You are on page 1of 14


Leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. Kurt Lewin (1939) led a group of researchers to identify different styles of leadership. This early study has been very influential and established three major leadership styles. Whether you are managing a team at work, captaining your sports team or leading a major corporation, your leadership style is crucial to your success. Consciously, or subconsciously, you will no doubt use some of the leadership styles. There are a number of different approaches, or 'styles' to leadership and management that are based on different assumptions and theories. The style that individuals use will be based on a combination of their beliefs and values and preferences , as well as the organizational culture and norms which will encourage some styles and discourage others. There is a significant amount of literature in both the pop or self-help domains and in the organizational research arena. Generally, theorists and proponents of Leadership style fall into 1 of 3 key beliefs: 1) Leaders are born, not made. This approach suggests that great leaders are heroic, genetically pre-determined to rise to the role of leader at the right time. Winston Churchill and the Dali Lama are two individuals who are thought to have been destined (for different reasons) to be leaders of their time. 2) Leaders have personality styles that make them what they are – Great. This approach assumes that people have certain qualities that are stable and inherent: good leaders have a particular set of qualities that mean they have a natural affinity to the role. Of course, there are many people who have the set of qualities considered to indicate good leadership style but do not become leaders! 3) What makes a good Leader differs across contexts. This final approach suggests that a good leader may have a set of general qualities that provide optimal support, but they also have specific qualities and skills they can use to effect outcomes in particular situations. At times, they may utilise a leadership style that is participative, while at other times they are more directive or authoritative in their approach.

Leadership Tips:
In some situations, an autocratic or authoritarian style is appropriate: • In critical situations, where one leader is required • When the leader has specific knowledge that others do not In some situations, a delegative style is appropriate: • If a team member knows more than you do about a task • When work loads and deadlines are pressing (shared success builds team cohesion) In most situations, a participative style is appropriate: • Especially when team members understand the objectives and their role in the task • To gain engagement and buy-in from all team members (it is noted that participative decision making is different to participative leadership and not always possible) There are multiple Leadership Styles within each of the three key beliefs listed above. Some styles reflect more than 1 belief and share some overlap – e.g., autocratic leaders are a form of transactional leader.

The leadership styles we look at here are:

1. Autocratic leadership 2. Bureaucratic leadership 3. Charismatic leadership 4. Democratic leadership 5. Laissez faire leadership 6. people oriented leadership 7. Servant leadership 8. Task-oriented leadership 9. Transactional leadership 10.Transformational leadership

1. Autocratic Leadership Style
This is often considered the classical approach. It is one in which the manager retains as much power and decision-making authority as possible. The manager does not consult employees, nor are they allowed to give any input. Employees are expected to obey orders without receiving any explanations. The motivation environment is produced by creating a structured set of rewards and punishments. This leadership style has been greatly criticized during the past 30 years. Some studies say that organizations with many autocratic leaders have higher turnover and absenteeism than other organizations. These studies say that autocratic leaders: • • • Rely on threats and punishment to influence employees Do not trust employees Do not allow for employee input

Yet, autocratic leadership is not all bad. Sometimes it is the most effective style to use. These situations can include: • • • • • • • • New, untrained employees who do not know which tasks to perform or which procedures to follow Effective supervision can be provided only through detailed orders and instructions Employees do not respond to any other leadership style There are high-volume production needs on a daily basis There is limited time in which to make a decision A manager’s power is challenged by an employee The area was poorly managed Work needs to be coordinated with another department or organization

The autocratic leadership style should not be used when: • • • • Employees become tense, fearful, or resentful Employees expect to have their opinions heard Employees begin depending on their manager to make all their decisions There is low employee morale, high turnover and absenteeism and work stoppage

2. Bureaucratic Leadership Style
Bureaucratic leadership is where the manager manages “by the book¨ Everything must be done according to procedure or policy. If it isn’t covered by the book, the manager refers to the next level above him or her. This manager is really more of a police officer than a leader. He or she enforces the rules. . This is a very appropriate style for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances or at heights) or where large sums of money are involved (such as cash-handling). In other situations, the inflexibility and high levels of control exerted can demoralize staff, and can diminish the organization's ability to react to changing external circumstances. This style can be effective when: • • • • • Employees are performing routine tasks over and over. Employees need to understand certain standards or procedures. Employees are working with dangerous or delicate equipment that requires a definite set of procedures to operate. Safety or security training is being conducted. Employees are performing tasks that require handling cash.

