There are no concrete rules for how to be a leader, or what approach to leadership that you should take. Being a leader and finding your style of leadership takes some time, trial and error to identify. There are several effective leadership styles and common leadership styles that you should familiarize yourself with, in order to find what resonates with you and to better understand your team member’s styles of leadership as well.

To help you become an effective leader who is in the know with strong decision-making processes, Fellow has created a guide that lays out everything you need to know about leadership styles in management. 

What is a leadership style? 

A leadership style is a set of management thoughts and behaviours that are related to your personality, your communication preferences, your strengths and values. It is the way in which you choose to approach situations, decisions, issues and innovative opportunities with your team members. There is no such thing as a “best” leadership style in management because we all use our unique attributes in order to define our own approach. That being said, there are common leadership styles that we often see, which are defined categorically. This doesn’t mean that you need to fit into a box, but that you can draw attributes from several of them in order to define your own leadership style. 

Why is knowing your leadership style important? 

Identifying your leadership style is important because it will make you a better communicator, a better decision-maker and a better business person in general, as you identify and work on relationship management skills. Knowing your leadership style starts with self-awareness because if you know yourself, you’re more likely to know how to better interact with your team members, clients and stakeholders. Moreover, if you know your own leadership style, it’s likely that your team will as well, and so you will engage in more synchronous interactions. The more self-aware you become of your thoughts, actions and behaviours at work, the more organically your relationships will form and be maintained, creating a productive and effective work environment

10 Common Leadership Styles in Management 

1 Coaching style 

Effectiveness: High

When it works: As a general approach, time sensitive situations, specific projects

The coaching style of leadership focuses on recognizing the different strengths and weaknesses or each team member. This includes identifying motivations, potential and focusing on strategies that use individual skill sets to promote collaboration amongst the team. A big part of the coaching style of management is providing feedback and also being open to receiving it. It focuses on the growth and overall success of the team.

2 Visionary style 

Effectiveness: Commonly effective

When it works: Brain-storming sessions, problem solving, innovating

A visionary leader is often planning the next greatest thing for the company and someone who has an eye for improvement, whether it be employee development or process improvement from a corporate perspective. Visionary style leaders often have good relationships with their colleagues, because they aim to empower and cultivate confidence among team members. This leadership style focuses on inspiring and encouraging employees, especially in times of transition or change. 

3 Servant style 

Effectiveness: Commonly effective 

When it works: Times of uncertainty, when morale is low

The servant leadership style focuses on building employee morale and fostering strong collaboration amongst the team. For this reason, servant-style leaders are often greatly liked and respected within the company. This type of leader puts their employees first because they believe that when individuals feel appreciated and valued for their contributions, that they will continue to produce great quality work and feel motivated in their position. Servant leaders are engaging, encouraging and always have your back.

4 Autocratic style 

Effectiveness: Typically low 

When it works: With strict guidelines, tight deadlines, compliance- heavy situations

Autocratic leadership encompasses a pretty strict and to-the-point management style. While it’s not commonly effective, there do tend to be situations where a leader needs to make a decision, right away, unfortunately without input from anyone else. We all know that it’s better to collaborate on decisions though, and this type of leader chooses to go solo. Autocratic leaders focus on results and efficiency, expecting others to adhere to the direction of their choice. 

5 Laissez-faire or “hands-off” style

Effectiveness: Situationally effective

When it works: Projects that need little oversight, strong team relationship

The hands-off style of leadership is pretty much the opposite of the autocratic style of leadership because it centers on giving your team members the freedom to take on their tasks completely independently. Laissez-faire leadership means that you have good relationships with your employees and trust them to make their own decisions because they don’t need much supervision. Laissez-faire leadership instills trust and further empowers your team to make the right calls on their own terms. 

6 Democratic style 

Effectiveness: High

When it works: As a general approach, to promote engagement

The democratic leadership style considers the input from each employee and although the leader might make the final call, everyone has an opportunity to be heard and for their thoughts to be considered. This style shows team members that their contributions are valuable and it empowers more entry-level employees to speak up and use their voices, which they will need to do as they grow in the company and for future positions. The democratic leader is fair, cares about engaging employees and values creativity. This style of leadership is typically well received and well respected because it means giving a voice to everyone and empowering employees.  

7 Pacesetter style 

Effectiveness: Situationally effective 

When it works: Time sensitive situations, fast-paced environments

The pacesetter style of leadership focuses on performance more than anything else and these leaders don’t tend to put a lot of time into personal development or mentorship of team members. Results-driven companies who operate in fast-paced environments such as a sales team, who might tend to have pacesetter leaders who are there to get the job done and move onto the next endeavor. Standards are typically set high, in order to create a competitive and fast-paced environment with employees who know how to get it done. 

8 Transformational style 

Effectiveness: Sometimes effective

When it works: With teams that need minimal supervision

The transformational leader is the most concerned with addressing and achieving organizational goals. This style of management still focuses on engaging in clear communications and goal setting but is more concerned with hitting company targets than anything else. Transformational leadership uses organizational objectives to motivate and encourage employees to be productive. Seeing as this management style focuses less on individually addressing employees and their goals, it is best implemented amongst teams with existing strong relationships, where employees need little supervision and have a clear understanding of company goals and metrics to hit. 

9 Transactional style 

Effectiveness: Sometimes effective

When it works: To meet specific goals, with sales teams 

Transactional leadership is pretty similar to the pacesetter style of management, in that there are high expectations and the organization usually operates in a fast-paced environment. The difference is that the transactional leader is invested in their employees and so places importance on mentorship, training, clear instructions and feedback. While supportive, transactional leadership also engages in disciplinary action when an employee falls short of the mark. This type of leader and the companies who support this style of management typically motivate their employees with monetary rewards, such as a bonus. This is why this style of management works well in quick-paced environments with specific goals. 

10 Bureaucratic style 

Effectiveness: Rarely effective 

When it works: Regulated industries, compliance dependent projects 

Bureaucratic leaders play it by the books and are probably familiar with all of the fine print, too. They are rule setters and followers who take a procedural approach to leadership. Often these leaders emerge in organizations that have a hierarchical nature and they expect all team members to follow the rules precisely. Bureaucratic leadership can be effective in heavily regulated industries with lengthy compliance needs and implications, such as legal departments or government organizations. 

How to choose and develop your leadership style 

Here’s a plot twist that you probably saw coming: You are likely to have and to acquire qualities from several different leadership styles in management- and that’s a positive thing! In order to choose and develop your leadership style, consider which leadership style in management resonates with you the most, and which you think might be the most effective, specific to you and your team. You need to consider team dynamics, company culture and the relationships that you have with your team members. If you never try, you’ll never know, so consider trying a few different styles to see what fits best. Talk to a mentor, ask team members for feedback and decision-making processes will become much easier. We hope this article has been helpful in illustrating leadership styles in management. If you found this article impactful, don’t forget to send it to a friend or a colleague! We’ll see you next time, on the Fellow Blog.