Explore the Significance of 5 Key Leadership Styles

Explore the Significance of 5 Key Leadership Styles

9 mins read59 Views Comment
Syed Aquib Ur
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager
Updated on Sep 12, 2023 17:48 IST

Are you a decisive autocrat or a collaborative democrat? Explore the nuances and learn why mastering these approaches can empower your leadership journey.


Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence

Sheryl Sandberg

This quote perfectly captures how great leadership endures. It also tells us how leader interaction or guidance can influence the growth of their groups or teams. Ultimately, it all boils down to the approach or leadership style the leader should adopt. 

Every leader is different. Choosing a specific leadership style means they adopt an approach based on their experience, skills, and personality. They must not forget the organisation’s or stakeholders’ needs to create a lasting impact, as well. 

Just as one learns the different leadership theories, several leadership styles exist to explore.

Leadership Style Meaning

A leadership style refers to a framework that combines methods and characteristics for directing, motivating one or more teams in an organisation or any group setting, and taking decisions. 

It includes behaviours, attitudes, and approaches that a leader employs to create an impact on the group’s goals, culture, and overall direction. 

5 Leadership Styles for All Leaders

Autocratic Leadership Style

In the autocratic leadership style, the leader holds a centralised authority and decision-making power. So, they are responsible for taking charge of decisions without seeking much input from team members. 

Also known as authoritarian leadership style, it is a top-down approach to ensure swift decisions. It sometimes limits creativity and collaboration within the team. And, one of the most recognisable examples of this controlling style could be said about Henry Ford. 

Pros and Cons

Some of the benefits of autocratic leadership are as follows. 

  • Tasks are executed with precision and in alignment with organisational goals.
  • It minimises delays caused by lengthy deliberations. 
  • Challenges and opportunities of an organisation can be quickly looked into, when analysing business strategies through SWOT Analysis or PESTEL Analysis.  

Here are some reasons why authoritarian leadership does not work. 

  • The lack of involvement for team members or subordinates in the decision-making process leads to decreased job satisfaction and engagement. A Forbes article by Mark Murphy shows very few employees prefer not to be involved in the final decision-making process. This is when you compare with those who prefer to participate. 
Mark Murphy Survey on Autocratic Leadership
  • It becomes harder to take initiatives, as the authoritative leader creates an atmosphere of dependency. 

When to Use Autocratic Leadership Style

  • In times of crisis, urgent decisions demand a swift response. 
  • A top-down approach ensures protocol adherence in environments where safety and compliance are paramount.

How to Use Autocratic Leadership Style

This type of leadership style works when the team or group likes to work with rules without much flexibility.  The autocratic leader can shine in their efforts when the team member only care about consistency instead of innovation or sharing a two-way line of communication. 

In short, this type of style is limited to team, with a collective no-rule-breaking personality. The leader here should clearly set the expectations and decisions from day one. 

Democratic Leadership Style

It involves leaders who encourage participation and input from team members when making decisions. This style values collaboration and aims to include diverse perspectives in the decision-making process. 

Pros and Cons

The main advantages of this leadership style are

  • This approach motivates employee engagement and creativity. 
  • It leads to increased commitment and accountability, as team members feel valued and engaged when their opinions are considered. 
  • Decisions become more solid due to everyone’s input. 

But, too much democratisation in organisational decision-making can bring the following issues. 

  • The consensus-building process can be time-intensive. So if there is a time constraint on deliverables, it may hinder the work. 
  • The main issue with it is that it is already assumed everyone is an expert, which may not be the case in terms of degree or area. 
  • If there is no proper vision or clear-cut definition of team expectations, it will not work. 

When to Use the Democratic Leadership Style

  • It works when there’s a need for diverse perspectives and innovative solutions
  • If team members have expertise in different areas, it is beneficial.  

How to Use Democratic Leadership Style

The success of the democratic leadership style lies in its implementation and the type of employee interaction. 

It thrives in environments where employees have expertise and a strong desire to exchange their insights. It is also important for the democratic leader to establish achievable deadlines or time limits. 

Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Here, the leader grants team members a high degree of autonomy and decision-making power. 

Those adopting this style provide minimal guidance. They allow their teams to operate with independence. While it fosters creativity and individual initiative, it can also lead to a lack of direction and coordination.

Pros and Cons

The best-known advantages of it are mentioned below. 

  • It creates autonomy. According to an HBR study, teams that were presented with the option to select either their own ideas or their fellow teammates, but not both, garnered a 50% higher likelihood of achieving success compared to teams lacking autonomy. 
  • It is beneficial when team members are experts in their domains. 

It may not work due to these concerns. 

  • Without clear direction, some team members might struggle to align their efforts with organisational objectives.
  • The lack of oversight can lead to uneven performance.

When to Use Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

In a work environment where team members are experts in their respective fields and require minimal supervision, the Laissez-Faire Leadership Style can flourish. It’s also suitable for nurturing a culture of innovation and independent thinking.

How to Use Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Leaders should provide clear objectives and expectations to their team while allowing them to explore solutions.

Regular check-ins and open lines of communication are essential to ensure the team stays on track. 

Transactional Leadership Style

Taking cues from management theories that emerged during the industrial revolution, it is based on a clear exchange between leaders and their team members. 

It involves setting expectations, rewarding achievements, and enforcing consequences for failing to meet standards.

