Know Your Leadership Type/Style

"Leadership is not about titles, positions or flowcharts. It is about one life influencing another." John C. Maxwell

The Eight Types of Leadership:

  • Transactional

  • Transformational

  • Servant

  • Democratic

  • Autocratic.

  • Bureaucratic

  • Laissez-Faire.

  • Charismatic.

1. Transactional Leadership

The best way to understand transactional leadership is to think of a typical transaction: I give you this, and you do this in return.

That’s really the basis of this leadership style. Transactional leaders dish out instructions to their team members and then use different rewards and penalties to either recognize or punish what they do in response.

Think of a leader offering praise to applaud a job well done or mandating that a group member handles a despised department-wide task because they missed a deadline. Those are examples of rewards and punishments in a work setting.

Needless to say, this approach is highly directive, and is often referred to as a “telling” leadership style.

Pro: Confusion and guesswork are eliminated, because tasks and expectations are clearly mapped out by the leader.

Con: Due to the rigid environment and expectations, creativity and innovation may be stifled.

You Might Be a Transactional Leader If…

  • You frequently use the threat of having to stay late when you need to motivate your team.

  • You’re constantly brainstorming clever ways to recognize solid work—your team can’t wait to see what you come up with after last month’s taco party.

2. Transformational Leadership

Again, with this leadership style, it’s all in the name: Transformational leaders seek to change (ahem, transform) the businesses or groups in which they lead by inspiring their employees to innovate.

These leaders are all about making improvements and finding better ways to get things done. And as a result, they inspire and empower other people to own their work and chime in with their suggestions or observations about how things could be streamlined or upgraded.

Under transformational leaders, people have tons of autonomy, as well as plenty of breathing room to innovate and think outside the box.

Pro: Leaders are able to establish a high level of trust with employees and rally them around a shared vision or end goal.

Con: In environments where existing processes are valued, this desire to change things up can ruffle some feathers.

You Might Be a Transformational Leader If…

  • You look at every single existing process with a discerning eye and a strong sense that it could be better.

  • You’re always encouraging others to get outside their comfort zones and push their own limits.

  • You could burst with pride whenever you see a team member achieve something that was previously thought to be impossible.

3. Servant Leadership

Servant leaders operate with this standard motto: Serve first and lead second.

Rather than thinking about how they can inspire people to follow their lead, they channel the majority of their energy into finding ways that they can help others. They prioritize the needs of other people above their own.

Despite the fact that they’re natural leaders, those who follow the servant leadership model don’t try to maintain a white-knuckle grasp on their own status or power. Instead, they focus on elevating and developing the people who follow them.

As Simon Sinek eloquently explains in his book, Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t, “leaders are the ones who are willing to give up something of their own for us. Their time, their energy, their money, maybe even the food off their plate. When it matters, leaders choose to eat last.”

Pro: This approach boosts morale and leads to a high level of trust, which results in better employee performance and a more positive company culture overall.

Con: It’s challenging. Constantly pushing your own needs and priorities to the backburner isn’t something that comes as second nature for most of us.

You Might Be a Servant Leader If…

  • You’re known for asking, “What can I do to help?” at least three times a day.

  • You place a high priority on removing roadblocks and helping others get things done.

  • You never think twice about helping out when you’re asked—because you know that your own to-do list will still be there when you return.

4. Democratic Leadership

You might also hear this leadership style referred to as “participative leadership.” Leaders in this category run groups and projects like…well, a democracy.

Even if these leaders are technically higher on the org chart, they emphasize working together and actively involve their teams in the decision-making process. Democratic leaders value ideas and input from others, and encourage discussion about those contributions.

They aren’t handing down orders from on high, and instead take a much more collaborative

approach to getting things done.

Pro: Creativity and innovation are encouraged, which also improves job satisfaction among employees and team members.

Con: Constantly trying to achieve consensus among a group can be inefficient and, in some cases, costly.

You Might Be a Democratic Leader If…

  • You think the best meetings are the ones where everyone has an equal chance to weigh in.

  • You can’t remember the last time you made an important decision without getting input from at least one other person.

5. Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership exists on the opposite side of the spectrum from democratic leadership.

You can think of this as a “my way or the highway” approach.

