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Lead Your Team Leadership

What Kind of Leader Are You? 9 Leadership Types and Their Strengths

image for fizkes / Getty Images
fizkes / Getty Images
  • There are nine different leadership styles, and the type you use to direct your team can greatly impact the success of your organization.
  • Each leadership style has its strengths, although some styles – like transformational, democratic and situational leadership – are commonly seen as more desirable.
  • Understand and harness the strengths of your leadership style to communicate effectively and motivate your team.

Whether you are leading a small group or a large organization, the leadership style you implement can greatly impact the effectiveness of your efforts. Although there are several types of leadership, the most effective one depends on you and your team.

Although becoming an effective leader can take time and effort, it will be worth it to see your team succeed. Christie Lindor, solution principal at Slalom Consulting, described some common traits of an effective leader.

"Effective leaders demonstrate the political will to make tough decisions and are accountable enough to follow through on promises," she told Business News Daily. "Transparent communication styles also make leaders effective."

In addition to making tough decisions and exhibiting clear communication, examine your leadership style and evaluate how it may be perceived by your subordinates. You may have to alternate leadership styles to accommodate your team's changing needs. [Read related article: 7 Common Leadership Mistakes You're Probably Making]

There are several different leadership styles that can be unique to each individual; however, experts agree that most leaders fit into at least one of these nine different leadership styles. When you analyze which leadership style you use, Lindor said, keep in mind that there are no right or wrong styles.

"It's all about pairing leadership styles with the right organizational fit, market, timing and needs in a way that drives successful outcomes," said Lindor.  

  1. Autocratic leadership: This is one of the strictest types. Autocratic leaders tend to have complete control over the decision-making process. This leadership style can be effective when decision-making is urgent or workmanship is routine.
  2. Bureaucratic leadership: Although not as strict as autocratic leaders, bureaucratic leaders also tend to strictly enforce regulations and statuses in the hierarchy. This leadership style can be effective in healthcare and safety environments.
  3. Charismatic leadership: Charismatic leaders have an infectious presence that motivates their team to follow their lead. Their likability helps them and their teams achieve success in business. This leadership style can be effective in high-energy work environments that need a lot of positive morale.  
  4. Democratic leadership: Unlike autocratic or bureaucratic leaders, a democratic leader often welcomes subordinate participation in decision-making. This leadership style is often admired and can be effective in creative work environments that don't require quick decisions.
  5. Laissez-faire leadership: Laissez-faire leaders have a hands-off approach and let their employees assume responsibility in the decision-making process, although they must still set employee expectations and monitor performance. This leadership style can be effective when working with highly experienced and confident employees.
  6. Servant leadership: Servant leaders share power and decision-making with their subordinates and often direct the organization based on the interests of the team. This leadership style can be effective for humanitarian organizations, nonprofits, and teams that need to create diversity, inclusion, and morale.
  7. Situational leadership: Situational leaders can implement a range of leadership types and modify their style based on the needs of their employees and the environment. Because of its versatility, this type of leadership can be effective in most organizations.  
  8. Transactional leadership: A transactional leader uses a reward/consequence system to motivate employees to achieve success and discourage them from failure. This leadership style can be effective for teams who are motivated by rewards.
  9. Transformational leadership: Similar to charismatic leaders, transformational leaders use their inspiring energy and personality to create an infectious workplace. This type is often more effective than charismatic leadership, as it also motivates teams to build confidence and accountability. It can be effective in organizations that have intellectual team members who thrive in interactive environments.

Each style of leadership has its own advantages and disadvantages, although some styles are commonly seen as more desirable. For example, most small businesses can benefit from transformational, democratic or situational leadership.

"The leadership styles that I most admire are transformational, which is about articulating an inspiring vision and helping people reinvent themselves and their company; servant leadership, which is all about taking care of your clients, employees and the general community; and situational leadership, which is all about creating an agile way of leading and thinking depending on the needs of the organization or marketplace," said Lindor.

According to Lindor, self-awareness is the foundation of a good leader. When you understand what leadership style works best for you and your team, it's much easier to be an effective leader.

"It's important to know what type of leader you are (or are not) in order to show up effectively in an organization," Lindor said. "Knowing your leadership style also helps you decide which organizations might be a better cultural fit."

Norah Nicholls, principal at Deloitte Tax LLP, said a good understanding of your leadership style can help you communicate with your team more effectively.

"It's important that you maintain transparency about what you're focused on as a leader, and to help create alignment around your vision and objectives," she said. "It's important to create a culture where people understand the strengths that they collectively bring to the team."

Nicholls said that effective leaders are able to set a vision, align people to that vision and show them how they can achieve that vision together. However, you must play to the strengths of your leadership style to achieve that goal. "If you can better understand your leadership strengths and harness them, you will continue to grow and succeed."

Regardless of your leadership style, there are leadership behaviors you can exhibit to inspire employee motivation and success. A prime example is to be a positive role model for your team. 

"Showing your people that you are constantly focusing on improving your own skill set – leadership, industry knowledge, technical skills – is critical to good leadership," said Nicholls. "Encourage them to explore new skills, to make sure they know you're committed to their growth."

When you set a good example for your employees and show interest in their success, they are more likely to follow your lead and respect your authority. Lindor said that you should also display daily acts of authenticity, compassion and inclusion to inspire employees. You can build trust in your employees if you exhibit genuine actions and are willing to work alongside your team when necessary.

"Employees like to work for leaders they believe have their best interest at heart, leaders that will stand up and support them, particularly during challenging times," said Lindor. "Regardless of your leadership style, always remember to take care of your people, and they will, in turn, take care of you."

Skye Schooley

Skye Schooley is an Arizona native, based in New York City. After receiving a business communication degree from Arizona State University, she spent nearly three years living in four states and backpacking through 16 countries. During her travels, Skye began her blog, which you can find at www.skyeschooley.com. She finally settled down in the northeast, writing for Business.com and Business News Daily. She primarily contributes articles about business technology and the workplace, and reviews remote PC access software and collection agencies.