Leadership styles are evident in both professional and personal environments. Most people have a leadership style they have developed as part of their personality, frequently in response to various life experiences. For example, someone in the military in a position of leadership may have an autocratic style. Another person with a strong religious background may have a servant leadership style.

Sometimes an organization requires a particular leadership style. One can either find an organization in need of their natural leadership style, or modify their style to fit the needs of the organization.

The option providing the most opportunity is learning how to adapt one’s leadership style to the environment in which they must lead. Knowing the characteristics of each leadership style is important so that you can identify your own leadership style as well as those of others, and develop the characteristics of a leadership style required at a particular time and place.

There are advantages and disadvantages to each leadership style. In this article, we will help you identify which leadership style you currently possess and the characteristic of other leadership styles. Additionally, we will look at the advantages and disadvantages of each. We have not included all of the possible leadership styles, but those you are most likely to encounter and may wish to use yourself.

Delegating (Laissez-Faire) Leadership

The delegating leadership style, also known as laissez-faire, works well with trained, highly experienced employees who require minimal supervision. This type of leader provides very little guidance to those reporting to them.

Advantages:

Delegating tasks makes it possible for a leader to have more time for others tasks they may deem more important. With the right group, delegating can challenge a follower and build their self-esteem, as they realize the delegator trusts their skills and abilities. Frequently, delegating brings forth innovative ideas. Delegating also provides an opportunity for growth as employees tackle and succeed at harder and more important delegated tasks.

Disadvantages:

Those reporting to a delegating leader may not be productive. Additionally, they may find it difficult to work without supervision and experience stress from not knowing their leaders expectations. Those reporting to delegating leaders sometimes are not productive and refuse to accept personal responsibility.

Authoritarian (Autocratic) Leadership

Authoritarian (Autocratic) Leadership

The authoritative or autocratic leader provides clear expectations and focuses on commanding and controlling. The authoritarian leader makes decisions alone without input from others. They often have total authority, telling others what to do. This style of leadership works best when there is a need for strict guidance for a group of individuals, due to lack of experience or a new direction for a company or group.

Advantages:

The authoritarian leadership style works well with those who require close supervision and need direction. Usually characterized by rules, regulations, and standards, the authoritarian leadership style works well when work must be completed quickly. Additionally, it works best when the authoritarian leader has more knowledge than his followers do.

Disadvantages:

Authoritarian leadership does not work well when those being led have equivalent or more knowledge than the individual leading. It does not promote creativity and many employees do not like this method of leadership. Sometimes people have trouble functioning, even becoming hostile, when they report to an authoritarian leader.

Participative (Democratic) Leadership

The participative or democratic style presents a balance between the autocratic (controlling) and the delegating (laissez- faire) leadership styles and works well in organizations desiring innovation. Many believe this leadership style is the most effective. Although this leadership style seeks input from team members (employees), the participative leader makes the final decisions. It is, however, important, that the leader and followers feel positive about the goals and the outcome of a plan or decision. Additionally, the leader needs to be able to illicit fresh ideas from others.

Advantages:

One reason democratic leadership is considered by many to be the most effective leadership style is because of its many advantages.

  • Morale is boosted through contributions to the decision-making process.
  • Since it causes people to feel as if their opinions matter, self-esteem is boosted.
  • Changes are accepted easily as employees are involved in the change process.
  • Contributions tend to be of high quality.
  • Engagement increases motivation and creativity.
  • When team members perceive their contributions are important, commitment to goals is fostered.

Disadvantages:

The participative leadership style is not the best choice when decisions must be made quickly or when those being led are not prepared and informed enough to assist the leader.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership

The transformational leader focuses on the big picture and large organizational goals and delegates smaller tasks to the team. Employees are motivated and productivity enhanced with the leader assuming high visibility and providing excellent communication. A transformational leader is usually energetic and intelligent, committed to the organization and its goals. Along with the participatory (democratic) leadership, this is another leadership style many believe is very effective.

Advantages:

One of the key characteristics of his style of leadership is the ability to motivate and inspire followers. Additionally, these leaders direct positive changes in groups. The result is higher performance and employee satisfaction. The transformational leader acts with an orientation towards service and usually has a foundation of positive values such as honesty, trust, and fairness. Thus, it is the follower that benefits the most from this type of leadership, not the leader.

Disadvantages:

Sometimes transformational leaders develop an “anything goes” attitude in order to achieve organizational goals. The transformational leader must avoid long hours and unreasonable deadlines, or employees will lose the inspiration to work.

Seeing the desired result of transformational leadership takes time, so this leadership style is not appropriate when organizations seek quick results.

 

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership provides monetary rewards for success and punishments for failure. The leader sets predetermined goals with input from team members. The transactional leader reviews results and provides training to assist team members who fail to meet team goals. This style of leadership often is combined with another style, as many employers have regular performance evaluations as part of their organizational structure with salary increase dependent upon successful completion of work goals.

Advantages:

Transactional leadership creates clearly designed job descriptions and roles. Employees know what they must do and what the advantages are for completing predetermined goals. Leaders offer a great deal of direction, which gives employees a sense of security. Frequently, team members perform well in order to receive promised rewards.

