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Which of the 8 Leadership Styles is Yours? (And How You Can Adopt a Different Style If You Need To)

Most successful leaders are supportive, confident, and responsible. I know those are qualities I try to use in my business.

That being said, leadership styles are not one-size-fits-all. Every business person in a leadership position should consider which leadership style is best for them.

Knowing your own, personal leadership style is one way to empower yourself and get ahead. If you strategically use your strengths as a leader, you can positively influence your workplace—you can improve team communications, foster better understanding, and overcome obstacles with grace.

If you are not happy with the way you are leading your staff, it could be time to do some self reflection. Take the time to figure out what kind of leader you are and what kind of the leader you want to be.

8 Leadership Styles

1. Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader works with subordinates to identify changes that need to be made. They create a vision of what their goal is and execute this vision with their staff members.

This kind of leader strives to enhance motivation and morale of their staff through a variety of mechanisms. They:

  • Connect the identities of their staff members to the task at hand.
  • Understand the strengths and weaknesses of each staff member.
  • Are an inspirational role model for their group.
  • Emphasize a positive development of their team.
  • Allow for freedom of choice among employees.
  • Highlight important priorities.

The most noteworthy examples of transformational leaders are Franklin Roosevelt and Martin Luther King Jr. They were both known as effective transformational leaders due to their strong ability to use reason as a persuasive tool.

2. Transactional Leadership

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Rather than being proactive leaders, transactional leaders are more responsive. Transactional leadership emphasizes a focus on supervision, organization, and high job performance.

Transactional leaders

  • Promote compliance through rewards and punishments.
  • Use extrinsic motivators rather than intrinsic motivators.
  • Emphasize maintaining the status quo over making change.
  • Set goals to get things done.
  • Provide constructive feedback.
  • Prioritize efficiency and effectiveness.

Transactional leadership is most effective when dealing with emergency situations or projects that need to be executed in a very specific way.

This kind of leader doesn’t work well in a chaotic, no-rules environment. They are more likely to think inside the box when solving problems. Bill Gates could be one famous example.

3. Servant Leadership

This particular leadership philosophy has been around for a very, very long time. Despite this, some may consider servant leadership to be the least traditional of the leadership styles.

Servant leadership flips the power pyramid on its head. Instead of the people working to serve the leader, the leader works to serve the people.

According to the modern movement, the ten main traits of a servant leader are:

  • listening
  • empathy
  • healing
  • awareness
  • persuasion
  • conceptualization
  • foresight
  • stewardship
  • commitment to the growth of others
  • building community

The main goal of a servant leader is to encourage and support their team. This ensures that they will maximize their potential.

This concept has the potential to influence society in a positive way. Servant leadership emphasizes the improvement of worker treatment, and leaders who empower and respect their followers can expect a greater return.

Author and educator Stephen Covey—a champion of the abundance mentality—is a great example of servant leadership.

4. Laissez-faire Leadership

In French, “laissez-faire” means “let it be.” Therefore, trust is the cornerstone of the laissez-faire leadership style.

This kind of leader:

  • Allows for their team to make critical decisions
  • Empowers individuals in the same way that servant leadership does.
  • Gives the staff the freedom to do what they want as long as the job is done on time and correctly.
  • Does not enforce strict rules and requirements.

Generally, laissez-faire leaders are in a highly creative position. Many businesses find this leadership style to be effective. Some examples include advertising agencies, social media companies, and research departments.

Former US President Ronald Reagan is a great example of a laissez-faire leader. He was known for allowing his staff to complete their work the way they saw fit.

5. Authoritarian Leadership

This is the opposite of laissez-faire leadership. Out of all the leadership styles, authoritarian leadership is the most extreme. Those who adhere to this leadership style:

  • Give the leader unlimited authority.
  • Do not allot much power to the team.
  • Enforce a clear divide between the leader and the followers.
  • Establish very clear expectations.
  • Supervise their team very closely to ensure work is completed.
  • Either punishes or rewards the followers according to job performance.

Construction and manufacturing companies most often use this style of leadership.

Authoritarian leadership allows little room for creative decision making. The leader makes decisions independently from the rest of the group.

The style can become controlling or manipulative if abused. However, authoritarian leadership can prove quite effective when a quick decision is at hand.

6. Democratic Leadership

Unlike the authoritarian approach, democratic leaders ask their followers for input before making a final decision.

