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6 Common Leadership Styles and How To Find Your Own

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Not all people in positions of power use the same leadership approach. The type of leadership style someone uses depends on their personality and the type of group they’re leading. An effective leadership style that works when heading a creative marketing team won’t work for a pre-school teacher trying to control her young students.

If you find yourself in a position of leadership, it’s important for you to develop a style that works best for you and your team.

Here are six leadership styles for you to consider when developing your stance on leadership.

1. Democratic Leaders

Democratic leadership prioritizes communal participation in the leadership process. The leader facilitates discussions, but all members are asked to freely share their ideas and perspectives to participate in the decision-making process. This type of leadership has a high success rate and tends to cultivate a higher team morale.

Team members feel empowered, as they are an instrumental part of the creative process. The leader isn’t there to give orders but instead helps with the development and sharing of ideas. There is a high level of engagement from the team members, as they are given creative freedom and control. Ideas are free-flowing and the leader’s role is to control that flow, reward and encourage creativity, and make final decisions after everyone has made a contribution.

Possible downfalls to this model can occur when team members feel disengaged and unvalued. If they feel the leader won’t truly consider or respect their contributions, they won’t feel like it’s worth making suggestions. Someone embodying this leadership type must truly be open to and respectful of other people’s ideas.

Democratic leadership style

2. Charismatic Leaders

The charismatic leadership style works best for those embodying and representing an ideal. They use their natural charisma, excellent oratory skills, and superior communication techniques to convert listeners to their platform. People are drawn to their position on a cause because they are well-spoken, compelling, and trustworthy.

These leaders have a goal that is often larger than themselves or one particular organization. Even though Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a member of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, his cause was advancing civil rights, not increasing revenue or membership of his organization for the sake of profit.

Their eloquence and ability to connect with their audience through emotion makes them extremely powerful when they find the right audience.

As this leadership style works by advocating for a higher cause, this style won’t work well for someone who is a team manager of a Chili’s. They can use excellent communication skills to connect with their team, but with no higher cause to connect to, a deep passion for the mission will come off as disingenuous.

charismatic leadership style

3. Autocratic Leaders

The autocratic leadership style depends entirely on rank and structure. The leader leads and everyone below them follows without question. There is no open communication or sharing of ideas as equals. The leader takes responsibility for all decision making and those below them are given instructions on how to carry out their tasks.

This style is extremely inflexible, relies strongly on rules and protocol, prioritizes a one-way relationship, and does not make room for any sort of creativity.

This leadership style is not effective in a creative setting and is generally not favored in 21st century America. Employees value an employer who values them, and this process does not leave much room for the humanization of either the leader or those working under them.

autocratic leadership style

4. Bureaucratic Leaders

The bureaucratic leadership style is often confused with the autocratic style because it also relies on a strict adherence to regulation and does not offer room for creativity. However, the key difference between the two styles is that while an autocratic style has one leader, a bureaucratic system has a chain of command.

This style is formatted so that decisions are made along this chain of command, rather than one leader making all executive decisions. If a decision is above someone’s paygrade or jurisdiction, the decision gets pushed up the chain of command so someone with more power can make that choice.

The hierarchy is clearly spelled out and divided so that each role has a set of tasks and responsibilities. No one along this hierarchy should have any questions on what their role includes. Tasks are divided among this chain so that each person works within their specialty. In theory, someone in this type of organization has the ability to ascend the latter based on their performance and experience.

This style tends to be extremely impersonal, and some can see this as callous. Not everyone will enjoy such a rigid structure in their position. However, if someone likes repetition, reliability, and thrives under a consistent environment, they might enjoy a position in this type of organization.

bureaucratic leadership style

5. Laissez Faire Leaders

The laissez fair leadership style is also called delegative leadership because people in this role have a very hands-off approach with the team. They allow members of the team to direct themselves, make their own decisions, and only really intervene to delegate tasks when the team doesn’t make those choices for themselves.

This leadership can be extremely successful or can fail spectacularly. If a team is composed of extremely talented leaders of their own discipline with extremely defined roles, a laissez-faire leader could work well. That way no one person is in a strong position of controlling leadership.

In many situations, this approach sees low levels of team involvement and productivity. If a team doesn’t feel like their leader is taking an active role in shaping their success, they won’t feel particularly motivated to help themselves. In this style, decisions are left up to the employees, so if you have a group of really strong, decisive thinkers, this can work well, but if the members don’t feel like they have much direction from their leader, they might not know where to turn.

laissez fair leadership style

6. Servant Leaders

Someone using the servant leadership style acts with the team’s interests in mind. Instead of delegating, they do everything they can to meet the needs of the team as individuals, because they believe that members who feel valued and fulfilled will be the most productive. When a team member feels like a wanted part of the team, the quality and efficiency of their work will be significantly improved.

This leader chooses compassion and collaboration. They focus on putting their team’s individual satisfaction before their own and getting consistent feedback from the team.

This respect and kindness inspire employees, especially when they see their leaders putting everything they have into the project. Members respond well when someone in a position above them demonstrates their passion, instead of acting as though they are above the rest of the team. This style is commonly used in non-profit organizations.

leadership styles - servant leadership

Creating Your Own Leadership Style

Very few leaders are a pure, direct interpretation of one leadership style. More commonly, leaders blend a few styles together to create a style that is all their own.

Draw from your strengths as an individual; if you are a caring person who has a cause you’re passionate about, you could be a blend a servant and charismatic leader. If you care about getting opinions from your group but you’re a teacher in a classroom, you are using a democratic style but the position itself is autocratic.

Work within the confines of your position and infuse your passion and personality into your style. Whatever type of leader do you choose to be? Choose to be kind.

Sarah Margaret Henry
Published in Career, Featured Articles

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