9 Common Organizational Leadership Styles

There are many different leadership styles, all of which can be linked to certain leadership behaviors.  The type of leadership that works best for you and your organization is something that will be up to you to figure out, but we hope that this discussion will help layout the basis of knowledge you need to better understand what type(s) fit you and your organization appropriately.  It is important to note that there is no single model that will work for every time and situation so understanding the different leadership styles available to you will allow you to be flexible and versatile, leading to your overall improvement as a leader. 


Democratic Leadership

The democratic leadership style, also known as the “participative” leadership style, can be described as someone who has come into power through the decision of the group that follows them.  This style is very “group-focused”, promoting group decision and policy-making processes and allowing individuals within the group to be self-directed.  This concept increases the sense of ownership within individuals of the team, thus driving self-esteem, productivity, as well as creativity.  The democratic leadership style typically works best when a team has skilled, experienced members that are eager to contribute, innovation companies tend to work well under this type of leadership (for example, technology-based innovation companies).


Autocratic Leadership

Also referred to as the authoritarian or “hands-on” mentality, this sort of leadership is heavily focused on completing tasks and meeting the goals set for each individual and the group.  Decisions are typically made individually, by the leader, or by a small group prior to requesting opinions or debate from the extended team.  These leaders can be like military commanders, expecting their employees to follow their rules and do exactly what they are told to do.  This methodology is known to inhibit creativity (and sometimes productivity) but can be well-suited for heavily regulated organizations or industries.


Transactional Leadership

The transactional leader is laser-focused on performance.  This leadership type is goal-oriented, typically rewarding, and punishing the team or individuals for meeting or missing the set goals.  The transactional leader attempts to drive individual contributors to meet their individual goals by motivating them through their self-interests (rewards or punishments).  Like the autocratic style of leading, this methodology can stifle creativity and is usually better suited for teams who work within strict, goal-oriented environments.


Transformational Leadership

In contrast to the transactional leadership style, the transformational methodology focuses on the bigger picture of the organization.  The transformational leader is typically a visionary who relies heavily on communication, employee motivation, and organization/team goal setting to be successful.  This leader is working to make a change in the company, the team, the culture, etc.  To make this methodology work, the leader shows a strong commitment to the organizational goals rather than individual goals, explaining to his/her team why they do what they do and things of that sort.  This strategy can be very useful when leadership can delegate appropriately and spread a vision and big picture of the goals the larger organization has.


Servant Leadership

The servant leadership model can be described as a leader focusing on “serving” the members of the group rather than focusing on enhancing their own power.  Simply put, servant leaders are givers with the determination to develop their team and the individuals within.  The servant leadership model ultimately attempts to increase employee satisfaction, in turn improving productivity and increasing the respect given to you as a leader.  This methodology can work in several settings but specifically works when the team is experienced and skilled at what they do, thus allowing the leader to step in and simply “add a helping hand”.


Laissez-Faire Leadership

Considered the “hands-off” approach to leading, the Laissez-Faire style focuses heavily on delegating appropriately and then allowing the team to do what they need to do to meet your expectations.  There is little supervision and no “micro-management” when it comes to the Laissez-Faire leadership style.  This concept obviously works best with a very skilled and experienced set of team members but can be extremely powerful if carried out correctly.  Delegation is key in this type of role, learn more about effective delegation here.


Situational Leadership

Being a situational leader means being versatile and understanding your individual contributors prior to attempting to lead them in a specific way.  The concept of situational leadership first seeks to understand the level of competency and commitment of each team member and then modifies the rigor placed on leading them depending on these levels.  For example, someone who is just learning the job shouldn’t be led the same way as someone who has 25 years’ experience in the industry. This leadership style should be applied to any industry that wants to foster and maintain productivity throughout the team or organization.


Bureaucratic Leadership

Like the autocratic leader, a bureaucratic leader expects their employees to follow the rules and guidelines given to them.  This leader applies a setlist of responsibilities for each employee or function within the team/organization and expects them to abide by them.  Again, this style is effective more-so in highly regulated industries where cross-functional collaboration and tasks are heavily “proceduralized” with processes in place for individuals to strictly follow.


Charismatic Leadership

Leaders who can persuade and motivate their employees through high energy communication and a charismatic personality can be very powerful and successful at spreading a vision.  Through charisma that meets the needs and aspirations of their followers, a charismatic leader can motivate their employees to follow them and motivate them to be productive on a consistent basis.  Charisma in a leader can be attributed to their attitude, past accomplishments/experiences, or even their physical appearance.  This is another great leadership style when creativity and inspiration are needed or lacking within an organization.


Final Words

As you can see there are several leadership styles that can be placed in your toolbox, but simply selecting one and expecting it to work in every situation is just not going to work.  As the famous Peter Drucker wrote in The Leader of the Future who concluded that single “leadership styles” do not exist, thus adapting the concepts detailed above to specific times and situations is what will prove to be successful.  We have provided you with a surface level knowledge base of many popular leadership methods for you to implement in your practice with the hope of improving the success of your career and organization.  If you have any questions, comments, or additional requests on this subject, please leave a comment below!  

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