The 5 Leadership Styles

The 5 Leadership Styles

What are Leadership Styles?


Leadership is the ability to accomplish a common goal by motivating and directing others. It can also refer to the senior management structure of an organisation. To be an effective leader, one must have the ability to communicate the objective in manner that engages others to work towards it.

A Leadership style is the method used to give direction, implement plans, delegate work and manage people. Many Leaders will display multiple traits from various styles, but often either favour or subconsciously gravitate towards one more than any others. Leadership style is a nuanced classification, as leaders can slowly change their styles as their team changes.


Leadership Style #1: Lassiez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-Faire comes from the French “To let people do as they choose.” Its main purpose lies in giving almost full autonomy to the employee, making it an almost leaderless Leadership style. Every input from any individual in the team, regardless of seniority, is taken into consideration equally.

The leader provides the resources and the employees are expected to achieve the results on their own. The leader leaves the decision making to the team itself, taking on a more supervisory role than that of a decision maker. It can be problematic for employees with low skill levels or low motivation, who can often end up feeling abandoned. But a team that is highly skilled and motivated can accomplish a lot with this type of leadership. This Leadership Style is best used when the leader knows less than their team about a subject, and trusts a team of highly specialised experts to do their jobs.


Leadership Style #2: Authoritarian Leadership

The absolute opposite of the “Laissez-Faire”: in this style the leader does all the decision making, with very little input from anyone else. The authoritarian leader sets all the decisions and goals by himself. Everyone knows their place and their roles, and the leader quickly sets the objectives and the strategy: This is what we want and this is how we’re going to get it.

Authoritarian Leadership thrives in high-risk environments such as the army, where a quick thinking commander can make the difference between life and death. It isn’t a very popular leadership style in other fields such as teaching and technology. Employees often dislike authoritative bosses, and this can lead to restrained creativity, rebellion and even high employee turnover. Some employees can feel less valued and this can reduce motivation. It is important to understand when this type of leadership is necessary, and put it to good use for a short time.


Leadership Style #3: Participative Leadership

A mix of the previous two, Participative Leadership sees the leader encouraging their employees to pitch in ideas during decision making, working with them to find a middle ground. The leader still has the final say, but does so after reviewing the team’s input and taking it into consideration. This style allows a leader to see different an issue or situation from multiple perspectives.

Also known as Democratic Leadership, Participative Leadership allows employees to feel more appreciated and boosts morale. Employees take part in the decision-making process and feel empowered by a leader who actively listens and communicates with them. It has the drawback of being considerably slower, and as such It is not recommended when time is short, as the decision making process goes through significantly more people. Democratic leadership is best suited for smaller teams, or for teams of similarly skilled people with similar inputs.


Leadership Style #4: Transactional Leadership

Transactional Leaders set targets to their employees, rate the results and reward the employees depending on the outcomes. This leadership works well with self-motivated employees who find a well-structured and rigid environment where their skills can be put to use very rewarding.

In Transactional leadership style, leaders rate employee performance and diligence and give them monetary incentives for succeeding (i.e. bonuses) or punishments for failing to accomplish a goal. The goals, rewards and consequences for any task are clear and set from the start. This type of Leadership does not encourage out of the box thinking and creativity, and is generally considered more passive than others. There are no surprises; everything is streamlined and efficient, but also inflexible and dull.


Leadership Style #5: Transformational Leadership

Transformational Leadership is the most focused on the leader’s personality. The leader is a charismatic role-model with a vision. He communicates his plans and wisdom to his employees frequently, trying to inspire and motivate them through direct contact.

The leader assesses every employee’s strengths and weaknesses and puts them to work accordingly. This boosts morale and inclusion in the workforce. Transformational leadership, unlike Transactional Leadership, can significantly raise the bar. It helps a company reach its strategic goals in a more creative way, and creates a positive workplace culture.

It can have drawbacks, like creating a cult of personality. In some cases, gaining the leader’s approval becomes more important than accomplishing goals.

Interested in improving your Management and Leadership skills? Speak to a Higher Education Consultant if you are interested in an MBA, an Online MBA in Leadership & Innovation or an Online MBA in Entrepreneurship.


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