Leadership is the social influence, which maximises the efforts of others towards the achievement of an objective or goal. For further details of what leadership is and how it differs from management read our article What is Leadership? Leadership styles, however, are the ways in which a leader uses a particular approach to lead others.

There are numerous approaches to leadership from Kurt Lewin’s framework to less well know leadership styles. In this article, we take a look at some of the most common leadership styles.

In 1939, Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed, he believed, were the three major leadership styles:

Autocratic (Authoritarian) Leadership

Autocratic Leadership is an extreme leadership style. The leader holds all the power, authority and responsibility. They make decisions on their own with very little or no input from staff and team members. Autocratic leaders make decisions, communicate those decisions and expect prompt implementation.

Democratic (Participative) Leadership

When using the Democratic Leadership style, staff and team members are involved in decision making, although the democratic leader is responsible for, and therefore, will make the final decision. Unlike autocratic leadership, democratic headship is centred on staff and team members’ contributions and features two-way communication.

Laissez-faire (Delegative) Leadership

Laissez-faire Leadership describes leaders who give complete authority to their staff or team members to work on their own and set their own deadlines. Laissez-faire leadership also occurs naturally where managers don’t have control over their staff or team members.

Lewin’s framework was very influential and provided a springboard for any other theories. Almost 70 years later Lewin’s framework is still popular and still considered very useful.

A much more modern theory is that the of 6 Emotional Leadership Styles developed by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee. Their 2002 book Primal Leadership describes the six styles and how each affects the emotions of followers.

Visionary Leadership

Visionary Leadership involves moving people to a shared vision, showing them where to go but do not dictate how to get there. Visionary leaders will openly share knowledge and information. They recognise that great leadership developed with and through people.

Coaching Leadership

The Coaching Leadership style involves in-depth conversations with team members. A coaching leader is highly operational, ensuring that team members’ personal goals are closely aligned with the organisation’s goals.

Affiliative Leadership

Affiliative Leadership promotes harmony by creating connections between team members. It is a collaborative style with a focus on team members emotional needs. As such it helps to avoid emotionally distressing situations.

Democratic Leadership

Very similar to Lewin’s theory, Democratic Leadership as described by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, involves team members participation and input into the decision making process.

Pacesetting Leadership

Pacesetting Leadership is another intense style with the leader expecting excellence. They create challenges and exciting goals. Pacesetting leaders are quick to identify poor performance and having a willingness to roll up their sleeves and rescue the situation.

Commanding Leadership

The Commanding Leadership style is very similar to an Autocratic Leadership style. The Commanding leader gives clear directions and expects full compliance. It is a very much “Do as I say” or “Do what I tell you” style.

Other leadership styles include:

Bureaucratic Leadership

The Bureaucratic Leadership style involves following, and ensuring team members follow, rules and procedures rigorously. This style of leadership is particularly crucial for roles involving serious risks to people’s safety (i.e. when working in the military, with machinery or at heights) or when routine work is carried out. The use of the Bureaucratic style is less appropriate than other leadership styles where teams need to be creative or flexible.

Charismatic Leadership

The Charismatic Leadership style encourages particular behaviours through elegant communication, persuasion and evoking strong emotions. Charismatic leaders are powerful motivators, articulating a compelling vision to their team members.

Transactional Leadership

The Transactional Leadership style involves an exchange process, whereby team members get immediate, tangible rewards for carrying out the leader’s requests. Transactional leadership is one of the most common leadership styles as it occurs in almost every working situation. For example, when an individual accepts a job, they agree to abide by their employer’s policies, procedures etc. in exchange for remuneration.

Some individuals perceive the Transactional Leadership style as controlling. However, it does ensure clarity around roles and responsibilities. Due to the nature of the Transactional Leadership style, some view it more as a management style as opposed to a leadership style.

Transformational Leadership

The Transformational Leadership style is all about initiating change in the organisations, team members and oneself. The Transformational leader expects the best from everyone, and as such they motivate others to do more than they originally intended or even thought possible. As they set more challenging expectations and more stretching goals, typically they and their team members achieve higher performance.

Statistically, Transformational Leadership leads to more dedicated, satisfied and empowered followers.

When considering which leadership still to adopt, it is important to bear in mind is that the most appropriate leadership style depends on the particular situation, the function of the leader and who they are leading. In some instances, it will be appropriate to use more than one leadership style at a given time.

Delphinium provides a range of coaching and training services to support and develop leaders across all levels of the organisation. To discuss how we can support leaders in your organisation contact us arrange your free consultation.

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Other articles in this series:

What is Leadership?