July 12, 2024

Styles Of Leadership

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9 Management Styles Used by Leaders (2024 Guide)

8 min read

Several types of management styles suit different situations, organizations, teams and phases of business growth. The right management styles for your organization and team will vary and likely change over time as needed.

Autocratic Management Style

An autocratic leadership style puts the leader or manager at the top of the hierarchical pyramid and gives them ultimate control over decision-making and management without any input from employees or stakeholders. In this style, directives flow from the top down, and the leader assumes a more dictatorial role in shaping the organization’s direction. One of the primary benefits of autocratic leadership lies in its efficacy during crisis situations. The swift and decisive decision-making inherent in this approach allows for rapid responses to emergencies, ensuring a coordinated and efficient resolution.

A leader like Steve Jobs at Apple is often cited as an example of a successful autocratic leader who sometimes made unilateral decisions that were instrumental in the company overcoming critical challenges.

While autocratic leadership may be beneficial in crisis situations, the strict top-down approach can stifle organizational creativity and innovation. Limited input from team members can lead to a lack of diverse perspectives and ideas. Additionally, constant strict autocratic management may lead to micromanaging and negatively impact employee morale over a long period of time, potentially resulting in decreased job satisfaction and increased turnover rates.

Democratic Management Style

The opposite of autocratic leadership, within a democratic management style, the majority rules and team members and stakeholders have a say. This management style can also be called participative leadership and is characterized by a collaborative approach to decision-making where managers actively involve team members in the process. 

In a democratic style, leaders encourage open communication, seek input from employees and consider diverse perspectives before making a final decision. The emphasis on inclusivity and shared decision-making fosters a sense of empowerment among team members, leading to increased trust and a sense of ownership in the organization’s goals. By valuing the input of individuals at various levels, democratic leaders create a more engaged and motivated workforce.

 Examples of democratic business leaders include the CEO of Coca-Cola, Muhtar Kent, who’s known for distributing decision-making power across different committees and regions and the CEO of Microsoft, Satya Nadella, known for his collaborative and inclusive leadership style.

A democratic leadership can still have its downfalls. The decision-making process can be slower when involving more people’s input and even lead to stalemates if agreements in decisions can’t be met. In situations where quick and decisive actions are required, this democratic management style may not be the most efficient.

Laissez-Faire Management Style

A laissez-faire management style, often called delegative leadership, involves a more hands-off approach to management. With this style, a leader is likely to spend most of the time focusing on their own work rather than focusing their time on their team members’ work, allowing employees to work more independently and make decisions for themselves. This cultivates trust and empowers team members to take ownership of their own tasks and projects. This can be particularly effective in situations where team members are highly skilled, experienced and self-motivated. 

The laissez-faire style is often seen as fostering creativity and innovation, as it allows for flexibility and encourages diverse approaches to problem-solving. Examples of successful laissez-faire leaders in business include Warren Buffet, who allowed his managers within his organization to work with a high level of independence without supervision or monitoring. 

However, the laissez-faire style is not universally applicable and may pose challenges in certain contexts. While it can be effective with a self-directed and skilled team, it may lead to confusion and lack of direction when applied to a group that requires more guidance and structure. The danger of detachment is inherent in laissez-faire leadership, as leaders risk losing control over the overall direction and coordination of projects.

Transformational Management Style

A transformational management style is great for innovative leaders who want to inspire and motivate their employees to think outside the box, reach organizational goals and fulfill their fullest potential as professionals. Transformational leaders focus on long-term company goals, encourage innovation and foster a culture of continuous improvement. By articulating a compelling vision and instilling a sense of purpose, these leaders motivate employees to exceed their own expectations and contribute to the organization’s success. This type of management style can create a positive and engaging work environment, cultivating a sense of loyalty and commitment among employees.

An example of a transformational leader  Jeff Bezos, founder and former CEO of Amazon. Bezos’s leadership style is known for inspiring employees to think of new ideas and possibilities and pushing them to achieve beyond their perceived capabilities.

While the transformation management style can be highly beneficial for rapidly growing and changing companies, it’s not without its downfalls. If the visionary goals are too abstract or disconnected from reality, there is a risk of creating unrealistic expectations. Leaders must ensure their vision is grounded in a realistic understanding of the organization’s capabilities and the external environment. Additionally, the intense focus on the future may sometimes lead to neglecting immediate operational concerns, requiring a delicate balance between inspiring the team for the long term and addressing the day-to-day challenges of the organization.

Coaching Management Style

A leader with a coaching management style strives to improve their employees’ performance and long-term success. This management style may include regular feedback, training and professional development. Managers act as coaches, guiding individuals to enhance their skills, achieve professional growth and reach their full potential. By providing constructive feedback, setting clear goals and offering guidance, coaching leaders aim to empower their teams to overcome challenges and excel in their roles. This approach is particularly beneficial for long-term organizational growth, as it invests in individual team members’ skill development and career progression.

