEO, top executives, or a board. This group holds the decision-making power for the corporate entity.

Leadership teams usually adopt the style of leadership that they consider best for their company and employees.

Sports Leadership

leadership styles - sports leadership

Sports leadership extends beyond the management of a professional team. A sports leader can influence other team members to achieve the desired objectives.

A sports leader can have a formal title as Manager, captain or could be a team member who can motivate others.

Pros of Sports Leadership

Sports Leadership builds camaraderie among team members. It inspires athletes to reach their full potential and is highly motivational.

This type of leadership generally has a heavy team-building focus.

Cons of Sports Leadership

The environment can become stressful. The constant pressure to excel, break records, and win games can take a physical and emotional toll.

What About Inherited Leadership?

leadership styles - inherited leadership

Some will suggest that this is not a leadership style but the theory of whether a leader is born or made. Many people believe that leadership could be genetic, and some personality types are natural-born leaders.

However, many psychologists believe that you can learn to be a good leader and improve your leadership skills over time.

But inherited leadership is something that has been around since the beginning of time. In its simplest form, a leader passes on leadership rights to their offspring on their death. This still applies to most surviving royal families, dictators and family owned businesses.

In this type of inherited leadership, the subject is literally taught how to lead the type of organization they are expected to inherit. For example a young prince or princess will be taught the interaction between the monarchy and politicians.

All leaders – whether born or made should be able to deal with opponents and doubters of the organization’s mission.

We hope that we have piqued your interest in the different leadership styles.