Common Leadership Styles and How to Find Your Own

The gruelling part about being or becoming a business owner is that at some point in your career, you have to assume a leadership role. This means that you’re going to have to start dealing with PEOPLE. It’s honestly a lot and can sometimes even become annoying (soz people - truth bomb).

But in any situation, we can always make it a bit better if we just “try a little tenderness” – listen to the song guys!

As you might have seen from our previous post [Read it here] there are a lot of concepts and processes to juggle when trying to keep your keep-your-team-happy ship afloat, and by taking the time to familiarise yourself with each of these, you might recognise certain areas to improve upon or expand in your own leadership style.

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You can also identify other ways to lead that might better serve your current goals and understand how to work with other managers or employees who follow a different style than your own.

Most professionals develop their own style of leadership based on factors like experience and personality, as well as the unique needs of their company and its organisational culture.

While every leader is different, there are some common leadership styles that you can try and implement in the workplace. The interesting thing is, some are better suited to certain situations, whilst others are better suited to others.

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Let’s find out what they are, shall we?

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Coaching Leadership Style

A coaching leader is someone who can quickly recognise their team members' strengths, weaknesses, and motivations to help everyone improve.

This type of leader often assists team members in setting SMART goals and then provides regular feedback with challenging projects to promote growth.

They’re also very skilled in setting clear expectations and creating a positive, motivating environment. The coach leadership style is one of the most advantageous for employers as well as the employees they manage.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the most underused styles—largely because it can be more time-intensive than other types of leadership. It can also be quite draining on behalf of the leader - it’s tough to smile through the learning process sometimes - especially on those bad-days.

You may be a coaching leader if you:

  • Are supportive

  • Offer guidance instead of giving commands

  • Value learning as a way of growing

  • Ask guided questions

  • Balance relaying knowledge and helping others find it themselves

  • Are self-aware

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Visionary Leadership Style

Visionary leaders have a powerful ability to drive progress and usher in periods of change by inspiring employees and earning trust for new ideas.

A visionary leader is also able to establish a strong organisational bond. They strive to foster confidence among direct reports and colleagues alike.

Visionary style is especially helpful for small, fast-growing organisations, or larger organisations experiencing transformations or corporate restructuring.

You may be a visionary leader if you are:

  • Persistent and bold

  • Strategic

  • Risk-taking

  • Inspirational

  • Optimistic

  • Innovative

  • Magnetic

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Servant Leadership Style

Servant leaders live by a people-first mindset and believe that when team members feel personally and professionally fulfilled, they’re more effective and more likely to regularly produce great work.

Because of their emphasis on employee satisfaction and collaboration, they tend to achieve higher levels of respect.

Servant style is an excellent leadership style for organisations of any industry and size but is especially prevalent within nonprofits. These types of leaders are exceptionally skilled in building employee morale and helping people re-engage with their work.

You may be a servant leader if you:

  • Motivate your team

  • Have excellent communication skills

  • Personally care about your team

  • Encourage collaboration and engagement

  • Commit to growing your team professionally

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Autocratic Leadership Style

Also called the “authoritarian style of leadership,” this type of leader is focused primarily on results and efficiency.

They often make decisions alone or with a small, trusted group and expect employees to do exactly what they’re asked. It can be helpful to think of these types of leaders as military commanders.

The autocratic style can be useful in organisations with strict guidelines or compliance-heavy industries. It can also be beneficial when used with employees who need a great deal of supervision—such as those with little to no experience. However, this leadership style can stifle creativity and make employees feel confined.

You may be an autocratic leader if you:

  • Have self-confidence

  • Are self-motivated

  • Communicate clearly and consistently

  • Follow the rules

  • Are dependable

  • Value highly structured environments

  • Believe in supervised work environments

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Laissez-Faire or Hands-Off Leadership Style

Laissez-faire style is the opposite of the autocratic leadership type, focusing mostly on delegating many tasks to team members and providing little to no supervision.

Because a laissez-faire leader does not spend their time intensely managing employees, they often have more time to dedicate to other projects.

Managers may adopt this leadership style when all team members are highly experienced, well-trained, and require little oversight. However, it can also cause a dip in productivity if employees are confused about their leader’s expectations, or if some team members need consistent motivation and boundaries to work well.