This style is ineffective when: • • • Work habits form that are hard to break, especially if they are no longer useful. Employees lose their interest in their jobs and in their fellow workers. Employees do only what is expected of them and no more.

A charismatic leadership style can appear similar to a transformational leadership style, in that the leader injects huge doses of enthusiasm into his or her team, and is very energetic in driving others forward. The Charismatic Leader gathers followers through dint of personality and charm, rather than any form of external power or authority. It is interesting to watch a Charismatic Leader 'working the room' as they move from person to person. They pay much attention to the person they are talking to at any one moment, making that person feel like they are, for that time, the most important person in the world. Charismatic Leaders pay a great deal of attention in scanning and reading their environment, and are good at picking up the moods and concerns of both individuals and larger audiences. They then will hone their actions and words to suit the situation. Charismatic Leaders use a wide range of methods to manage their image and, if they are not naturally charismatic, may practice assiduously at developing their skills. They may engender trust through visible self-sacrifice and taking personal risks in the name of their beliefs. They will show great confidence in their followers. They are very persuasive and make very effective use of of body language as well as verbal language. Charismatic Leaders who are building a group, whether it is a political party, a cult or a business team, will often focus strongly on making the group very clear and distinct, separating it from other groups. They will then build the image of the group, in particular in the minds of their followers, as being far superior to all others. The Charismatic Leader will typically attach themselves firmly to the identify of the group, such that to join the group is to become one with the leader. In doing so, they create an unchallengeable position for themselves. However, charismatic leaders can tend to believe more in themselves than in their teams. This can create a risk that a project, or even an entire organization, might collapse if the leader were to leave: in the eyes of their followers, success is tied up with the presence of the charismatic leader. As such, charismatic leadership carries great responsibility, and needs long-term commitment from the leader.

4. Democratic Leadership Style
The democratic leadership style is also called the participative style as it encourages employees to be a part of the decision making. The democratic manager keeps his or her employees informed about everything that affects their work and shares decision making and problem solving responsibilities. This style requires the leader to be a coach who has the final say, but gathers information from staff members before making a decision. Democratic leadership can produce high quality and high quantity work for long periods of time. Many employees like the trust they receive and respond with cooperation, team spirit, and high morale. Typically the democratic leader: • • • • Develops plans to help employees evaluate their own performance Allows employees to establish goals Encourages employees to grow on the job and be promoted Recognizes and encourages achievement.

Like the other styles, the democratic style is not always appropriate. It is most successful when used with highly skilled or experienced employees or when implementing operational changes or resolving individual or group problems. The democratic leadership style is most effective when : • • • • • • • • • • • The leader wants to keep employees informed about matters that affect them. The leader wants employees to share in decision-making and problem-solving duties. The leader wants to provide opportunities for employees to develop a high sense of personal growth and job satisfaction. There is a large or complex problem that requires lots of input to solve. Changes must be made or problems solved that affect employees or groups of employees. You want to encourage team building and participation. There is not enough time to get everyone’s input. It’s easier and more cost-effective for the manager to make the decision. The business can’t afford mistakes. The manager feels threatened by this type of leadership. Employee safety is a critical concern.

Democratic leadership should not be used when:

5. Laissez-Faire Leadership Style
This French phrase means “leave it be” and is used to describe a leader who leaves his or her colleagues to get on with their work. It can be effective if the leader monitors what is being achieved and communicates this back to his or her team regularly. The laissez-faire leadership style is also known as the “hands-off¨ style. It is one in which the manager provides little or no direction and gives employees as much freedom as possible. All authority or power is given to the employees and they must determine goals, make decisions, and resolve problems on their own. Most often, laissez-faire leadership works for teams in which the individuals are very experienced and skilled self-starters. Unfortunately, it can also refer to situations where managers are not exerting sufficient control. This is an effective style to use when: • • • • • • • • Employees are highly skilled, experienced, and educated. Employees have pride in their work and the drive to do it successfully on their own. Outside experts, such as staff specialists or consultants are being used Employees are trustworthy and experienced. It makes employees feel insecure at the unavailability of a manager. The manager cannot provide regular feedback to let employees know how well they are doing. Managers are unable to thank employees for their good work. The manager doesn’t understand his or her responsibilities and is hoping the employees can cover for him or her.