Autocratic leaders view themselves as having absolute power and make decisions on behalf of their subordinates. They dictate not only what needs to be done, but also how those tasks should be accomplished.

Pro: Decisions are often made quickly and strategically, and teams are kept on track as a result.

Con: Employees can feel ignored, restricted, and—in the absolute worst of cases—even abused.

You Might Be an Autocratic Leader If…

  • You think group discussions and brainstorming only slow things down, and it’s better if you make important decisions alone.

  • You dislike it when employees question your decisions—when you’ve said something, that’s final.

6. Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leadership goes “by the book,” so to speak. With this leadership style, there’s a prescribed set of boxes to check in order to be a true leader.

For example, bureaucratic leaders have hierarchical authority—meaning their power comes from a formal position or title, rather than unique traits or characteristics that they possess.

They also have a set list of responsibilities, as well as clearly-defined rules and systems for how they’ll manage others and make decisions. They just need to follow that roadmap that’s laid out for them.

Pro: There’s plenty of stability. Since this is a systematized approach to leadership, things remain constant even through personnel changes and other shifts that threaten to rock the boat.

Con: It’s tempting to fall into the “we’ve always done it this way” trap. This approach can be inflexible and neglect to leave room for creativity or ideas from employees.

You Might Be a Bureaucratic Leader If…

  • You frequently find yourself asking how your predecessor handled certain scenarios—you want to make sure that you’re following the accepted procedure.

  • You always request confirmation that you’re doing things right whenever you’re tasked with something new.

7. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Do you remember the term “laissez-faire” from your high school French or history class? If not, let’s refresh your memory.

This is a French term that translates to “leave it be,” which pretty accurately summarizes this hands-off leadership approach. It’s the exact opposite of micromanagement.

Laissez-faire leaders provide the necessary tools and resources. But then they step back and let their team members make decisions, solve problems, and get their work accomplished—without having to worry about the leader obsessively supervising their every move.

Pro: This level of trust and independence is empowering for teams that are creative and self-motivated.

Con: Chaos and confusion can quickly ensue—especially if a team isn’t organized or self-directed.

You Might Be a Laissez-Faire Leader If…

  • You hardly do any of the talking in project status update meetings. Instead, your team members are the ones filling you in on where things are.

  • You’re really only involved in most tasks and projects at two key points: the beginning and the end.

8. Charismatic Leadership

You know what it means to have a lot of charisma, and that’s exactly what these leaders possess.

Charismatic leaders have magnetic personalities, as well as a lot of conviction to achieve their objectives.

Rather than encouraging behaviors through strict instructions, these leaders use eloquent communication and persuasion to unite a team around a cause. They’re able to clearly lay out their vision and get others excited about that same goal.

Pro: Charismatic leaders are very inspirational and effective at getting an entire group invested in a shared objective.

Con: Due to their intense focus, it’s easy for these leaders to develop “tunnel vision” and lose sight of other important issues or tasks that crop up.

You Might Be a Charismatic Leader If…

  • You’re known for giving amazing “rally the troops” types of presentations.

  • You’re usually the one elected to give toasts and speeches at various company events.

“We create a standard for how we want to do things and everybody’s got to buy into that standard or you really can’t have any team chemistry. Mediocre people don’t like high-achievers and high-achievers don’t like mediocre people.” – Nick Saban

Six Leadership Styles

The Six Styles of Leadership

  • Coercive leadership.

  • Authoritative leadership.

  • Affiliative leadership.

  • Democratic leadership.

  • Pacesetting leadership.

  • Coaching leadership.

1. Coercive leadership style | The boss

“Do what I say” is the coercive leader's favored management motto. Like a sergeant leading his troops onto the battlefield, this leader is armed with bucket-loads of initiative and balanced with self-control.

A style that’s often synonymous with the armed forces, coercive leaders tend to:

  • demand immediate compliance,

  • react well during crisis,

  • kickstart change/motivate; as well as

  • confront problematic employees.

Remember that this style of leadership can prove destructive for more creative members and projects. Whereas followers feel safe and guided, more able employees may lose motivation and are likely to resent micromanagement.

Our advice? Think about implementing a flexible working scheme or adopting more of a growth mindset to build trust and earn respect from your people.

