Types of leadership styles

A person can potentially exercise a number of different leadership styles in order to run an organization. An individual is usually more comfortable with a single leadership style, and so will stick with it even when the circumstances change. A more advanced approach is for a person to recognize changes in the situation and shift to a different leadership style to match the circumstances - this can be quite difficult to accomplish.

There are many variations on and combinations of leadership styles, but the general types are as follows:

  • Autocratic leadership. The person makes decisions himself, without attempting to convince others that these decisions are correct. Doing so results in no buy-in from others and therefore a reduced probability that they will follow. However, this approach can work well in a crisis, when there is no time to debate a range of options.
  • Bureaucratic leadership. The person enforces an array of policies, procedures, and rules to govern people. This approach works best in environments where safety is paramount, such as an oil drilling rig. However, employees are not inspired by the imposition of so many rules, and tend to rebel under this type of regime.
  • Coaching leadership. The person does not set a direction for the work force. Instead, he guides employees in how they make decisions. This approach works well in environments where people are expected to remain on the job for a number of years, so that the time spent on their development eventually pays off for the employer. Conversely, coaching does not pay off when there is a high level of employee turnover.
  • Democratic leadership. The person builds a consensus among those people who will be most impacted by the outcome. This approach is useful for larger and more expensive decisions, and where the cooperation of a large number of people is needed to make an initiative a success. However, it can take a long time to build a consensus, which can be frustrating for those involved in the process.
  • Paternalistic leadership. The person shows great care for employees, acting as a father figure for the work force. In return, employees are more likely to stay with the organization for a long period of time. While this approach can create a highly committed work force, the leader can subvert it by favoring a few employees over the rest of the group.
  • Transactional leadership. The person enters into performance plan arrangements with employees, where they receive bonuses if they achieve goals that further the interests of the organization. If they do not achieve the stated goals, the manager can punish them, such as by reducing their pay or position. This approach works well in a hierarchical organization, but is excessively rigid in a more fluid environment in which goals may need to change on a rapid basis.
  • Transformational leadership. The person challenges co-workers and subordinates to generate new ideas and stretch the possibilities of the organization, using a vision of what the future could be. This approach is limited to highly charismatic and extroverted people. Transformational leadership works well in an environment that is ripe for change, but will have little effect in a more staid organization.