7 Common Leadership Styles and How To Find Yours

Published: 1 June 2023

Great managers are great leaders. And each has a particular leadership style to suit their situation. Over time, it is true that the longer they lead, they would adapt their leadership style to suit the company culture as they learn and engage with their employees.

Some frameworks have been developed to describe the main ways people lead. It is necessary to understand these frameworks to develop your own approach to leadership and become a more successful leader. 

In this article, we will discuss seven common leadership styles that you can adapt into yours. We will also look into the advantages and disadvantages of each. 

But first, let’s dive into the definition of leadership style and why it is important to everyone to know theirs. 

1. What is a leadership style?

A leadership style refers to a leader’s methods, characteristics, and behaviours when directing, motivating and managing others. A leadership style is shaped by different factors, including personality, values, skills, experiences, working environments, etc. 

A leadership style determines how they strategise and implement plans to accomplish given objectives while accounting for stakeholders’ expectations and their team’s well-being. 

2. What is it important to know your leadership style?

The leadership style of any person is usually a combination of various factors, including their personality, life experiences, emotional intelligence level, way of thinking and family dynamics. Therefore, understanding your leadership style would help you better understand your thoughts, provide adequate guidance and feedback to your team, how to strategise best and implement plans when making business decisions. 

Furthermore, an effective leader needs to have the ability to adopt the best leadership style that suits their current working situation or their company to succeed. 

Understanding your leadership style and having the ability to adapt flexibly will benefit you in the following:

  • Improve communication and collaboration among the team 
  • Increase team engagement 
  • Strengthen team effectiveness and productivity

Moving on, we will discuss 7 common leadership styles below, 

3. 7 common leadership styles

  • Democratic Leadership

A democratic style is where a leader makes decisions based on the input received from the team. This is among the most popular and effective leadership styles as it encourages and provides equal opportunity to participate, share their opinions and know that you will hear them. 

With more spaces for the team to get involved and share their ideas, the democratic leadership style often leads to high job satisfaction and high productivity. On the other hand, reaching a consensus among the team can be time-consuming and costly. It can also impact the decision-making process when some low-levelled team members may not have the right expertise to make a critical business decision or when the decisions need to be made swiftly.

  • Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is the direct opposite of democratic leadership, in which a leader makes all the decisions on behalf of the team without asking for any input or suggestions from them. In short, the leader holds all authority and responsibility. After the decision is made, the team is expected to support the decision made by the leader.

This leadership style is appropriate when the leader is experienced and knowledgeable to make a decision quickly, and there is either no need for team input or the team input is unnecessary for a successful outcome. However, this style highly leads to persistent absenteeism and high employee turnover since most decisions would not be in the team’s interests, and it also fuels everyone’s disgruntlement. 


  • Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership emphasises change and transformation. It is all about transforming the business or the team by inspiring and encouraging people to keep moving forward and achieve what they never thought possible. 

Leaders who adopt a transformational leadership style inspire their teams to think outside the box. This would increase employee satisfaction, morale, and motivation.

While this leadership style leads to high productivity and engagement between the leader and employees through shared trust and vision, it can also lead to burnout. Transformational leaders might lose track of individual learning curves as some team members may not receive appropriate coaching and guidance through challenging tasks.

  • Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is more short-term and can best be described as a ‘give-and-take’ style. The team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job. Therefore, it is a transaction involving payment for services rendered. Employees are rewarded for what they’ve performed. For example, they will receive a promised bonus if they meet a specific target. This leadership style usually appears within sales and marketing jobs.

Transactional leadership clarifies everyone’s roles and responsibilities, as it judges people on their performance. Therefore, people who are motivated by external rewards often thrive. On the other hand, it can lead to low job satisfaction and high employee turnover due to its rigid work environment and direct expectations. Furthermore, the transactional leadership style is unsuitable for knowledge-based and creative work. 

  • Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is a type of leadership that puts the needs of others firsts. Servant leaders tend to serve the needs of their team above their own.

Servant leaders often have high integrity and munificence and lead with generosity. Their approach creates a positive business culture, an ethical environment characterised by strong values and ideas, and high morale among the team. 

Under this leadership style, team members feel valued and empowered to suggest new ideas. Therefore, this leadership style is best suited in an environment where creativity and problem-solving thrive. 

At the same time,  the servant leadership style is ill-suited for environments that require tight deadlines and high-velocity situations. It is also believed that servant leaders usually feel left behind by other ambitious leaders in competitive situations.

  • Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is a type of leadership in which processes and regulations are followed according to the company policy, and there is no room for flexibility. Bureaucratic leaders follow the rules rigorously and ensure their teams follow procedures precisely. 

This leadership style is appropriate for work involving serious safety risks or managing valuable items, for example, working with machinery, toxic substances at dangerous heights, managing a large amount of money or gold, etc. It is also ideal for managing employees who perform routine work. 

However, the bureaucratic style is less effective in businesses that rely on flexibility, creativity or innovation. 

  • Laissez-Faire Leadership

The French term ‘laissez-faire’ is translated as ‘let them do’. Thus, laissez-faire leadership is defined as a passive approach to leadership. Laissez-faire leaders provide their team members necessary information and resources to carry out their work tasks. The term ‘let them do’ simply means the leaders will step back and make the team accountable for their work. This will give the team an incentive to perform their best. 

Laissez-faire leadership requires a high level of trust among the leader and their team to achieve objectives. This allows people to plan, organise their tasks, make decisions, solve problems and complete assigned projects, potentially leading to high employee job satisfaction. 

However, at the same time, if the team is not organised, confusion and chaos are likely to happen. The team can either lose track of what they’re doing or do completely different things contrary to the leader’s expectations.

The question is, which leadership style is the best?

No one leadership style fits all organisations or situations. Moreover, there is no one way to lead. Instead, you must switch between different leadership styles to suit the situation. It is useful to understand different leadership frameworks and styles. 

4. How to find your leadership style?

  • Set a clear vision. Being clear about what you want to achieve is essential to communicate with your team and inspire them to follow your lead.
  • Experiment. The best way to find out what suits you best is by experimenting and seeing what works best for you and your team.
  • Be authentic. A perfect leader does not exist, but there are many leaders that are famous for their authentic leadership styles. Lead your team with a clear vision and passion, be open to your team and adjust your approach as needed; your team members will naturally be drawn to you. 

Keep growing and embracing change, and you will soon be a leader that makes a difference. 

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