Strong leadership is crucial to any organization. Whether we’re talking about a commercial enterprise, a civic group, a church congregation, or a military unit, strong leadership is key to its success. But leadership is not a one-size-fits-all proposition . . . there are lots of commonly recognized leadership styles, so it stands to reason that someone in a leadership role should understand what leadership style he or she is practicing. After all, if a leader shows up one day as General George S. Patton and the next day as Mother Theresa, there will be confusion among the followers who will wonder, “Who’s going to show up to lead us today?” That sort of confusion is generally not conducive to an efficient, effective, and productive organization. So we did some research to identify and define commonly used leadership styles. To see the results of that research and to see which of the leadership styles most closely fits your personality and temperament, please continue reading below.
Leadership is a privilege to better the lives of others. ~ Mwai Kibaki
In the course of our research on leadership styles, we turned up fourteen discreet styles without even trying. Those fourteen include:
- Democratic Leadership
- Autocratic/Commanding Leadership
- Laissez-Faire Leadership
- Strategic Leadership
- Transformational Leadership
- Transactional Leadership
- Bureaucratic Leadership
- Visionary Leadership
- Affiliative Leadership
- Pacesetting Leadership
- Paternalistic Leadership
- Charismatic Leadership
- Situational Leadership
- Servant Leadership
That leads us to believe that if we put a little effort into it, we would turn up more, maybe lots more. So for purposes of this post, let’s deal with only four styles . . . four that seem to be on just about everybody’s list of leadership styles.
Democratic Leadership. When trying to solve a problem or make a decision, this leader seeks input from each team member in hopes of building a consensus. Ultimately, the leader will make the call, but not until everyone gets a “vote.”
Autocratic Leadership. This is the exact opposite of Democratic Leadership. Here the leader keeps his or her own counsel and doesn’t seek or want input from anyone else. Think “It’s my way or the highway.”
Visionary Leadership. Here the leader creates a vision of where he or she wants to take the organization . . . a vision that is so exciting and so compelling that people are inspired and want to be part of it. The typical response from followers will be, “Oh yeah! That’s for me. Where do I sign up?”
Servant Leadership. In this style of leadership, the leader “serves” followers, not the other way around. Here the leader’s job is that of coach, mentor, and enabler, aimed at making everyone on his or her team successful. It’s an elegant style of leadership because when the leader focuses on making everyone around him or her successful, inevitably the leader is also successful. That is, can you imagine a situation whereby everyone on a team is successful, but the leader of that team is not? That’s not to say that the inmates should run the asylum. The leader still has responsibility for the overall performance of the team and has access to a wide range of remedies, including telling a team member that he or she needs to achieve success somewhere else.
In case it’s not clear at this point, we are a fan of Servant Leadership. It’s not the right approach in every single situation. For instance, in an organization that has a culture steeped in autocratic, hierarchical leadership, a servant leader may not be taken seriously. But in most cases, especially considering that today’s workforce is better informed and better educated than any of its predecessors, Servant Leadership will be very effective.
In the research we did, we saw some opinions that leadership style should not be a reflection of the leader’s personality and temperament . . . that leadership style is simply a management tool and that we should have a variety of such tools at our command that we can use depending on the situation.
Your leadership style is a reflection of who you are, and unless you happen to be a gifted actor, you can’t fake it. If you most closely identify with General George S. Patton, trying to lead like Mother Theresa is not going to work out well for you. You are who you are and your leadership style should reflect that. When conditions change, you may have to use your leadership style a bit differently, but you don’t abandon it and try to reinvent yourself into something else entirely.
Lead well. The performance of your organization depends upon it.