5 top leadership styles and how to discover yours

A Photo example of leadership styles

Are leaders born, made, or both as a product of nature and nurture? It’s a philosophical question, but a more practical one right now is: how do you lead?

Being part of the management or owner of a startup, perhaps, necessitates leadership skills. This leadership comes in several styles, which tend to be more adaptive than prescriptive. Varying situations, organisations (or their stages), and personalities of the leader and members call for different approaches.

Find out the five common leadership styles with real-life applications.

Autocratic or “Do as I Tell You” Leadership

Leaders with an autocratic style think they know the most or more than others in the team. They tend to decide on their own with little to no regard for their subordinates’ opinions.

When does it work best: This approach works when the leader has to make complex decisions right away. This assumes that the leader has the best appreciation of the situation to make the tough call for everyone.

When is it not effective: The lack of consultation can hinder creativity in solving problems in the long run. Before an autocratic leader, members feel less incentivised to offer their thoughts, even when they have the knowledge or skills to do so.

Authoritative or “Come with Me” Leadership

n authoritative leader offers a vision that motivates others to follow them. As per a Harvard Business School Online blog post notes, this visionary leader takes on a mentor-mentee approach to leadership.

When does it work best: An authoritative leader effectively sets goals and steering people to achieve them amid tight deadlines or difficulties. A clear vision guides members during uncertain times brought by changes.

When is it not effective: While there is a difference between authoritarian and authoritative leaders, the control aspect is there. Authoritative leaders may be exercising too much control instead of empowering how each member contributes to the goal.

Democratic or “What Do You Think” Leadership

Democratic leaders sit with their members to solicit their suggestions. Although the final decision still rests upon the leaders, members feel they have a hand in the decision-making, especially on matters that concern them.

When does it work best: Like in a democratic society, participatory leadership encourages exchanging knowledge for brainstorming sessions. The leader acts as a moderator and facilitator who gathers everyone’s input.

When is it not effective: This approach is not ideal for time-sensitive matters that can’t afford delays or bottlenecks. Discussions involving everyone’s opinions can take unpredictable turns with no clear direction and others still feeling left out.

Laissez-Faire or “Let It Be” Leadership

Laissez-faire leaders and their hands-off approach counter autocratic leaders and their authoritarian style. Under the laissez-faire management style, leaders delegate tasks and leave it to the members to accomplish them.

When does it work best: Laissez-faire leadership is practical in industries or businesses, where decisions have to be made on every level, every day. Autonomy plays a key role in this setup as leaders trust their people to work with little to no oversight.

When is it not effective: Contrary to popular belief, a laissez-faire-style leader maintains involvement. Still, the system’s success rests on self-motivated members and know exactly what they need to do; the lack of supervision can lead to confusion, poor performance, etc.

Servant or “People First” Leadership

Service is at the centre of this leadership style, where leaders consider others’ interests first before their own. This service-first approach challenges the typical top-down organisational structure and creates a sense of community where members are engaged and cared for.

When does it work best: Huddles can be an opportune time for managers to ask how they can help their team in their struggles with the newest software or concerns that remain unresolved.

When is it not effective: Servant leaders want to boost the morale of their employees and build trust in the workplace, among other efforts that take time to materialise. Servant leadership is more of a long-term model than a per-situation technique. It is also important to note that a servant leader can face burnout or be burdened with responsibilities.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

Your brand of leadership can be a mix of many styles and techniques, as noted above. There’s no textbook to teach you everything about being a leader, and sometimes you have to experience it first to learn.

Notwithstanding the many challenges that come with being responsible for your team, be the leader worth emulating.

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Aubrey i​s a writer and a regular contributor. She writes on topics on job searching and career development in hopes to provide better tips on job hunting and career development.

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