An example of coaching management is former Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg , who provided the resources and support her team needed to achieve their goals and reach their fullest potential. An important part of coaching management, she was also known for providing feedback, encouragement and praise to her team as well.

While coaching management can lead to substantial benefits, such as increased employee satisfaction and improved performance, it may pose challenges in situations where immediate business needs demand swift and decisive actions. The emphasis on mentorship and development requires a certain level of patience, and leaders employing a coaching style must balance the long-term investment in team growth with the short-term demands of the business.

Visionary Management Style

Visionary management style aims to communicate purpose and direction to employees that they can believe in to motivate them to work hard towards the overall vision. Visionary leaders are adept at conceptualizing a long-term direction for the organization and effectively communicating that vision to instill a sense of purpose among their employees. These leaders create a guiding framework that shapes the organization’s strategy and decision-making by setting an inspiring and challenging goal.

The visionary approach is particularly powerful in aligning teams, fostering innovation and energizing employees to contribute their best efforts towards a common future. An example of a visionary leader includes Elon Musk, whose visionary ideas on tech, transportation, energy and leadership have turned Tesla into the tech giant it is today. 

However, the visionary management style is not without potential pitfalls. While setting a clear direction for the future, visionary leaders may sometimes risk losing focus on the organization’s day-to-day operations and immediate challenges. If not balanced with practical considerations, the grand aspirations and long-term objectives can lead to a gap between the visionary rhetoric and the concrete actions needed to achieve those goals. Effective visionary leaders strike a balance between inspiring their teams with a compelling future and ensuring that the organization maintains the agility and adaptability required to navigate the complexities of the present.

Servant Leadership Style

Servant style leadership puts the needs of the employees and their growth and professional development ahead of the needs of the manager. In this approach, leaders view themselves as servants first, focusing on the well-being and growth of their employees. Servant leaders actively listen, empathize and seek to understand the perspectives and concerns of those they lead. By placing the needs of their team above their own, these leaders foster a culture of trust, collaboration and mutual support. 

Servant leadership encourages empowerment, allowing employees to thrive and contribute to their fullest potential, ultimately promoting a positive and inclusive company culture. An example of servant leadership is Fred Smith, the CEO of FedEx. Smith believes that pleased employees lead to satisfied customers, ultimately resulting in profit for the company. From his servant leadership approach, FedEx’s famous People-Service-Profit approach emerged, which has been the foundation of the company’s success.

While servant leadership brings numerous advantages, such as enhanced employee engagement and retention and a strong sense of camaraderie, there is a risk of taking it to an extreme. Leaders who prioritize the needs of others to the detriment of organizational goals may struggle to make tough decisions or provide necessary guidance.

Bureaucratic Management Style

A bureaucratic management style largely relies on rules, policies and standard procedures rather than a manager or leader’s different personality and charisma. Bureaucratic leaders rely on established rules and structures to maintain order and ensure consistency in decision-making. This management approach emphasizes clear roles, responsibilities and standardized processes, which can contribute to a stable and predictable work environment. The reliance on hierarchy provides a clear chain of command, and policies and procedures are designed to streamline operations, maintain efficiency and reduce ambiguity.

Steve Easterbrook, the former CEO of McDonald’s, is considered an example of a leader who used bureaucratic management. This management style allowed him to successfully manage thousands of McDonald’s franchises worldwide by requiring all franchisees to follow the same set of rules and regulations.

While the bureaucratic management style has its benefits, especially for national or worldwide companies that need to operate consistently the same across the board, it still comes with its downfalls. The inflexible nature of this style can hinder adaptability in dynamic and rapidly changing environments. Bureaucracies may struggle to respond quickly to new challenges or capitalize on emerging opportunities due to the adherence to established protocols and can be time-consuming to execute. The emphasis on rules and regulations may stifle creativity and innovation, and employees may feel constrained by the rigid structure.

Situational Management Style

A situational management style mixes all management styles to use the most effective style depending on the situation at hand and provides leadership flexibility. This approach acknowledges that there is no one-size-fits-all leadership strategy and emphasizes the importance of flexibility. Situational leaders assess the competence and commitment levels of their employees and adjust their leadership style accordingly. For individuals who are new to a task or role, a more directive approach may be necessary, providing clear guidance and support. As employees gain experience and confidence, the situational leader may shift towards a more participative or delegative style, empowering them to take on greater responsibilities.

An example of situational leadership in business comes from the former president of Coca-Cola, Jack Stahl. Stahl said in an interview that he viewed the best leaders as situational, who can approach difficult situations and determine the right level of involvement and type of management needed.

Flexibility is a key component of situational leadership, allowing leaders to respond effectively to the ever-changing dynamics of the workplace. Recognizing when to provide guidance, support or autonomy is crucial for achieving optimal team performance. Situational leaders understand that different situations demand different leadership responses, and they adapt their strategies to meet the unique challenges and opportunities presented.


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