There is no one-size-fits-all leadership style. It is safe to suggest that there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders. It is also true that most leaders exhibit more than one type of leadership style.
It is pertinent to realize that every business has different requirements and great leaders need to be flexible while shifting gears for their role. Ever more so, there is an observed need for adaptive leaders in seemingly the entire corporate culture. Needless to say, rigidity is not the color for an ideal leader.
Several researches discuss in great detail several varying leadership styles. However, these different styles can be classified in five different styles which broadly encompasses traits of all leaders. Which style feels you? How do you know which style to adapt?
1. Democratic Leadership:
Also, known as participative leadership, this leadership style is characterized by deliberation.
The leader, here, is collaborative and chooses to involve team members in decision making process. It is a lengthy exercise but is commonly effective as it improves employee morale and often employees feel that their voices are valued.
Though the final decision rests with the leader but as the leader is provided with several perspectives, the decisions are often made keeping in mind the employee inputs. Indra Nooyi, Chairman, PepsiCo is known to be a democratic leader and Amazon.com is also known as a white paper organization, where employees are provided with a white paper to write down their suggestions. However, if there is a need for faster decision making, democratic leadership is usually avoided.
2. Autocratic Leadership:
This leadership style is quite opposite of the democratic style. This seeks preference and follows the orientation of the leader. Decision-making can be done entirely without any team inputs. As you can fathom, this leadership style is not the most effective strategy but can prove to be vital in military settings or in crisis situations.
Given that if you search for autocratic leaders, the results of Adolf Hitler, Donald Trump among others might not exactly be flattering, ruling with an iron fist is a long-gone trend of the past century. In true honesty, an individual centric and cautious control approach rarely appeals to today’s organizations which are immensely team-driven and innovative in practice. Moreover, if applied, this leadership approach should exist only for a short specific period.
If any compensation, Elon Musk is a well-known autocrat leader. However, the effectiveness of this style is still largely underwhelming as even Musk is known for his innovation and not for his management style which is riddled with controversies.
3. Laissez-faire Leadership:
While this name seems to belong in an exquisite French restaurant, ‘Laissez-faire’ literally means ‘Let them do’. This is a laid-back, marginally intrusive approach. Quite frankly, this is one of the few leadership styles that puts the style in the phrase. This approach lacks hierarchy, and it is pertinent that the leader has a clear focus and can effectively help the team members with maintaining the objectives of the task in hand and remove their work roadblocks. There still lies great probability that the team would lose the traction to the original goal. This style is effective in sprints as even the team members who are thought to enjoy the flexibility might complain about a lack of leadership or a sense of direction.
4. Transactional Leadership:
Transactional leaders engage devise a reward and punishment program. This leadership approach is commonly found in workplaces. This style is effective in preparing employees for their job roles. However, transactional leader might showcase distrust and can often micromanage which negatively affects employee morale. This leadership style, though, is also best in short-term as though transactional leaders can efficiently conclude a task at hand and ensure employees working optimally but in terms of expansion, role-expectation conflict and creativity, this approach can be difficult to use.
5. Situational Leadership:
In today’s ever-changing business climate, leaders cannot go by the book and rely on a particular leadership style, no matter how effective it is deemed to be. Today, great leaders cannot hold over the organization simply by their positional power. Leaders need to devise strategies by weighing advantages, threats, and numerous other variables in their workplace. There is a striking need for situational leadership, an approach which is adaptive in nature, which encourages leaders to assess their team’s core strengths and align it with their company goals and objectives. Steve Jobs is the prime example as why a situational approach is the arguably the most efficient. He was certainly an unconventional leader who left behind world’s biggest design-centric company. Jobs was autocratic in crisis situations but was known to give vague suggestions when brainstorming innovative ideas.
Great leaders emerge in every organization, large or small, and they synthesis their own leadership techniques to provide direction, implement plans and motivate people. While we still may find bureaucratic leaders in old, large corporations that almost certainly shuts down non-traditional conventions, these approaches are next to redundant in the company culture of 21st century.