Do You Know Your Leadership Style? Here’s How to Find Out.

Do You Know Your Leadership Style? Here’s How to Find Out.

Leaders come in many different forms — from those who “speak softly and carry a big stick” as Teddy Roosevelt did to those who work with their communities to inspire and “mold consensus,” as Martin Luther King, Jr. did.

In fact, there’s no shortage of motivational leadership quotes to guide today’s project managers and business executives. As Steve Jobs said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” Meanwhile Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Leadership is the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it.”

Still, when it comes down to it, each manager has to find and carve out their own leadership style in order to most effectively motivate their teams and drive productivity. 

So, the question now is: Which leadership style is yours? 

If you’re not sure — or even if you are but are ready to change your approach — this guide can help.

Here, we’ll outline the eight common leadership styles so you can find the one that best jives with your personality, workflow, and business goals.

1. Autocratic leadership

Autocratic or authoritarian leaders largely make decisions and set expectations on their own, without gathering input from their employees or team members. This type of leadership can be effective for teams that are good at following instructions and adhering to established hierarchies. It can also be helpful if a leader has cultivated expert knowledge in their field or has to make swift decisions in high-pressure situations. Still, autocratic leaders should be careful not to micromanage employees too much or make them feel like they can’t voice their opinions if need be.

2. Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leaders operate according to a clear chain of command. Similar to autocratic leaders, bureaucratic leaders set rigid rules and standards that employees are expected to obey. This type of leadership is often applied in specialized industries that need to produce consistent and compliant results. While bureaucratic leadership doesn’t lend itself to flexibility, it can also help minimize risk and unpredictable outcomes.

3. Transactional leadership

Transactional leaders make management decisions based on a clear endgame: to meet certain goals, accomplish tasks, and produce results. Those who successfully produce these results are rewarded and those who don’t are punished. With transactional leadership, there’s no question about what is expected of each team member and what their responsibilities are. Still, while rewards can be motivating, this strict leadership style may hinder personal creativity and innovation.

4. Democratic leadership

Democratic leaders gather feedback and input from team members to inform their decision-making. Unlike autocratic or bureaucratic leaders, they value collaboration, participation, and teamwork across roles and responsibilities. Including team members can increase productivity and help employees feel valued and heard. However, democratic leadership can be time-consuming and emotionally draining, as leaders must be prepared to listen to and empathize with many different people, as well as address conflicts and differing opinions if they arise.

5. Laissez-faire leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is a relatively hands-off leadership style that’s all about delegating responsibilities to team members with minimal supervision. This can be an effective approach for leaders who have carefully built teams of skilled, autonomous, and motivated people who can be trusted to get their work done. The problem is that laissez-faire management can lead to low productivity if employees have trouble self-starting and seek more structure and guidance from their superiors.

6. Charismatic leadership

Charismatic leaders use their own passion and, well, charisma to inspire and motivate their team members. They are often naturally personable and enthusiastic, and adept at communicating the overall vision for their team. Charismatic leaders are skilled at creating a positive and energetic workplace. The downside? Charismatic leaders can be tough to replace if they leave an organization or switch roles since their leadership style is tied to their unique personality. Charismatic leaders might also risk getting carried away with their grand and optimistic visions, and miss out on addressing practical issues that affect their teams and productivity.

7. Transformational leadership

Transformational leaders are committed to driving change and achieving long-term goals for their teams. Similar to charismatic leaders, they’re skilled at motivating and inspiring people to unlock their potential and work towards a shared vision. While each type of leader strives for growth and success, transformational leaders, in particular, are focused on revamping processes to fuel change and deliver results.

8. Servant leadership

Servant leadership may seem like an oxymoron, but it can be an effective strategy for fostering personal growth, engagement, and a sense of community among team members. Instead of just delivering edicts, servant leaders aim to understand and support their employees by taking their needs and opinions into account with each decision. The idea is that, by prioritizing communication, leaders can not just improve employee trust, satisfaction, and loyalty but also boost productivity and business results.

Which type of leader are you?

This is as much a personal question as it is a professional one. If you prefer to set and maintain a clear set of rules, for example, you might be an autocratic leader. If you’re particularly focused on meeting KPIs and producing actionable results, you might be a transactional leader. Or, if you believe in a more hands-off approach, you might be a laissez-faire leader. Or, of course, you might not fit neatly into any of these categories and instead find yourself a combination of a few leadership types.

What’s most important is that you take the time to discover the strategy that best serves your management goals, and work with your team to make sure they’re receptive to your leadership style.

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