Career Development

10 Common Leadership Styles

August 25, 2020

Being a leader in any capacity is an important and exciting role to undertake. Whether you're leading a meeting, a project, a team or an entire department, you might consider identifying with or adopting a defined leadership style. While many individuals will develop their own style of leadership based on factors like experience and personality, they typically fall into 10 different categories. In this article, we discuss what the different leadership styles are with examples.

Why are leadership styles important?

Leaderships styles help you effectively manage and oversee a group. Depending on your personality and goals, you can choose from several types of leadership to suit your needs. The employees, company and objectives also have a role in the leadership style you adopt. You'll likely find that a blend of leadership styles works best. Your leadership style may also change over time when your goals change.

10 common leadership styles

By taking the time to familiarize yourself with each of these types of leadership, you might recognize certain areas to improve upon or expand your own leadership style. Knowing the various ways to lead a team can also give you ideas on changing your style based on the personalities of your team since individuals benefit from different management styles. The different styles are:

  1. Coach
  2. Visionary
  3. Servant
  4. Autocratic
  5. Hands-off
  6. Democratic
  7. Pacesetter
  8. Transformational
  9. Transactional
  10. Bureaucratic

1. Coach

A coach is someone who can quickly recognize their team members' strengths, weaknesses and motivations to help each individual improve. This type of leader often assists team members in setting smart goals and provides regular feedback with challenging projects to promote growth.

The coach leadership style is one of the most advantageous for employers as well as the employees they manage. This type of leadership is time-sensitive and best used for specific projects.

Example: A marketing director holds quarterly meetings with the team to review their overall strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats. During this meeting, the marketing director will acknowledge individuals on the team for their outstanding performance that contributed to the overall goals of the team. The director closes the meeting by setting clear and achievable goals for the next quarter. The director may also take the time to work with the team to develop certain tactics for achieving the goals.

2. Visionary

A visionary leader is someone that inspires employees, typically during a time of change. These types of leaders thrive in large companies going through a transformation or in fast-growing organizations. A visionary leader is also able to establish a strong organizational bond. They strive to foster confidence among direct reports and colleagues alike.

Example: A sales manager is looking to increase sales at a company that has been using the same method for years. The goal is to work with the existing sales team and inspire them to increase sales and improve their performance. They introduce a more advantageous commission structure with additional bonuses for the sales team when they exceed their quarterly targets. The new incentive and possibility to earn more money excites the team to sell more.

3. Servant

Servant leaders live by a people-first mindset and believe that when team members feel personally and professionally fulfilled, they're more effective and more likely to produce great work regularly. Leaders who practice this style of leadership are greatly respected by their employees.

You typically see this kind of leadership style in nonprofit organizations. These types of leaders are exceptionally skilled in building employee morale and helping people re-engage with their work.

Example: A company president has one-on-one meetings with the leaders of their organization to address concerns or questions they have about the direction and functionality of the company. These meetings are intended to help get a sense of how the teams are doing and address any needs to help foster a positive environment in the organization.

4. Autocratic

An autocratic, or authoritarian, leadership style is one that manages employees in a strict manner and is typically focused more on results and efficiency. Autocratic leadership is good for organizations with strict guidelines or in ones that are compliance-heavy. Leaders who need to oversee a group that's undergoing change can also use this style for the transition period.

Example: The head of a customer service team hands out scripts to their staff for them to use on their daily calls. They emphasize that the employees are not to deviate from the script and that they must answer a certain number of calls per day to meet their quotas.

5. Hands-off

A hands-off approach focuses on giving employees the freedom to perform their tasks unsupervised. Leaders who exercise this type of leadership style are often more laid back and easygoing. This leadership style is best used when the team is very experienced and needs little oversight.

Example: When looking to hire new employees, an HR specialist is free to source and interview candidates without the interference of the HR manager. They specifically with the team looking to hire a new employee to get their input and requirements to find the right person for the job.

6. Democratic

The democratic leadership style, also called the participative style, is a combination of autocratic and hands-off leadership. Democratic leaders make sure that employees know their contributions matter and that their voices are heard. This leadership style is genuinely well-received by many different personalities and helps to foster employee engagement. Technology companies or start-up organizations find this is a good type of leadership style to use as it helps to spur creativity and innovation.

Example: The manager of the web development team asks the team to develop an app with a certain function for the business but leaves the team members to figure out the best way to do build the app on their own.

7. Pacesetter

For fast-paced companies that need quick results, this leadership style is very effective. Pacesetter leaders often set high standards to help foster an energized workforce. These leaders are focused on performance more than creativity and may not have as much time for individual mentorship.

Example: The manager of a sales team sets large goals for the team and for individual members as well. To do this, the team must meet high daily and weekly goals. The manager also holds weekly meetings with members to see where they are with their goals and if they need to make any adjustments to succeed.

8. Transformational

A transformational leader is similar to the coaching style in that it focuses on clear communication, goal-setting and employee motivation. The difference between the two styles is that a transformational leader focuses more on the objectives of the organization.

Because this leadership type spends less time attending to the employee's individual goals, the style is best used for teams that need little supervision to perform their daily tasks.

Example: A new director of technology needs to assess the tech stack of the company. They spend the first few first months talking with different teams to determine what is working and what is not. Once they have researched alternatives for the company, they set goals for their team to bring in the new software and equipment before the end of the year.

9. Transactional

A transactional leader is focused on mentorship, instruction and training, and typically has their team motivated by monetary rewards. This leadership style will also use disciplinary action when a team member fails. It's a similar style to the pacesetter.

The transactional leadership style is best suited for teams that need to meet specific goals or KPIs, like sales teams.

Example: The owner of a travel agency asks the team to book a certain number of trips over a three month period. They stipulate that those who exceed their goals will get a bonus and those that fail to hit them will be put on a probationary period until they can bring their bookings back up.

10. Bureaucratic

Bureaucratic leaders expect their team members to follow the rules and procedures precisely as written. They often work in a hierarchical structure, which makes this leadership style best for regulated industries such as finance, healthcare or government bodies.

Example: The manager at an insurance company asks the policy writers to follow a specific and defined framework when writing any new regulations into their policies. The writers must use a detailed approval process before the documentation is considered complete and finalized.

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