This style should not be used when:

6. People-Oriented Leadership or Relations-Oriented Leadership
This style of leadership is the opposite of task-oriented leadership: the leader is totally focused on organizing, supporting and developing the people in the leader’s team. A participative style, it tends to lead to good teamwork and creative collaboration. However, taken to extremes, it can lead to failure to achieve the team's goals. In practice, most leaders use both task-oriented and people-oriented styles of leadership.

7. Servant Leadership
The servant leader serves others, rather than others serving the leader. Serving others thus comes by helping them to achieve and improve. When someone, at any level within an organization, leads simply by virtue of meeting the needs of his or her team, he or she is described as a “servant leader”. In many ways, servant leadership is a form of democratic leadership, as the whole team tends to be involved in decision-making. The leader has responsibility for the followers. Leaders have a responsibility towards society and those who are disadvantaged. People who want to help others best do this by leading them. Supporters of the servant leadership model suggest it is an important way ahead in a world where values are increasingly important, and in which servant leaders achieve power on the basis of their values and ideals. Others believe that in competitive leadership situations, people practicing servant leadership can find themselves "left behind" by leaders using other leadership styles.

There are two criteria of servant leadership:
• • The people served grow as individuals, becoming 'healthier, wiser, more autonomous and more likely themselves to become servants' (Greenleaf, 1977). The extent to which the leadership benefits those who are least advantaged in society (or at least does not disadvantage them).

Principles of servant leadership defined by the Alliance for Servant Leadership are:
• • • • Transformation as a vehicle for personal and institutional growth. Personal growth as a route to better serve others. Enabling environments that empower and encourage service. Service as a fundamental goals.

• •

Trusting relationships as a basic platform for collaboration and service. Creating commitment as a way to collaborative activity.

8. Task-Oriented Leadership
A highly task-oriented leader focuses only on getting the job done, and can be quite autocratic. He or she will actively define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, plan, organize and monitor. However, as task-oriented leaders spare little thought for the well-being of their teams, this approach can suffer many of the flaws of autocratic leadership, with difficulties in motivating and retaining staff. Task-oriented leaders can benefit from an understanding of the Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid, which can help them identify specific areas for development that will help them involve people more.

9. Transactional Leadership
The transactional leader works through creating clear structures whereby it is clear what is required of their subordinates, and the rewards that they get for following orders. Punishments are not always mentioned, but they are also well-understood and formal systems of discipline are usually in place. The early stage of Transactional Leadership is in negotiating the contract whereby the subordinate is given a salary and other benefits, and the company (and by implication the subordinate's manager) gets authority over the subordinate. This style of leadership starts with the premise that team members agree to obey their leader totally when they take a job on: the “transaction” is (usually) that the organization pays the team members, in return for their effort and compliance. As such, the leader has the right to “punish” team members if their work doesn’t meet the pre-determined standard. Team members can do little to improve their job satisfaction under transactional leadership. The leader could give team members some control of their income/reward by using incentives that encourage even higher standards or greater productivity. Alternatively a transactional leader could practice “management by exception”, whereby, rather than rewarding better work, he or she would take corrective action if the required standards were not met. Transactional leadership is really just a way of managing rather a true leadership style, as the focus is on short-term tasks. It has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work, but remains a common style in many organizations. When the Transactional Leader allocates work to a subordinate, they are considered to be fully responsible for it, whether or not they have the resources or capability to carry it out. When things go wrong, then the subordinate is considered to be personally at fault, and is punished for their failure (just as they are rewarded for succeeding).

