8 Different Leadership Styles and How To Use Each

In this post, we look at 8 common leadership styles and how to use each of them. Knowing how to mix up your leadership styles based on the individual and situation you are in is the sign of a great leader.
8 Different Leadership Styles and How To Use Each
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What Are Leadership Styles?

There are many different styles of leadership that you can use as a manager or leader. Many leaders and managers have a preferred style (a one that they use for everyone and every situation). Great leaders use many types of leadership and will vary their leadership style based on the person that they are dealing with and the situation that they are facing.

In this post, we will look at 8 of the most common leadership styles and how you can use each one in your role as a leader or manager, at the right time to ensure you are leading and managing your team effectively.

Types of Leadership

Just like leadership styles, there are many types of leadership. Leadership tends to be a very supportive, engaging and involving approach. There are times when the leader needs to be more direct and use one-way communication.

There are 2 main types of leadership:

  1. Directional - this means that the leader is more direct and uses mainly one-way communication to issue instructions
  2. Supportive - this means the leader is more motivational, engaging and involving, using 2-way communication and conversation

You could even describe the 2 approaches above as the difference between leadership and management.

The 8 Different Leadership Styles

While everyone's approach is different, there are 8 common leadership styles that we can adopt when we are leading and managing people. Each has its benefits and downsides. For this reason, it's important that as leaders and managers, we use the right leadership style for the right situation.

the 8 common leadership styles

The Autocratic Leadership Style

The first of our leadership styles is the autocratic leadership style means the leader makes decisions without input from the team. The leader does not consult the team members or ask about their thoughts and feeling about ideas, decisions or changes to processes or working practices. When a leader makes a decision, the team are expected to adhere to the new expectations of the leader.

The autocratic leadership style is best used when fast decisions need to be made, but this must be backed up by a conversation at some point afterwards that explains why this decision was made. An example might be an immediate health and safety risk that is about to lead to an accident. Immediate action must be taken to address the situation, but then a later conversation about what happened is required to ensure the issue does not repeat itself.

The Democratic Leadership Style

The second of our leadership styles is the Democratic leadership style is the opposite of the autocratic style. When using the democratic style, the leader invites input from the team on decisions and direction. The democratic leadership style is incredibly effective as it engages the team, makes them feel listened to and therefore more motivated. It also provides a sense of ownership for ideas and tasks.

The democratic leadership style is best used when consensus is required or buy-in needed for a new idea or approach. The leader does not have to take on board all of the ideas. Where they don't, they should feedback on the reasons why.

The Strategic Leadership Style

The third of our leadership styles is the strategic leadership style provides a link between the overall organisational strategy and the team. When decisions are made about strategy and communicated to the leader, the leader must then communicate this to the team in such a way that it becomes clear and understandable. The leader should help the team to understand how their contribution feeds into the strategy, making the team feel connected to the organisation.

The leader will also need to be strategic on a more localised level, for example, building and communicating the team strategy.

Finally, the leader should also influence the organisational strategy when needed, taking the views of the team and their own views to the person responsible for setting the overall organisational strategy.

The Transformation Leadership Style

The fourth of our leadership styles is the transformational style is used when the leader or manager wants to change something. This might be a policy, process, product or the team's targets or objectives. This leadership style can be tough on the team, especially if the leader constantly transforms or takes the team through change process after change process.

The transformational leadership style is required though, especially when a business is growing or some other dissatisfaction means that change is inevitable. When the team is being taken through change and the transformational style is used, coaching should also be used to ensure that the team feels sufficiently supported.

Take a look at our How to Manage Change and Make It Stick post for more guidance on managing change.

The Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

The fifth of our leadership styles is the laissez-faire (or let them do) leadership style means that the leader or manner stops back and allows the team more autonomy and authority. It simply means that the leader sets the direction, then lets the team make their own decisions on how to get there. It's a great way to empower the team, but required complete trust in the team.

The laissez-faire style can be detrimental if overused though as the team will not get getting any sort of development, help or support from the team member. Another reason why it is important to mix up your leadership styles.

The Bureaucratic Leadership Style

The sixth of our leadership styles is the bureaucratic leadership style. Bureaucratic leaders follow the rules or 'go by the book'. It's unlikely that the bureaucratic will listen to the input of their team members. Or, where they do, they will reject any input if the ideas that they come up with goes against company policy or procedure.

This can be seen as a bit 'old school'. That said, there is a requirement for this approach in modern business when the rules that are being followed are legislative, for example, health and safety law or HR law.

The impact of overusing the bureaucratic leadership style is suppressing the creativity of the team its ability to make decisions or discuss new ideas and this can have a huge impact on levels of motivation and engagement.

The Coaching Leadership Style

The seventh of our leadership styles is the coaching leadership style. The coaching-style involves the leader spending time with their team to identify the individual's strengths and areas for development. They will work with team members to agree on their goals, targets and objectives then agree on the actions the individual will take to achieve them.

The coaching leader will support any development that is required for the team member to achieve. The important part about this style is that the leader will help the team member understand from themselves what they need to do, rather than telling them what to do.

To learn more about coaching, take a look at this What is Coaching Article on skilliki.com.

The Transactional Leadership Style

The last of our leadership styles is the transactional leadership style. This style simply means the leader interacts with the team only when they need to. For example, to give some praise or reward when a task is completed or some feedback when something doesn't go to plan.

Transactional leaders often set goals, targets and objectives that are linked to incentives and once achieved, the incentive handed over. They are very clear about the role that is to be done, how it's done and what their expectations are of the team and team members.

The downside of transactional leadership is that the team only tends to achieve what is needed to achieve the goal and get the reward. It doesn't foster over-performance or bigger and better thinking. It is useful though at the start of a project or the beginning of a performance review period.

Mixing Up Your Leadership Styles

As you can see, each style is unique and only works in certain scenarios. Great leaders will use all 8 leadership styles at the right time with the right people. If you only stick to one style, you are going to see more and more of the downsides of each leadership style.

Leadership Styles Training Course

If you would like to learn more about leadership styles and how to use each of them then take a look at our leadership skills training course for more help, tips and ideas in this area.


David Lumley11-07-2021

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