The top ten leadership styles you should know

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Whether you’re running an organisation or just stepping up for your first managerial role, you must possess good leadership skills to manage your team effectively. Not only can this help with workplace productivity but it’s found to have a positive impact on retention; LinkedIn discovered that employees stay longer with companies which they feel have an “open and effective management”. Unfortunately, organisations are finding a leadership gap in their workforce, with only 41% saying they are ready to meet leadership requirements.

Although there are natural-born leaders, the good news is leadership skills can be learnt. What it means to be a good leader differs for each individual, but there are certain characteristics many effective leaders share: they are great communicators, confident decision-makers and take initiative. And, they know how to best utilise the tools and resources available to lead their team/organisation, whether that’s an HR manager using hr software to automate their processes or a line manager using a project management tool to keep track of team projects.

And just as there are countless combinations of people making up any team with their own working styles, responsibilities and values, there are just as many leadership styles for management. You’ll most likely be more compatible with some than others but good leaders often follow a mixture of these styles. Each style works well in certain situations but can hinder a team in others, so it’s up to you as a leader to know which ones will help your team.

Tip: If you’re looking to train employees on their first managerial role, consider including leadership training as part of your employee onboarding programme.

We’ve listed 10 common leadership styles, their characteristics and where they’re most useful.

  1. Autocratic

Also known as authoritarian leadership, it’s a style where one individual handles all the decision making, including all work processes, methods and tasks, using only their judgement, with little to no input required from other group members. Although this might sound negative, this is an effective leadership style when managing teams comprised of people with little experience in their work or when quick decisions are needed during stress-filled situations, e.g. a surgeon leading their team in performing surgery. There is a clear chain of command, so group members will know who to turn to.

  1. Laissez-Faire

Also known as ‘hands-off’ leadership, just as it says, the leader will be hands-off and let their group members handle the decisions but is responsible for all of the group’s actions. Laissez-faire leaders tend to provide the resources and tools to get the work done but give little guidance beyond that. This is great for teams of motivated and highly-experienced people, as it allows them to be creative in their work.

  1. Transformational

Transformational leaders encourage and inspire their team to be innovative and make changes that will help towards the overall success of their organisation. They lead through promoting shared values by example and encouraging self-development of their followers. Similar to the laissez-faire style, there is little micromanaging, but they will still provide mentoring and guidance. This is a great leadership style to have at an executive level for employees to draw inspiration from and feel a strong sense of the company culture.

  1. Democratic

A democratic leader encourages a culture of collaboration and seeks input from their team when making decisions. They can build sustainable relationships with their followers and draw a sense of trust and respect from their team. Organisations with this style of leadership benefit from increased staff engagement and productivity as employees feel that they’re listened to and have their ideas heard.

  1. Transactional

This type of leader sees their relationship with their team as an exchange. They work by setting expectations and standards and measuring team performance against them. Success and good performance equate to reward, whilst the opposite equates to punishment. As they see good performance and high productivity as a winning situation, they can be great at providing constructive feedback and positive reinforcement to help team members improve their work.

  1. Servant

Servant leadership means putting the needs of your team members first before you consider your own. Servant leaders focus on the growth and development of the individuals as well as the whole team. Empowering staff this way makes them feel more engaged and motivated, as they feel they are well-supported in their work.

  1. Coach

In this case, the leader takes on the role of a mentor, showing the team the ropes to do their work well. They maintain a good balance between providing support and challenging their followers, which opens a culture of collaboration and creativity. Think of a football match: considering each member’s strengths and weaknesses, the coach comes up with a strategy to win the game; explains to the team how to execute it; then watches in the sidelines, shouting out additional instructions if necessary. The coach would also be responsible for boosting team morale when things get tough or providing constructive feedback when performance decreases.

  1. Charismatic

Similar to the transformational leaders, charismatic leaders inspire and motivate their followers. They are very effective communicators with great listening skills and can rally others towards a shared vision or goal. What attracts people towards them is their confidence and the substance they demonstrate through leading by example. Having a charismatic leader as a role model in the team can help boost members’ morale and ensure everyone works towards the same goals.

  1. Bureaucratic

With a rule-based style, a bureaucratic leader places a strong emphasis on official regulations and standard procedures. They work best in a structured environment and with a clear chain of command. This is helpful for team members as they get a good understanding of their responsibilities and how to carry them out.

  1. Pacesetter

Pacesetters are results-oriented leaders – they are focused on accomplishing tasks faster and better than before and use quantifiable measures to assess performance. They are great leaders for a team of highly motivated and skilled professionals who can work independently and need little instructions. Teams led by a pacesetting leader thrive in fast-paced and target-focused environments like sales or startups.

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