The basis of a good democratic leadership includes:

  • Mutual respect.
  • Active team participation.
  • Transparency and follow-through.

Since leaders can’t accomplish their goals without staff input, it is vital for staff to be active in their participation. Although participation is important in all leadership styles, it is especially relevant here.

However, if the staff feels that their voices are not being heard, this leadership style can backfire because employees will be less satisfied.

Overall, workers report that they are more satisfied in democratic work environments. In contrast with the authoritarian leadership style, the democratic leadership style is not suited for making quick decisions.

Steve Jobs is one of the best examples of a great democratic leader.

7. Charismatic Leadership

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As the name suggests, this style relies on the charm and charisma of the leader.

This leader is most similar to the transformational leader, however the biggest difference between them is focus. Transformational leaders focus on transforming the status quo according to their vision, while charismatic leaders focus on improving the status quo.

However, this does not mean that charismatic leaders do not have a clear business vision. In fact, the opposite is true.

The main thing to keep in mind about this leadership style is the focus on personality. The previous leadership styles are more focused on the leadership process, but charismatic leaders must be exactly that: charismatic. Charismatic leaders also emphasize initiative and boldness when building teams.

Winston Churchill, known for being larger than life, is a great example of a charismatic leader.

8. Situational Leadership

This approach is a combination of all of the aforementioned leadership styles.

Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard developed this leadership theory in 1969. They believed that the best leaders use different styles depending on the situation or environment.

They focused on a leader’s differing combinations of directive and supportive behavior. When a leader gives an order or outlines a task, they are being directive. When a leader provides guidance, they are being supportive.

They also focused on the follower’s task and psychological maturity. Task maturity is the ability to perform a task. Psychological maturity is the willingness to perform that task.

A solid situational leader is able to evaluate a follower’s task and psychological maturity. The leader should then tailor their leadership style in order to ensure the tasks are completed. Since many people have a natural leadership style, it can be difficult to change roles.

Unhappy With Your Current Leadership Style?

Learning from your failures is a great way to move on from the beginning stages of leadership.

If you are unhappy with your team’s performance, switching your leadership style could be the answer. Keep in mind that this is a trial and error process. You may need to test out a few leadership styles before selecting the right one for you.

Step One: Evaluation

While reading this list, if you identified with one of the leadership styles, then congratulations! You are on your way to completing step one, which is detecting your current leadership style and why it isn’t currently working.

Are you an authoritarian leader looking to ease up on the reigns a little bit? Or do your employees no longer listen to you because you are so relaxed?

One possibility is that you are not using your strengths and weaknesses properly. You have recognized your need for change, now it is time to recognize what will work for you and what won’t.

Maybe you aren’t fully tapping into your natural charisma, or you need to raise the bar when it comes to structure in the workplace. Take some time to reflect on what the exact problem is.

Step Two: Changing

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Time for the hard part: implementing change in your everyday interactions with your employees.

Get ready to think on your feet and improvise each time a new challenge arises.

Think about what the new “right” way to tackle problems is for you. Is it more effective than your old leadership style? Why or why not? What is the objective you are trying to achieve, and is it best achieved on your own or with the input of others?

Start with baby steps, then think bigger. Even the smallest change in the way you run your ship can have an impact. Have you discovered that your employees work better when they have less oversight? Or can they benefit from a little more oversight?

Making small changes is the key to evolving your leadership style.

Step Three: Evaluation 2.0

Now is the time to take a step back and look at all the progress you’ve made. Big or small, you’ve made a change in the ways you lead in your workplace.

Are those changes working? If the answer is yes, great. It’s time to fully implement this new leadership style.

If you’ve decided to become a more democratic leader, be sure you’re giving your staff more outlets of participation. If you’ve decided to become a transformational leader, be sure that you have a vision in mind and are actively working toward that vision with your staff.

Unfortunately, the changes you make don’t always work out the first time. If this is the case, it’s time to go back to step one. You may find that a mixture of two or more styles works best for you. Finding that mix is a journey, and it’s okay to experiment and get feedback.


As a result of changing your leadership style, you may find more mutual respect between you and your staff. Different leadership could help improve job performance, company morale, and your office culture.

What leadership style works best for you? Why? Leave a comment!

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    After graduating from law school and passing the bar, I struggled to find work, pay my bills, and make ends meet. That's when I decided to take control of my future and start working for myself. Now, several years and a handful of companies later, I'm sharing how I launched a successful business, and how you can do it too.


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