Disadvantages:

Very large bureaucratic businesses and organizations choose this method to maintain the status quo. Unfortunately, the transactional style does not encourage creativity.

 

Coaching Leadership

Coaching Leadership

Coaching leaders have the desire to provide career guidance and help those who report to them reach their personal and professional goals. To do so, they provide constant feedback on performance, delegate, and challenge their direct reports. Frequently, leaders resist using the coaching style as it takes more time than other leadership styles. Therefore, it is the leadership style least used in the workplace, which is unfortunate as it provides many advantages.

Advantages:

As mentioned previously, coaching leadership takes time. However, the investment made in employees provides the following advantages:

  • Improves overall results
  • Creates a positive work environment
  • Employees know expectations and are able to meet them

Disadvantages:

The coaching style of leadership takes more time than other styles, and some people lack the personality to coach effectively.

 

Visionary Leadership

The visionary leader inspires others to contribute to his or her vision. A strong visionary leader moves his followers towards a shared vision of the future with the belief that the vision can come true. The commitment of the both the leader and his followers provides direction and success.

Advantages:

Visionary leadership often combines with another leadership style. Many great leaders throughout history have used the visionary style, i.e. Alexander the Great and Martin Luther King.

Disadvantages:

Visionary leaders must understand what is happening both socially and economically, not only in their industry, but also nationally and globally. They must also be able to communicate their vision effectively.

 

Pacesetting Leadership

Pacesetting Leadership

The pacesetting leadership styles works best for short-term goals, as it involves driving participants to initiate goals and achieve results. The pacesetting leader sets high standards not only for themselves, but also for those they are leading. They desire to motivate their followers by example. This leadership style is most effective when quick results are needed.

Advantages:

Pacesetting leaders get their followers moving towards progress quickly. Followers are frequently high-energy, achieving outstanding performance in accomplishing goals. The pacesetter style works best with employee are highly skilled and able to complete tasks in a timely manner.

Disadvantages:

Pacesetting leaders do not have time to give employees feedback. Additionally, there is no time to teach or mentor someone if they need assistance.

 

Servant Leadership

There are a number of identifying characteristics of the servant leader.

  • The servant leader serves others by helping them improve and reach their career coals.
  • The servant leader is selfless, an admiral trait.
  • The servant leader feels responsible for others.
  • Servant leadership is characterized by listening with empathy, and a commitment to the growth of their followers.

Due to the characteristics listed above, servant leadership is often seen in those who work for social causes or seek to help those who are disadvantaged.

Advantages:

Servant leadership is seldom seen in the corporate environment, which is a shame since it has many advantages.

  • The collaborative nature of servant leadership builds community.
  • Servant leaders create environments built upon trust and teamwork, creating feelings of fulfillment.
  • Management is personalized, leading to creating cohesiveness in diverse groups.
  • Career development is emphasized, along with work-home balance.
  • Servant leaders gain respect, thus leading employees to high levels of productivity.

Disadvantages:

Employees often do not have an opportunity for creative thinking. Additionally, employees must have the same goals as the servant leader for this leadership style to be effective.

 

Choosing Your Leadership Style

Choosing Your Leadership Style

One might question which is best, to determine one’s natural leadership style and use that in a chosen job, or develop the leadership style chosen by the company or pertinent to the situation. The answer is it depends – on you, your career goals, the company you work for, and the current situation. Generally speaking, great leaders use one of the more effective styles, such as the participative (democratic) leadership or transformational leadership styles. However, to be effective, a leadership style must meet the conditions, needs, and goals of the organization. Consider the following:

  • Delegating (laissez-faire) leadership works well with an established group of individuals with comprehensive training and the knowledge and ability to complete delegated tasks.
  • Authoritarian (autocratic) leaders have the ability to take inexperienced workers and effectively direct their work. Thus, this leadership style works best in new companies or work environments.
  • Democratic leadership is an effective approach when trying to maintain and strengthen relationships with others, as in a team-based work environment.
  • Transformational leadership works well in an environment where change is necessary as when a company takes a new direction or introduces a new product.
  • Transactional leadership works well for employees motivated by rewards and punishments. Thus, transactional leading is frequently seen in environments that are extremely goal oriented.
  • Coaching leadership works well in small, tightly knit groups with very specific goals.
  • Visionary leaders are very effective with the start-up of an organization or the introduction of a new system or product.
  • The pacesetting style is very effective for short-term projects.
  • The servant leadership style works well for Christian organizations and in the public sector.

 

Conclusion

Leadership style refers to the characteristic behaviors used when guiding, managing, directing, and/or motivating a group of people. People have different leadership styles. Additionally, organizations often have a particular leadership style specified for various positions. It is important to know which leadership style works best in various work environments, so that you can choose the most effective style for a particular situation.

Every work style has its advantages and disadvantages. The key is choosing the right leadership style at the right time. Doing so helps one become a great leader and have the resultant success one desires in their personal and professional life.