10. Transformational Leadership

A person with this leadership style is a true leader who inspires his or her team with a shared vision of the future. Transformational leaders are highly visible, and spend a lot of time communicating. They don’t necessarily lead from the front, as they tend to delegate responsibility amongst their teams. While their enthusiasm is often infectious, they can need to be supported by “detail people”. Working for a Transformational Leader can be a wonderful and uplifting experience. They put passion and energy into everything. They care about you and want you to succeed. Transformational Leadership starts with the development of a vision, a view of the future that will excite and convert potential followers. This vision may be developed by the leader, by the senior team or may emerge from a broad series of discussions. The important factor is the leader buys into it, hook, line and sinker.

Selling the vision

The next step, which in fact never stops, is to constantly sell the vision. This takes energy and commitment, as few people will immediately buy into a radical vision, and some will join the show much more slowly than others. The Transformational Leader thus takes every opportunity and will use whatever works to convince others to climb on board the bandwagon. In order to create followers, the Transformational Leader has to be very careful in creating trust, and their personal integrity is a critical part of the package that they are selling. In effect, they are selling themselves as well as the vision.

Finding the way forwards

In parallel with the selling activity is seeking the way forward. Some Transformational Leaders know the way, and simply want others to follow them. Others do not have a ready strategy, but will happily lead the exploration of possible routes to the promised land. The route forwards may not be obvious and may not be plotted in details, but with a clear vision, the direction will always be known. Thus finding the way forward can be an ongoing process of course correction, and the Transformational Leader will accept that there will be failures and blind canyons along the way. As long as they feel progress is being made, they will be happy.

Leading the charge

The final stage is to remain up-front and central during the action. Transformational Leaders are always visible and will stand up to be counted rather than hide behind their troops. They show by their attitudes and actions how everyone else should behave. They also make continued efforts to motivate and rally their followers, constantly doing the rounds, listening, soothing and enthusing. It is their unswerving commitment as much as anything else that keeps people going, particularly through the darker times when some may question whether the vision can ever be achieved. If the people do not believe that they can succeed, then their efforts will flag. The Transformational Leader seeks to infect and reinfect their followers with a high level of commitment to the vision.

One of the methods the Transformational Leader uses to sustain motivation is in the use of ceremonies, rituals and other cultural symbolism. Small changes get big hurrahs, pumping up their significance as indicators of real progress. Overall, they balance their attention between action that creates progress and the mental state of their followers. Perhaps more than other approaches, they are people-oriented and believe that success comes first and last through deep and sustained commitment In many organizations, both transactional and transformational leadership are needed. The transactional leaders (or managers) ensure that routine work is done reliably, while the transformational leaders look after initiatives that add new value.

11. Using the Right Style – Situational Leadership
While the Transformation Leadership approach is often a highly effective style to use in business, there is no one “right” way to lead or manage that suits all situations. When a decision is needed, an effective leader does not just fall into a single preferred style, such as using transactional or transformational methods. In practice, as they say, things are not that simple. Factors that affect situational decisions include motivation and capability of followers. This, in turn, is affected by factors within the particular situation. The relationship between followers and the leader may be another factor that affects leader behavior as much as it does follower behavior. The leaders' perception of the follower and the situation will affect what they do rather than the truth of the situation. The leader's perception of themselves and other factors such as stress and mood will also modify the leaders' behavior. Yukl (1989) seeks to combine other approaches and identifies six variables: • • • • • •

Subordinate effort: the motivation and actual effort expended. Subordinate ability and role clarity: followers knowing what to do and how to do it. Organization of the work: the structure of the work and utilization of resources. Cooperation and cohesiveness: of the group in working together. Resources and support: the availability of tools, materials, people, etc. External coordination: the need to collaborate with other groups.

Leaders here work on such factors as external relationships, acquisition of resources, managing demands on the group and managing the structures and culture of the group. To choose the most effective approach for you, you must consider: • • • • The skill levels and experience of the members of your team. The work involved (routine or new and creative). The organizational environment (stable or radically changing, conservative or adventurous). You own preferred or natural style.

