Top 10 leadership styles and how you can choose your own

a group of people following one person

The secret trait is being agile.

There is something extremely odd about the whole perception of leadership… 

When managers or anyone introduces themselves as a good leader, the number of years doesn’t mean anything. 

Time sitting on an office chair and commanding employees has got no place in the list of leadership qualities. 

Instead, it’s what you do from that office chair. It’s how you make a difference in people’s lives and help them achieve their dream by showing them a direction. Leadership is all about how much you help your people solve their challenges in time.   

The new measurements are: 

  • Impact 
  • Outcome 

Stop talking about years of experience and how many people you’ve managed. We no longer measure leadership skills by time or the number of people under you. 

Out of the several leadership quotes, this one fits the bill. 

“Leadership is about the impact one can have on the lives of others.” 

A capable leader provides people the autonomy that they need. Leading, inspiring, and keeping the team motivated even when things are going bad will define how people think of your leadership abilities. All leadership styles have different attributes that help ascertain how to communicate better, motivate and drive the team forward in a common direction. 

Yes, everyone has their own leadership styles in management and it’s helpful to know which leadership style is for you and how you can pick elements from the other styles to give your teams the best of experiences. Here are a few, along with pros, and cons. 

What is a leadership style?  

Leadership styles refer to the different ways different leaders guide their teams through a variety of situations. Based on distinct personalities and techniques, everyone has a unique style. However, for certain patterns, we’ve combined them into a list of top 10 leadership styles. 

Top 10 leadership styles 

Let’s check them out. 

Democratic Leadership 

It is what the name suggests – the leader makes decisions after taking the input from each team member. Yes, the leader has the authority to make the final call, still, each employee gets a say on matters. 

Democratic leadership is a highly effective style because in different scenarios it provides every employee a level of authority. For example, in a team meeting, a democratic leader might allow the team members to make decisions. Post discussion with everyone, the leader might consider all the feedback and make better choices. 

Pros: 

Democratic leadership style gives rise to empowerment, creativity, participation, and innovation in the workplace. It improves the motivation level of employees. 

Cons: 

Because a lot of opinions are taken into consideration, this style is a time-consuming one. The processes involved can get expensive at times. 

Autocratic Leadership 

It is the opposite of the democratic leadership style. In this style, the leaders make decisions on their own without ever taking inputs from those who report to them. Employees are neither asked nor given a chance to express their views and have to accept the decisions taken by the leader.  

For example, A manager can decide the work hours and shift timings of employees without any prior notice or consultation. 

Pros: 

Decisions are taken quickly with a clear set of instructions. This reduces confusion. 

Cons: 

Overall, this style is bad. Employees feel unheard and are more likely to leave. There is no scope for a progressive culture where everyone participates. 

Laissez-Faire (Delegative) Leadership 

It’s a French term that means ‘let them do’. It is an intrusive and laid-back form of leadership. Leaders give all authority to their employees when it comes to decision-making. 

For example, in startups, people have the autonomy to make their own decisions, and founders don’t interfere a lot when it comes to policies or setting up deadlines. It’s a matter of offering trust to employees. 

Pros: 

The Laissez-Faire leadership style trusts employees to do their job and in turn, empowers them.   

Cons: 

If a particular team isn’t kept in check, this model can be chaotic and limit the development of employees. 

Strategic Leadership 

Strategic leaders sit in between a company’s main operations and the growth opportunities built around them. They accept the burden of different executive interests while making sure that the present working condition stays stable for everyone. 

Pros:  

It’s desirable leadership thinking as many companies want strategies to support their employees at a given point in time.  

Cons:  

Leaders can sometimes set a dangerous precedent in terms of how many people they support and what is the correct direction in case everyone gets their way in decision-making. 

Transformational Leadership 

This style of leadership is always “transforming” and “evolving” to help an organization. Employees might have a basic set of objectives and goals to achieve every month, but the leader constantly pushes them to go take a step forward and become better every day. 

If an employee is starting a new job, the leader makes sure that goals are set and professional development is taken care of by setting deadlines. The managers might also set challenging goals to help people grow in their roles and lives. 

Pros:   

It is a highly effective and encouraging form of leadership that works for growth-minded companies to keep their employees motivated.  

Cons:   

Without direct reports, transformational leaders can face difficulties in understanding the progress of team members and eventually, lose sight of the set direction.  

Transactional Leadership 

Transactional leaders are the norm in the present time. It’s exactly what it sounds. Leaders reward their employees for the work they do. Bonuses are decided based on a certain number of targets at the end of a quarter/year. 

Employees might even receive an incentive plan that motivates them to perform their job duties properly. For example, if you operate in Sales then cold calling will not give you a bonus. Converting those calls into demos and sales will get you the incentives. 

Pros: 

Transactional leadership helps define clear roles for each employee in an organization by reducing confusion and guesswork. It also focuses on what matters and ignoring everything else to save time. 

Cons: 

Because it focuses too much on set objectives, there is little scope for innovation and creativity while doing tasks, and sometimes, this can be trouble. 

Coach-Style Leadership 

Similar to coaching in sports, this leader focuses on identifying, nurturing, and building the strengths of each member of the team. They also focus on reducing the impact of weaknesses on the overall performance. This style is similar to strategic and democratic leadership styles. Just that it puts more focus on the individual growth of every person in the team.  

Rather than forcing all employees to learn similar skills or have the same set of goals, the leader might build a team of people with different skill sets that complement each other’s work. 