Related Read: Scientific Management Theory

Pros and Cons

Here are some reasons why this transactional style works. 

  • The system of rewards and consequences ensures that team members are held accountable for their actions and outcomes.
  • Transactional leaders create a structured environment where team members know what to expect regarding rewards and consequences.

But this leadership may not work due to the following reasons. 

  • Predefined goals and rewards might discourage innovative thinking and risk-taking.
  • Relying solely on rewards can lead to a lack of employee motivation.

When to Use Transactional Leadership Style

  • In situations where tasks are well-defined and performance can be measured objectively, the transactional leadership style is effective. 
  • It’s common in sales environments, where meeting targets leads to rewards. Or in hiring agencies for performance marketing

How to Use Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leaders should set clear expectations, define rewards and consequences, and provide regular feedback on performance. This clarity helps team members understand what’s they should do and what they stand to gain.

Transformational Leadership Style

It focuses on inspiring and motivating team members to exceed their own expectations. Leaders employing this style aim to create a sense of shared purpose and encourage personal growth among their team members. It demands continuous engagement and a compelling vision.

The genesis of transformational leadership is James V. Downton’s pioneering work in 1973. It was subsequently built upon and refined by James Burns in 1978. 

Taking the reins of this evolving paradigm, researcher Bernard M. Bass made significant strides in 1985 by augmenting the concept to encompass methodologies for gauging the efficacy of transformational leadership. 

This model propels leaders to embody unwavering, genuine leadership, underpinned by the belief that it will kindle a collective aspiration among employees to emulate the same calibre of leadership.

Read in-depth on transformational leadership

Pros and Cons

Let’s explore the advantages.

  • Transformational leaders inspire their teams with a compelling vision
  • Team members can find grounds to develop their skills and capabilities. That leads to continuous self-improvement.
  • It encourages a culture of exploration and pushing boundaries. 

Now let’s see where it could go wrong and may be a disadvantage to adopt. 

  • It requires consistent effort and involvement from the leader. 
  • Not all team members may embrace the transformative vision.
  • The focus on the bigger picture might result in overlooking operational details that are critical for execution.

When to Use Transformational Leadership Style

In times of change, growth, and innovation, the Transformational Leadership Style shines. It’s ideal for fostering a culture of continuous improvement and pushing the boundaries of what’s achievable.

How to Use Transformational Leadership Style

Leaders should embody the vision they want their team to pursue and communicate it passionately. They should empower team members, encourage them to take risks, and provide mentorship and support to nurture their growth.

Related Read: Change Management

Why is it Important to Know Different Leadership Styles?

All Leaders Have Unique and Evolving Personalities

Over the last century, scholars, psychologists, and businesspeople, including Lewin, Blake and Motoun, and Goleman have posited different frameworks of leadership styles. 

Their research- and observation-based approaches have come by delving into a leader’s personality, values, and beliefs. 

Think of the term ‘emotional intelligence’, the buzzword of this century. But, this term started becoming popular in the 90s by Daniel Goleman. 

He identified six distinct leadership styles linked to different emotional competencies. They are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. 

Goleman’s work highlights how emotional intelligence plays a crucial role in shaping leaders’ behaviour and their ability to adapt their styles to diverse situations.

Before him, there were other parameters, including task, productivity, and leader-follower interaction that his predecessors focused on. 

New studies on human and organisational behaviour have changed the perspective of what creates effective leadership. Following a theory which is a century-year-old versus a newer perspective will certainly create leadership challenges today. 

It is also important to see the traditional leadership models in the socioeconomic light. The frameworks were the test of those times in those countries. Communication and behaviour have changed drastically and continue to do so with each generation. 

Leaders of the current milieu are naturally different, with social behaviours across different geographies. There are changes in the business environment as well. 

One cannot rely solely on the teachings of how great leaders such as Winston Churchill or the like led their followers. Instead, taking the best of all worlds is important – ones that fit the current scenario or circumstance. 

Leaders Must Adapt to What Stakeholders Expect

Employing a universal leadership method may not yield optimal outcomes in every scenario. A contemporary leader must ideally be able to draw from different leadership styles. 

The needs of an organisation to run successfully is forever changing. Within a team, individual members show a spectrum of personalities, motivations, and work methods. 

Learn About Situational Leadership Theory
Learn About Situational Leadership Theory
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. The Situational Leadership Theory explains this flexibility based on the complex needs of team members and leaders. This is an enduring approach on...read more
Trait Theory of Leadership Explained
Trait Theory of Leadership Explained
Over the last few centuries, historians, social philosophers, and theorists have described, critiqued, and modified leadership theories. These postulations have come a long way with the Trait Theory of Leadership,...read more

Proficient leaders adeptly utilise assorted leadership styles to align with each team member’s inherent ways of working productively. 

Leadership styles hold particular relevance in motivating and engaging teams. 

Styles such as transformational leadership can create inspiration and improve performance levels. A leadership style that resonates with a team’s values and aspirations can yield heightened involvement and a more steadfast allegiance to an organisation’s objectives.

More Related Readings For You

Do check out courses such as Giving Sense to Your Leadership Experience on Coursera that will help you on the path of choosing a leadership style. 

About the Author
Syed Aquib Ur Rahman
Assistant Manager

Aquib is a seasoned wordsmith, having penned countless blogs for Indian and international brands. These days, he's all about digital marketing and core management subjects - not to mention his unwavering commitment ... Read Full Bio