A good leader will find him or herself switching instinctively between styles according to the people and work they are dealing with. This is often referred to as “situational leadership”. For example, the manager of an Avalon Aviation Academy trains new candidates using a bureaucratic style to ensure operatives know the procedures that achieve the right standards of

product quality and workplace safety. The same manager may adopt a more participative style of leadership when working on production line improvement with his or her team of supervisors.

Kurt Lewin and colleagues did leadership decision experiments in 1939 and identified three different styles of leadership, in particular around decision-making.

In the autocratic style, the leader takes decisions without consulting with others. The decision is made without any form of consultation. In Lewin's experiments, he found that this caused the most level of discontent. An autocratic style works when there is no need for input on the decision, where the decision would not change as a result of input, and where the motivation of people to carry out subsequent actions would not be affected whether they were or were not involved in the decision-making.

In the democratic style, the leader involves the people in the decision-making, although the process for the final decision may vary from the leader having the final say to them facilitating consensus in the group. Democratic decision-making is usually appreciated by the people, especially if they have been used to autocratic decisions with which they disagreed. It can be problematic when there are a wide range of opinions and there is no clear way of reaching an equitable final decision .

The laissez-faire style is to minimize the leader's involvement in decision-making, and hence allowing people to make their own decisions, although they may still be responsible for the outcome. Laissez-faire works best when people are capable and motivated in making their own decisions, and where there is no requirement for a central coordination, for example in sharing resources across a range of different people and groups. In Lewin et al's experiments, he discovered that the most effective style was Democratic. Excessive autocratic styles led to revolution, whilst under a Laissez-faire approach, people were not coherent in their work and did not put in the energy that they did when being actively led. These experiments were actually done with groups of children, but were early in the modern era and were consequently highly influential.


Rensis Likert identified four main styles of leadership, in particular around decision-making and the degree to which people are involved in the decision.

Exploitive authoritative
In this style, the leader has a low concern for people and uses such methods as threats and other fear-based methods to achieve conformance. Communication is almost entirely downwards and the psychologically distant concerns of people are ignored.

Benevolent authoritative
When the leader adds concern for people to an authoritative position, a 'benevolent dictatorship' is formed. The leader now uses rewards to encourage appropriate performance and listens more to concerns lower down the organization, although what they hear is often rose-tinted, being limited to what their subordinates think that the boss wants to hear. Although there may be some delegation of decisions, almost all major decisions are still made centrally .

The upward flow of information here is still cautious and rose-tinted to some degree, although the leader is making genuine efforts to listen carefully to ideas. Nevertheless, major decisions are still largely centrally made.

At this level, the leader makes maximum use of participative methods, engaging people lower down the organization in decision-making. People across the organization are psychologically closer together and work well together at all levels.

Positive and Negative Approaches
There is a difference in ways leaders approach their employee. Positive leaders use rewards, such as education, independence, etc. to motivate employees. While negative employers emphasize penalties. While the negative approach has a place in a leader's repertoire of tools, it must be used carefully due to its high cost on the human spirit. Negative leaders act domineering and superior with people. They believe the only way to get things done is through penalties, such as loss of job, days off without pay, reprimand employees in front of others, etc. They believe their authority is increased by frightening everyone into higher lever of productivity. Yet what always happens when this approach is used wrongly is that morale falls; which of course leads to lower productivity. Also note that most leaders do not strictly use one or another, but are somewhere on a continuum ranging from extremely positive to extremely negative. People who continuously work out of the negative are bosses while those who primarily work out of the positive are considered real leaders.

Use of Consideration and Structure
Two other approaches that leaders use are:

• Consideration (employee orientation) –
Leaders are concerned about the human needs of their employees. They build teamwork, help employees with their problems, and provide psychological support.

• Structure (task orientation) –
Leaders believe that they get results by consistently keeping people busy and urging them to produce. There is evidence that leaders who are considerate in their leadership style are higher performers and are more satisfied with their job . Also notice that consideration and structure are independent of each other, thus they should not be viewed on opposite ends of a continuum. For example, a leader who becomes more considerate, does not necessarily mean that she has become less structured.