Every leader has a distinct way of managing the people they supervise. A manager’s leadership style is that person’s characteristic behaviours when directing, motivating, guiding and managing their team.
There are many different leadership styles – each with its pros and cons. Some approaches are more effective in stable, consistent businesses; others tend to deliver better results in start-ups or companies that operate with a lot of uncertainty.
A good leader will adapt their leadership style to suit their role, team, and organisation. But, while it’s not something we might spend much time thinking about, we all have a default leadership style.
Do you know your leadership style? Have you considered whether your approach is helping you to get the most from your team? Here we explore six common leadership styles, consider their pros and cons, and look at how to find and develop your leadership style.
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1. Democratic leadership style
Democratic leadership – also known as participative leadership - sees the leader involve team members in the decision-making process. While the leader makes the final decision, democratic leaders value ideas and input from others and encourage discussion about different approaches.
Pros of democratic leadership:
- Encourages collaboration and cooperation
- Welcomes a variety of opinions and ways of thinking
- Strengthens employee engagement
- Can result in more creative solutions
Cons of democratic leadership:
- Can take a longer time to come to a decision
- The minority view is overridden
- Often less efficient than other management techniques
2. Autocratic leadership style
An autocratic leader takes the opposite approach to a democratic leader. This leadership style sees the leader make decisions without taking input from their direct reports or explaining their thinking. Autocratic leaders dictate what needs to be done and how those tasks should be accomplished.
Pros of autocratic leadership:
- Supports efficient decision making
- Makes what’s required of each employee clear
- Can be effective in times of uncertainty
Cons of autocratic leadership:
- Can stifle creativity and innovation
- Doesn’t consider a range of opinions and ways of thinking
- Employees can feel ignored
- May erode team morale
3. Coaching leadership style
Coaching is a management style that considers each team member’s strengths and development areas while focusing on strategies that will enable the team to work more effectively together. Coaching leaders seek to bring out the best in their employees by guiding them to achieve their potential.
Pros of coaching leadership:
- Encourages two-way communication
- Employees are recognised for their unique skill set
- Supports each employee’s development
- Encourages teamwork and collaboration
Cons of coaching leadership:
- Requires a lot of time and energy
- Can be inefficient in delivering outcomes
4. Transformational leadership style
Transformational leaders aim to transform the team they lead by inspiring their employees to innovate. This management technique focuses on finding better ways to get things done, challenging and changing existing systems and processes where needed.
Pros of transformational leadership:
- Promotes creative thinking
- Motivates employees
- Encourages teamwork and collaboration
Cons of transformational leadership:
- May cause conflict within some organisations
- Can be high risk
5. Laissez-Faire leadership style
“Laissez-Faire” is a French word that translates to “let it be” or “let them do”. Laissez-Faire management is at the other end of the spectrum to micromanagement. These leaders give employees the tools they need, then step back and let their direct reports make decisions, solve problems and deliver work with limited supervision.
Pros of Laissez-Faire leadership:
- Encourages creativity and innovation
- Empowering for employees
- Supports less fear of failure
- Builds team trust
Cons of Laissez-Faire leadership:
- Can result in low productivity
- May cause confusion about roles and responsibilities
- Lack of accountability for individual team members
6. Charismatic leadership style
Charismatic leaders use their communication skills and persuasiveness to influence others. Rather than providing detailed instructions, these leaders connect with individuals on a deep level to share their vision, inspire, and gain employee commitment to achieving those goals.
Pros of charismatic leadership:
- Unifies a team around a common person and purpose
- Highly motivating
- Makes employees feel valued
- Very effective in times of crisis
Cons of charismatic leadership:
- Depends heavily on the leader for success
- Can cause tunnel vision
- May seem disingenuous
How to find your leadership style
Being aware of your leadership style will make you a better leader. Understanding how you lead – and want to lead – a team will give you a greater sense of control in your role and allow you to take ownership and responsibility for the behaviours your style may encourage.
Think about your approach when leading others. Are you very hands-off, a micromanager, or someone who arrives at decisions by consensus? Ask your colleagues how they would describe your leadership style.
Once you’re aware of your dominant style, consider how it serves you well and think about situations where it may not be so productive. What skills could you borrow from other management techniques? Practice these behaviours until they become natural.
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Leading a team can be challenging. Having the right tools to look after team management essentials effectively will mean you spend less time on team admin and more time leading your people.
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