Pros: 

This style is great for employee engagement and improving workplace communication. Because it’s based on mentoring rather than giving an order, it helps employees improve on their strengths and have the confidence to try new things at work. 

Cons: 

If the team is too big, it can turn into a mess. As individual coaching takes time, some employees might feel left behind if there are too many people in the team for a leader to handle at a given time. 

Bureaucratic Leadership 

It’s a bookish style of leadership as the leader might listen and consider the input of employees. But will reject them straightaway if that conflicts with the policies or past practices of the company. There is no scope for adjustment when it comes to ‘How things are usually done.’  

Most bureaucratic leaders are present at larger, older, or traditional organizations. The resistance to non-traditional ideas might be because the company has already been successful with orthodox processes and doesn’t want to waste time or resources, or newer methods. 

Pros: 

Because it’s based on methods that have been working for a long time, it is like a well-oiled machine that will always work. It increases the consistency to the maximum levels. 

Cons: 

When an employee puts forward a strong strategy that seems new or non-traditional, bureaucratic leaders are highly likely to reject it. 

Pacesetting Style 

“Do as I do!” is the phrase that defines the pacesetting style. It refers to a very driven leader who sets the pace and expects all team members to follow that speed. The bar is generally set high and employees are pushed hard to follow along instead of being left behind. 

Pros: 

In the long term, it may not work well. But for the short team, as in getting a new product into the market quickly, this style may work wonders. 

Cons: 

Yes, it does get things done quickly, but this style can hurt employees and lead them to a burnout phase. Stress is high if this leadership style is followed for a long time.

Servant Leadership 

This style follows the theme of serving others and dedicating your work towards it. Rather than leading a group of individuals, leaders ensure that things are better for their team. The idea is to give more and expect less. Most employees love this leadership style as it involves empathy, improving motivation, and employee experience. 

Leaders are aware of their team. Not because they know it all but because they’re active listeners and give everyone a chance to speak to understand their side. Community building is a common practice as leaders try to bring the team together towards a common organizational goal. 

Pros: 

Employees feel connected to these kinds of leaders and therefore, more likely to stay for a longer period due to loyalty. 

Cons: 

Sometimes, the leaders can focus too much on the employees and forget the main objective that leads to the success of the organization. Always putting others’ needs ahead is not easy and can lead to confusion. 

What kind of leader are you? 

Individualist 

These people are self-aware, creative, and focused on their actions and development as opposed to trying to think for everyone in the organization. They want to get the personal goals on track first and then help others do the same. 

Strategist 

More rounded in their approach with a clear understanding of the surroundings and work environment.  They do in-depth research of what processes make the business work and where improvements can be made. Most importantly, they create ideas and also implement them.  

Opportunist 

Are you the person who doesn’t trust anybody but yourself? You find opportunity in everything and want to take control of things instead of relying on others. Opportunists believe in tit-for-tat behavior and making the most out of any situation. 

Diplomat 

Diplomates aren’t concerned about winning a situation, they focus on winning the entire game. They also believe in keeping a good relationship with everyone at the organization and causing minimal friction with other employees. 

There are few more personality traits but the above should help you assess some of the traits you’ve got. 

Before choosing a leadership style check these tips 

Understanding what style works best for you is not easy. These steps will help you. 

Understand yourself 

Start by analyzing different leadership styles and which traits do you follow in your daily life. You can even ask your friends, colleagues to describe your strengths when it comes to leadership. 

Understand the different styles 

Familiarizing yourself with different styles is not enough. If case you prefer a particular style, it’s important to identify the skills to need to learn to adopt the qualities of that style. 

Practice 

Be genuine and start small. Changing or adapting a leadership style is never easy. So, start by practicing the new behaviors until they become a part of your life. Don’t copy an approach, instead embrace and test it out in your daily routine. See if it suits you and then doubles down on leveraging that style to your advantage at the workplace. People will always know if you are copying a style or it’s your own, so be authentic. 

Be agile and keep learning 

The world is changing like never before. What works today won’t work tomorrow. It’s the same with leadership style. You need to continuously evolve and adapt good things from newer styles to stay relevant in the industry. In the future, you might face challenges that no one has faced before and for that, it’s necessary to be able to adapt and solve problems as they come. 

The Big Ending… 

In 2021, there is the best leadership style. In fact, there are good traits. If you pick those from different styles and combine them into something unique, you’re all set as a leader. Perhaps the most underrated skill for leaders is the ability to have effective One on One conversations. Contrary to what you believe, most leaders aren’t good at it.  

Depending upon the situation, pick good traits instead of a particular style. Empathy, good listening skills are some of those common traits. Improving leadership style is vital for your growth and development of the team as well. A better working environment eventually leads to more productivity and better results- The end goal we all want. 

As liquid adapts to the shape of a container, a wise leader adapts to circumstances. Being agile and adaptable is may be the secret element that’ll make you a great leader in today’s world. 

Contributing Author
Anubhav

Sr. Content Writer

Anubhav is forever weird, but he’s a fun Copywriter and interview host at Keka. Anubhav figured out in college days that with COPY you can get a bunch of very-targeted people to come to your website, consume your material, and even buy. His focus is on making HR easier for professionals and anyone wanting to make a difference in the workplace. When he isn’t writing, he’s either traveling to the mountains, playing football, reading about Tigers, or doing nothing.