You may be a laissez-faire leader if you:

  • Effectively delegate

  • Believe in freedom of choice

  • Provide sufficient resources and tools

  • Will take control if needed

  • Offer constructive criticism

  • Foster leadership qualities in your team

  • Promote an autonomous work environment

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Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic style is a combination of the autocratic and laissez-faire types of leaders. A democratic leader is someone who asks for input and considers feedback from their team before planning.

Because team members feel their voice is heard and their contributions matter, a democratic leadership style is often credited with fostering higher levels of employee engagement and workplace satisfaction.

Because this type of leadership drives discussion and participation, it’s an excellent style for organisations focused on creativity and innovation—such as the technology industry.

You may be a democratic/participative leader if you:

  • Value group discussions

  • Provide all information to the team when making decisions

  • Promote a work environment where everyone shares their ideas

  • Are rational

  • Are flexible

  • Are good at mediation

Pacesetter Leadership Style

The pacesetting style is one of the most effective for achieving fast results. Pacesetter leaders are primarily focused on performance, often set high standards, and hold their team members accountable for achieving their goals.

While the pacesetting leadership style is motivational and helpful in fast-paced environments where team members need to be energised, it’s not always the best option for team members who need mentorship and feedback.

You may be a pacesetter leader if you:

  • Set a high bar

  • Focus on goals

  • Are slow to praise

  • Will jump in to hit goals if needed

  • Are highly competent

  • Value performance over soft skills

Transformational Leadership Style

The transformational style is similar to the coaching style in that it focuses on clear communication, goal setting, and employee motivation.

However, instead of placing most of the energy into each employee’s individual goals, the transformational leader is driven by a commitment to organisational objectives.

Because transformational leaders spend much of their time on overarching goals, this style of leading is best for teams that can handle many delegated tasks without constant supervision.

You may be a transformational leader if you:

  • Have mutual respect with your team

  • Provide encouragement

  • Inspires others to achieve their goals

  • Think of the big picture

  • Places value on intellectually challenging your team

  • Are creative

  • Have a good understanding of organisational needs

Transactional Leadership Style

A transactional leader is laser-focused on performance, similar to a pacesetter. Under this leadership style, the manager establishes predetermined incentives—usually in the form of monetary reward for success and disciplinary action for failure.

Unlike the pacesetter leadership style, though, transactional leaders are also focused on mentorship, instruction, and training to achieve goals and enjoy the rewards.

While this type of leader is great for organisations or teams tasked with hitting specific goals, such as sales and revenue, it’s not the best leadership style for driving creativity.

You may be a transactional leader if you:

  • Value corporate structure

  • Micromanage

  • Don’t question authority

  • Are practical and pragmatic

  • Value goal-hitting

  • Are reactionary

Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic leaders are similar to autocratic leaders in that they expect their team members to follow the rules and procedures precisely as written.

The bureaucratic style focuses on fixed duties within a hierarchy where each employee has a set list of responsibilities, and there is little need for collaboration and creativity.

This leadership style is most effective in highly regulated industries or departments, such as finance, health care, or government.

You may be a bureaucratic leader if you:

  • Are detail-oriented and task-focused

  • Value rules and structure

  • Have a great work ethic

  • Are strong-willed

  • Commit to your organisation

  • Are self-disciplined

While a certain leadership style may be impactful in a specific job—for example, autocratic leaders tend to do well in military settings—the best leaders often use a blend of these styles.

Knowing what style to enforce in workplace situations comes with time, practice, and emotional intelligence. Remember, most leaders borrow from a variety of styles to achieve various goals at different times in their careers, or even different points in the day!

While you may have excelled in a role using one type of leadership, another phase in your startup may require a different set of habits to ensure your team is operating most effectively.

By understanding each of these leadership types, and the outcomes they’re designed to achieve, you can select the right leadership style for your current situation.

What else do you think makes a great leader? What leadership skills are you currently applying in your workplace? Are they effective? What have you learned to adapt or change when compromising on certain aspects of your own personality?

Tell us what’s happening bro, we’d love to know!