What’s it: A leadership style is a person’s approach to leadership to encourage people to move toward and achieve their goals. It is about how one behaves when leading subordinates. Style influences how to manage, provide direction, implement plans, guide, and motivate subordinates.
There are several leadership styles, including authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. Each has strengths and weaknesses; for this reason, they are needed and effective in different situations and times.
What are the types of leadership styles?
Kurt Lewin, a psychologist, identifies three main leadership styles:
- Autocratic (authoritarian) leadership
- Democratic (consultative)leadership
- Laissez-faire (delegative) leadership
In addition to these three, in this article, let’s discuss some terms in leadership styles, such as charismatic leadership, ethical leadership, and situational leadership.
Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, focuses power on the leader. The leader sets goals independently and dictates what subordinates should do. They do not involve subordinates in managing the work area or giving them space for self-actualization.
Likewise, the autocratic leader is the sole decision maker. They do not involve subordinates in the decision-making process. They hold complete control over the team with little or no, leaving autonomy within the team.
Autocratic leaders demand absolute obedience without deviation. They closely supervise subordinates and rely on rules, policies, and procedures to encourage compliance. And communication involves one direction, from top to bottom.
Although it sounds rigid and tends to be counterintuitive, an autocratic leader is needed in some situations. For example, during a crisis, they are needed to make decisions quickly. In addition, they can minimize deviation by asking everyone to obey what they decide.
Then, suppose the leader is a visionary. In that case, the autocratic style makes it easier for them to achieve the vision they build. They are easier to allocate and maximize resources. Likewise, they easily move people toward a vision.
But, otherwise, an autocratic leader without a big vision can be a problem. Moreover, this style increases dissatisfaction among subordinates. Without the opportunity to provide input and engage more deeply in the working area can reduce motivation. And they may choose to leave the company because they are uncomfortable with the work environment.
Democratic leadership promotes delegation and consensus decision-making as management policies. Leaders involve subordinates in decision-making. They work together and engage in open discussions before making a final decision.
Under this leadership style, the leader encourages subordinates to communicate ideas to the leader. Thus, unlike autocratic leadership, communication is two-way, top-down and bottom-up.
Greater participation allows organizations to generate more ideas. This is important because it can reduce bias in decision-making, such as when leaders rely on their own thinking. In addition, more ideas support organizations to continue to innovate.
Then, in a democratic leadership environment, subordinates feel motivated. By being more involved in making decisions, subordinates feel happier. They feel their leaders value their ideas and suggestions. With such an environment, they can also actualize themselves and provide the best for the company.
However, decision-making can be slower. For example, consensus can be difficult to achieve because the decision alternatives are conflicting. In addition, each has a different mindset, which is hard to compromise.
In other cases, the subordinate may be more selfish than the group. And they don’t care about the other party. Finally, the decisions taken are considered beneficial for one party and detrimental to the other party.
Laissez-faire leadership, also known as delegative leadership, gives subordinates broad freedom to carry out tasks, do work, and make decisions. First, leaders set goals to be achieved. Then, they give broad autonomy to subordinates to achieve it. Finally, they let subordinates make decisions and manage their work.
Leaders let employees continue their work with as little distraction or supervision as possible. Of course, they may step in if needed. But that’s rare. So, subordinates can be said to play a more dominant role. Like a laissez-faire market, where the market is determined by market participants (demand-supply), laissez-faire leadership is also determined more by subordinates, including their quality.
A laissez-faire leadership environment allows subordinates to self-actualize in their work area. It encourages them to show creativity and responsibility. More motivating subordinates is another advantage.
However, this environment can work poorly if the subordinates are of poor quality. Poor quality results in poor output and decisions. In addition, subordinates may make decisions for their own benefit and ignore the other party, leading to more conflicts. Another impact is inconsistent decision-making.
Then, communication becomes more difficult in a laissez-faire leadership environment. The leader does not provide clear directions on how subordinates should provide feedback. In addition, losing control can make the organization lose its way. Finally, leaders don’t monitor progress closely.
Paternalistic leadership puts forward a leader figure as the dominant authority holder and provides protection to subordinates. Leaders treat subordinates as if they were family. It’s like a father trying to protect his child. However, they provide flexibility and encourage subordinates to remain independent. And through it all, they expect trust and loyalty.
Under paternalistic leadership, the leader cares about subordinates. They strive to keep subordinates motivated and happy. Thus, subordinates will tend to be loyal while remaining independent.
Loyalty is high because employees feel recognized and their needs cared for. Good behavior and work are always appreciated. In addition, decisions are made with the employees’ best interests in mind.
But, in some cases, subordinates may be too upset with the boss because it is considered too interfering, like a father to a child. What they think is best for their child doesn’t necessarily think so.
