Leadership Styles: What Best Suits Your Psychology?
What makes others want to follow you?
Some people are born leaders. Others cultivate leadership skills through time and experience. But no matter if leadership skills are innate or learned, someone’s style of leadership can differ greatly from other person to person—much like the other qualities that make people who they are.
Think about the leaders you’ve worked with, or worked for: Some were likely more inspiring (or less so) than others. Different leadership styles can make the difference between a boss you admire and learn from and one you dread receiving an email from.
Whether you’re currently leading a team at work or in a community role—or you hope to one day—finding your ideal leadership style can help you lead with confidence and poise. (Not to mention make you the kind of leader that people actually want to follow.)
Read on to learn more about the most common leadership styles and understand how they best suit different personalities.
What Are Leadership Styles?
In short, leadership styles refer to the way a person acts when leading a group, whether they’re leading in a work setting as an employer, as a team captain of a sports team or in a community setting, like as the president of a social club.
The concept of leadership styles has been credited to German-American psychologist Kurt Lewin, who’s known as a modern pioneer of social, organizational and applied psychology. In 1939, Lewin led a group of researchers to identify different styles of leadership, which established three main types: authoritarian (autocratic), participative (democratic) and delegative (laissez-faire).
Lewin’s research was very influential, so much so that his three types are still used today. Since his time, however, more leadership styles have been added to build upon his work and typify leaders’ behavior more specifically.
Outlining leadership styles gives leaders an opportunity to evaluate their methods and better understand how effective they are (or not) when leading a group. These styles also help train future leaders for success.
An Overview of 10 Leadership Styles
Understanding the 10 most common leadership styles allows you to typify your own leadership skills and determine how these best fit your personality (and that of your team). You may find that one of these styles perfectly suits the qualities you already possess. Or, you may determine that the leadership style you use now may not be as effective as you’d like it to be.
No matter what you learn, having a clear picture of these leadership styles will help you find the one that suits you and your situation best.
Type 1: Bureaucratic leadership style
Those with a bureaucratic leadership style are the type who feel safe following strict rules and regulations. This style may be right for you if you work in an organization that puts structure and rule-following as top priorities. Typically, someone with this style of leadership is task-focused and detail oriented. These leaders are less creative and also less apt to push for change.
Type 2: Transactional leadership style
Similar to the bureaucratic leadership style, this one is not the optimal style for promoting creative endeavors. Transactional leaders usually are very practical and defer to authority without questioning the hierarchy. They are also usually more reactionary than proactive and have a tendency to micromanage those on their team. Transactional leaders usually motivate others using a reward system and prefer a clearly defined structure to a looser organization.
Type 3: Transformational leadership style
Transformational leaders are one of the most popular and effective types of leaders. American psychologist Bernard M. Bass, whose work focused on organizational behavior and leadership, coined the term and introduced the concept of the four Is to identify a transformational leader. According to Bass, these leaders show individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, inspirational motivation and idealized influence. They see their team members as unique individuals and empower them to use their skills to work as a unit toward a common goal.
Type 4: Pacesetting leadership style
Those who thrive in a fast environment and want quick results will identify with the pacesetting leadership style. These leaders are all about performance: They set a high bar for themselves and others, valuing output over all else. These leaders can encourage stressful workplace situations and can be stingy with their praise. They’re too busy moving onto the next task to dole out high fives for a job well done.
Type 5: Democratic or participative leadership style
People who feel aligned with this leadership style are typically flexible and rational and they value the true spirit of collaboration. Democratic leaders often ask for feedback from their teams and want to make sure that everyone’s voices are heard. They create engaged, satisfied team members and promote the overall well being of the group.
Type 6: Laissez-faire leadership style
Also known as the “hands-off” leadership style, these leaders are not the type to micromanage nor do they feel the need to put their stamp on every task. They are happy to delegate to-dos to their team members and trust that others will do good work. They value freedom and autonomy, both theirs and their team members’. When needed, they are able to offer constructive feedback.
Type 7: Authoritarian leadership style
These self-confident leaders rule with a proverbial iron fist. Quite the opposite from democratic leaders, they aren’t ones to poll the team when decision making. Instead, they may talk with a trusted colleague or make decisions solo. Their goal is typically to make sure everyone is focused on the task at hand and working efficiently. They don’t usually value creativity.
Type 8: Servant leadership style
These empathetic leaders care a great deal about their team members’ sense of happiness. They value collaboration and communication and want the people they lead to feel fulfilled. What sometimes happens with these leaders, however, is that they spend so much time making sure that everyone is content that they let taking care of their own needs fall by the wayside.
Type 9: Visionary leadership style
Inspirational, strategic and bold—these are just some of the adjectives that describe this type of leader. Visionary leaders focus on the big picture. They’re creative and work to build something new by implementing different ideas. These leaders are not afraid to go against the grain and try new things but they can sometimes overlook the smaller, yet important, details.
Type 10: Coaching leadership style
Someone with this leadership style is skilled in seeing other people’s potential. They can help others improve by providing support and motivation. These leaders are usually self-aware of their own strengths and shortcomings and value the power of learning.
Making Your Leadership Style Your Own
After reading through the common leadership types you might recognize a few that sound like they would fit your personality and standards. Knowing these types can help you improve your own leadership skills by understanding different ways to lead, and inspire, other people to meet your common goals.
Being a leader can be a tough position, depending on where and who you lead. Use your strengths to your advantage and look for ways that you can improve your effectiveness without compromising your core values. When you’re true to yourself, you can lead from a place of authenticity. This is what truly makes others want to follow you.