Five Styles of Leadership

Famous names may come to mind when you think of leaders: Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Mahatma Gandhi, Clara Barton and Martin Luther King Jr. Businesses employ leaders to manage, provide direction to, and effect change within an organization. Though a leader may possess different personal qualities, certain leadership styles emerge. However, the effectiveness of each leadership style needs to be examined and considered before you choose which one is most suitable for your company.


  1. An autocratic leader typically has absolute power and uses a dictatorial style of leadership, directing the team or group to complete certain tasks or objectives. Employees and team members usually have very little, if any, input when it comes to decision making. The autocratic leader uses deadlines to motivate and lead the team to success. Autocratic leadership can be used effectively in certain situations, such as when a team is composed of unskilled members. On the other hand, this type of leadership may lead to resentment among employees or group members, leading to higher turnover rates and absenteeism.


  1. Democratic leadership is often referred to as a participatory leadership style because the leader involves himself in the activities of the group and invites group members to do the same. The democratic leader takes an active role in stimulating group discussions and involving the group in decision-making responsibilities. While being a regular group member and participating in work responsibilities, the leader also refrains from doing too much of the work. A democratic style of leadership works if teamwork is viewed as a valuable approach and quality is needed over speed or productivity.


  1. Laissez-faire or "hands-off" leaders provide substantial freedom and independence to team members. They are rarely present because they leave members alone to complete their work, make decisions, and resolve problems on their own. However, a laissez-faire leader may monitor the activities of the group and provide feedback when prompted. A laissez-faire leadership style can work in certain situations, such as when team members are highly skilled or experienced in their work. For example, scientific laboratories and research and development centers employ this type of leadership. On the other hand, it can lead to disorganization if the leader doesn't apply enough control to the situation.


  1. The transactional leadership style involves a system of rewards, punishments, and an implicit exchange relationship between the leader and her members or subordinates. The exchange occurs when the leader rewards members -- through paychecks and other incentives -- for the work they perform. On the other hand, members are punished -- through corrective action by the leader -- when they fail to meet standards or objectives. Transactional leadership motivates employees or team members based on the members' own self-interests as they work to achieve a certain level of performance.


  1. Transformational leaders use a visionary and inspirational approach to lead and motivate team members and employees. A transformational leader often is characterized as motivational and charismatic, inspiring group members to emulate his behavior. He provides a shared vision for the future and encourages members to transcend their own self-interests for the sake of the team or organization. Transformational leaders not only motivate but also challenge team members in order to stimulate creativity, idea-sharing and open dialogue. They also attend to group members individually, listening to each person's viewpoints, feelings and acting as a mentor to each member.