In other cases, subordinates may become overly dependent on the leader. They can not be independent because, for example, in making decisions, they are waiting for directions from the leader as usual.
Charismatic leadership emphasizes the leader’s personal qualities to move subordinates towards goals. To be effective, it relies on the charm and persuasion of the leader. Therefore, they must be able to communicate fluently, persuasively, and have a strong personality.
Charismatic leaders often try to improve the status quo. They try to encourage people to do better. And if the leader is a visionary, they can easily persuade subordinates. So, everyone is in the same mode to get to what the leader aspires to. And they have a strong belief and commitment to the vision.
However, the charismatic leadership style also has some cons. Leaders may be selfish and look to their interests more. They may emphasize their ambition or vision more and pay less attention to their subordinates. In addition, subordinates also become dependent on the leader about what they have to achieve.
Transactional leadership emphasizes supervision, organization, and performance. This style is rooted in reciprocity: leaders give employees something they want, and in return, they ask employees to do what – and accordingly – they want. Leaders want employees to obey and fulfill what they set.
They depend on rules, procedures, and policies to operate the organization. And they encourage subordinate obedience through rewards and punishments.
Transactional leaders tend to preserve the status quo. They don’t want to change the future and try to keep things the same, doing things as they normally would.
In contrast to the transactional style, transformational leadership encourages people to move out of the status quo. They inspire and motivate subordinates to generate new ideas and innovate to create change for the better. They build a strong culture of independence in the work environment. They want to form a strong team to support the company’s future growth and success.
Transformational leaders place strong trust in subordinates. They give subordinates the opportunity to make decisions and find solutions to each problem independently. This leadership environment gives subordinates more space for creativity and self-actualization. So, in addition to high motivation and morale, this environment also encourages subordinates to perform better.
The leader aligns subordinates’ self-identity with the organization’s collective identity. Thus, there is a link between self-interest and organizational interests. Then, they challenge subordinates to organize and take greater responsibility for their work area. Finally, they encourage subordinates to understand their strengths and weaknesses to encourage superior performance.
Situational leadership emphasizes adapting leadership styles to different conditions. No best leadership style is for all situations. Two factors influence how effective leadership is: the task or work to be completed and the subordinates’ or team’s ability and willingness.
Leaders are most effective when they deal with relevant tasks and jobs. And they have resources or subordinates who are able and willing to support them to complete their tasks. Both are prerequisites. Failure is more likely when the leader has a strong team but deals with unreasonable tasks. Or, If the leader faces a relevant task but does not have a supportive team, it will also lead to failure.
Situational leadership emphasizes flexibility to adapt to different task environments and team compositions. Leaders adapt their style to each situation to be effective.
Situational leadership is important for effectively carrying out tasks and encouraging behavioral change towards goals. In addition, it allows employees to quickly develop themselves with better quality.
Ethical leadership emphasizes integrity, trust, fairness, honesty, and transparency. Leaders share common principles and values, which the majority also recognizes. It becomes a foothold to bring people to the common good.
Ethical leaders hold to the same standards as subordinates. They set an example and have high expectations for those they lead. And they also do not hesitate to accept criticism or learn from subordinates.
In addition to making subordinates happier at work, they also encourage subordinates to take responsibility for their work. As a result, ethical leaders don’t just affect outcomes. But, they also develop and influence workplace culture.
Informal leaders are those who, although they do not have formal authority, are involved in leadership. They can influence their environment and have some power over their coworkers. On the other hand, coworkers respect them even if they don’t officially appoint them as leaders.
Becoming an informal leader may be based on personal qualities. The leader’s experience and reputation can also be a factor.
Formal leaders do not hold official positions within the company organization. Therefore, they have no official power over the people they lead. Nor could they ask for obedience to follow in their footsteps. However, they can influence decisions and impact the people they lead.
What to read next
- Authoritarian Leadership: Meaning, Characteristics, Pros, and Cons
- Autocratic Leadership: Characteristics, Examples, Pros, Cons
- Charismatic Leadership: Meaning, Examples, Characteristics, Pros, Cons
- Democratic Leadership: Meaning, Characteristics, Pros, Cons
- Ethical Leadership: Its Importance and Principles
- Informal Leader: Their Importance, How To Be
- Laissez-Faire Leadership: Characteristics, Pros, Cons
- Leadership Style: What Is It? What are the types?
- Leadership: Meaning, Characteristics and Types of Leadership Style
- Paternalistic Leadership: Characteristics, Pros, Cons
- Servant Leadership: Meaning, Characteristics
- Situational Leadership: How It Works, Types, Pros, Cons
- Strategic Leaders: Meaning, Importance, Characteristics
- Transactional Leadership: Meaning, Examples, Characteristics, Pros, Cons
- Transformational Leadership: Characteristics, Why They Matter