Leadership Styles

“Leadership is influencing people - by providing purpose, direction, and motivation - while operating to accomplish the mission and improving the organization."

Main Leadership Styles:

Authoritarian or Autocratic
Leader By Example
Participative or Democratic
Delegative, Free Reign or "Laissez-Faire"
Servant Leadership

Authoritarian or Autocratic:

Complete Control From Top
Iron-fisted Rule
Control Freak
“Do As I Say – Or Else!”

This style is used when the leader tells his/her people what he/she wants done and how he/she wants it done, without getting the advice of his/her followers. The leader has absolute power over his or her employees or team.

Employees and team members have little opportunity for making suggestions, even if these would be in the team or organization's interest. Most people tend to resent being treated like this.  Autocratic Leadership usually leads to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover in organizations.

Sometimes it is appropriate to use this style under certain conditions; like when you have all the information to solve the problem, you are short on time, and your employees or members are well motivated.

Some people tend to think of this style as a vehicle for yelling, using demeaning language, and leading by threats and abusing their power. This is not the authoritarian style... rather it is an abusive, unprofessional style called bossing people around. It has no place in a leader's repertoire.

The authoritarian style should normally only be used on rare occasions. If you have the time and want to gain more commitment and motivation from your employees or members, you should use the participative style.


Believe Strongly in Themselves
Persuade Others to Follow by Sheer Personality
Very Charming
Cult of Personality (or Personality Cult)
Organization Driven by Personality of Leader
Can Be Very Good – or Very Bad
Sometimes Celebrities Can Have a Charismatic Appeal

The Charismatic Leader gathers followers through dint of personality and charm, rather than any form of external power or authority. The Charismatic Leader injects huge doses of enthusiasm into his or her team, and is very energetic in driving others forward. However, a charismatic leader tends to believe more in him or herself than in their team - which can create the risk that a project, or even an entire organization, might collapse if the leader were to leave: In the eyes of their followers, success is tied up with the presence of the Charismatic Leader. As such, Charismatic Leadership carries great responsibility, and needs long-term commitment from the leader.

Charismatic Leaders pay a great deal of attention in scanning and reading their environment, and are good at picking up the moods and concerns of both individuals and larger audiences. They then will hone their actions and words to suit the situation.

Many politicians use a charismatic style, as they need to gather a large number of followers. If you want to increase your charisma, studying videos of their speeches and the way they interact with others is a great source of learning. Religious leaders, too, may well use charisma, as do cult leaders. Despite their charm and apparent concern, the Charismatic Leader may well be somewhat more concerned with themselves than anyone else.

Leaders by Example:

Often Are Spiritual Leaders
Who Set an Example by Their Own Actions/ Conduct
Very Appealing to Others
They Inspire Others to Follow
People Want to Follow and Don’t Have to Be Coerced by Force or Sheer Personality

Think of Mother Teresa, Pope John Paul II, Mahatma Gandhi, the Dalai Lama. These are spiritual leaders who inspire and set a good example. They can also be charismatic in many ways.

Participative or democratic:

This type of style involves the leader including one or more persons in on the decision making process (determining what to do and how to do it) rather than making autocratic decisions. The level of participation may also depend on the type of decision being made. However, the leader maintains the final decision-making authority. Using this style is not a sign of weakness, rather it is a sign of strength that your employees will respect.

Democratic decision-making is usually appreciated by the people, especially if they have been used to autocratic decisions with which they disagreed. It increases job satisfaction by involving employees or team members in what's going on, but it also helps to develop people's skills. Employees and team members feel in control of their own destiny, such as the promotion they desire, and so are motivated to work hard by more than just a financial reward. It can be problematic when there are a wide range of opinions and there is no clear way of reaching an equitable final decision.

As participation takes time, this approach can lead to things happening more slowly, but often the end result is better.

Delegative, Free Reign or "Laissez-faire":

"Laissez-Faire": This French phrase means "leave it be" and is used to describe a leader who leaves his or her colleagues to do their work. It can be effective if the leader monitors what is being achieved and communicates this back to his or her team regularly. Most often, Laissez-faire leadership works for teams in which the individuals are very experienced and skilled self-starters. Unfortunately, it can also refer to situations where managers are not exerting sufficient control.

The leader allows the employees (team members) to make the decisions. However, the leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made. This is used when employees are able to analyze the situation and determine what needs to be done and how to do it.

The Laissez-faire style is to minimize the leader's involvement in decision-making, allowing people to make their own decisions; although they may still be responsible for the outcome. Laissez-faire works best when people are capable and motivated in making their own decisions, and where there is no requirement for a central coordination.

[It's been proven that the most effective style is the Democratic Style. Excessive Autocratic styles lead to revolution, while under a Laissez-faire approach, people are not coherent in their work and don't put in the energy and effort as when they're being actively led.]

Servant Leadership:

The Servant Leader serves others, rather than others serving the leader. Serving others thus comes by helping them to achieve and improve. Servant Leadership is a natural model for working in the public sector. Servant Leadership is a very moral position, putting the well-being of the followers before other goals.

When someone, at any level within an organization, leads simply by virtue of meeting the needs of his or her team, he or she is described as a "Servant Leader". In many ways, Servant Leadership is a form of Democratic Leadership, as the whole team tends to be involved in decision-making.

"It’s been said that true leadership emerges from those whose primary motivation is a deep desire to help others…

No Matter What Leadership Style, All Leaders Share Certain Qualities

Passion for What They Are Doing
Vision of a Goal or Endpoint
Exceptional at Communicating that Vision and Passion
Excellent People Skills (Motivate People, Resolve Conflicts, Listen and Pay Attention to Opinions/Ideas of Others, Know How to Give People Recognition and Praise)
Good Character Traits (Strong Work Ethic, Humility, Honesty, Integrity, Personal Responsibility, Courage, Self-Discipline, Kindness, Fairness, Tolerance, Respect for Others)
Boldness (Overcome Shyness, Overcome Timidity, Overcome a Tendency to “Play it Safe” and Stay Within Your Comfort Zone, Must be Willing to Take Some Risks)
Servanthood (Leadership is Not about Being the Boss, Leadership is Not an Opportunity to Expand Your Ego or Your Resume, Leadership is Channeling Your Passion to Serve Others – to Give Back to Your School, Community, Nation, to God, God’s Gift to You is Your Talent, Your Gift to God is What You Do With It...)

Three Biggest Leadership Mistakes Are All From Your Ego Getting in the Way

Not Being Able to Handle Criticism
Being Unable to Delegate
Thinking You Know Everything
Note the Balance Between Boldness/Overcoming Shyness – and Not Letting it Go to Your Head

(Some of this information is based on Mr. Robert Nix's presentation at SBA's Leadership Conference, March 30, 2008. Other based on my own research.

Which Style to Use:

There is no one "right" way to lead or manage that suits all situations. To choose the most effective approach for you, you must consider the following:

- The skill levels and experience of your team
- The work involved (routine or new and creative)
- The organisational environment (stable or radically changing, conservative or adventurous)
- You own preferred or natural style.

Leaders can use more than one style of leadership. A good leader will find him or herself switching instinctively between styles according to the people and work they are dealing with and depending on the circumstances and conditions presented to them. This is often referred to as "Situational Leadership". For example, the manager of a small factory trains new machine operatives using a bureaucratic style to ensure operatives know the procedures that achieve the right standards of product quality and workplace safety. The same manager may adopt a more participative style of leadership when working on production line improvement with his or her team of supervisors.