2. Authoritative leadership style | The visionary

The visionary leader, or authoritative leadership style as it's known to Goleman, is our more creative, eccentric and maverick teacher. They take a “come with me” approach, as they lead the business into their vision of what success could look like.

Stuffed with self-confidence and enough emotional intelligence to offer sincere empathy to others, this leadership style oozes charisma and enjoys expressing their ideas with clarity and passion.

(Think Hugh Jackman from the Showman with his tails and top hat, singing his values and vision to his cast and followers...)

3. Affiliative leadership style | The carer

We’re entering touchy-feely territory here. An affiliative style of leadership puts people first, concentrating on creating a harmonious working environment and building emotional bonds.

The affiliative leadership style requires lots of empathy and the ability to build relationships through a range of communication styles.

This tact proves particularly helpful during stressful circumstances, and if applied well, can help to motivate employees to continue through the tough times. It can also be used to heal rifts in a team or to establish new teams.

On the flip side, this leader can struggle to understand how to improve poor performance and may be more hesitant to provide advice.

4. Democratic leadership style | The listener

“So, what do you think?” is a phrase you can expect to hear from leaders demonstrating the democratic leadership style of management. They work hard to develop consensus through participation, using their skills of collaboration and excellent communication to lead their team.

From polls to surveys, to feedback to questionnaires, a democratic leadership style relies heavily on the views and opinions of their team.

These leaders are typically able to incorporate the broad spectrum of ideas, views and input from valuable employees, leaders and stakeholders to their advantage. So, in a nutshell, great for managing change and an agile workforce.

Top tip: Structure meetings by setting out rules and boundaries. Record these somewhere accessible, like your company documents section on Breathe. We'll even send you a notification once your team have read it and are up to speed.

5. Pacesetting leadership style | The hustler

With the highest of expectations, this style of leadership wants tasks completed yesterday. “Do as I do and do it now", is their motto.

This approach is well-suited to highly competent and motivated teams, working to tight deadlines. Perhaps not the best-suited to everyday environments and less-pressured settings.

The drive to succeed and strong initiative of this leadership style is certainly admirable. However, tread with caution. Because of their own incredible passion and discipline, this type of leader could intimidate and unknowingly pressure employees.

Remember to walk a mile in their shoes and avoid micromanagement when considering individuals' workloads.

6. Coaching leadership style | The mentor

With an eye on the long-term, the coaching style of leadership focuses on developing others. They're like the Italian mother who's worth is measured in weight of spaghetti consumed.

“Try this.” "Go on, try some more..." With a strong sense of self and focus on the individual, this leadership style works on the premise that each step is progress.

And that's how it works to bring out the best in people. Adjusting yet pushing the bar for consistent growth, while empowering their mentees to learn the skills that will drive the business forward.

Great coaches understand their team and accept that they, just like their people, are constantly learning.

Choosing A Leadership Style

Knowing which of the leadership styles works best for you is part of being a good leader. Developing a signature style with the ability to stretch into other styles as the situation warrants may help enhance your leadership effectiveness.

1. Know yourself.

Start by raising your awareness of your dominant leadership style. You can do this by asking trusted colleagues to describe the strengths of your leadership style. You can also take a leadership style assessment.

2. Understand the different styles.

Get familiar with the repertoire of leadership styles that can work best for a given situation. What new skills do you need to develop?

3. Practice makes a leader.

Be genuine with any approach you use.Moving from a dominant leadership style to a different one may be challenging at first. Practice the new behaviors until they become natural. In other words, don't use a different leadership style as a "point-and-click" approach. People can smell a fake leadership style a mile away—authenticity rules.

4. Develop your leadership agility.

Traditional leadership styles are still relevant in today's workplace, but they may need to be combined with new approaches in line with how leadership is defined for the 21st century.

Today's business environments are fraught with challenges due to the changing demographics and the employee expectations of a diverse workforce. This may call for a new breed of leader who is an amalgam of most of the leadership styles discussed here.

As the Chinese proverb goes, the wise adapt themselves to circumstances, as water molds itself to the pitcher. An agile leadership style may be the ultimate leadership style required for leading today's talent.

"There are only two ways to influence human behavior: you can manipulate it or you can inspire it." - Simon Sinek