Knowing the Leader in You: Different Types of Leadership

It’s guest post Monday! This post is by Teoddy Baldomaro who is a business writer for Piton-Global. You can follow him on Twitter. This is a longer post than normal but I chose to feature it because of the great topic, leadership types. If you would like to be featured on my blog click here.

The recipe that makes a great leader is not a particular guarantee, especially in business. It’s generally recognized, however, that great business leaders possess the savvy, the expertise, and the courage to do the right thing for their company. These skills are tempered by an all-too human relate ability and humility that allows their team members to empathize with them, as well as excellent organizational skills for effective logistical work.

Still, it’s not as cut-and-dry as we make it out to be here. In this article we’ll examine the various kinds of leaders that all have their strengths in different situations.

Bureaucratic leadership

Leaders that follow this style follow the official rules to the letter, and typically request (or demand) that their subordinates do so as well. They are often sticklers for protocol, which is invaluable in high-risk situations such as banking, or in factories with dangerous equipment.

Bureaucratic leadership does have its caveats, though. Often, the staff with whom this style is enforced are demoralized by their boss’s inflexibility. Furthermore, for the group itself, the inflexibility can be a weakness when external circumstances change the situation.

Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leaders take the bureaucratic style to the extreme—it’s not just the rules of the company that the staff must follow, but the leader’s arbitrary rules as well.

Autocrats tend to go by the philosophy “my way or the highway,” and team members or employees have little to no chances to voice their criticism or suggestions that could be helpful to the company as a whole. People dislike being explicitly treated as subordinates—this system is usually followed by mass staff resignations.

Furthermore, because only one voice–the leader’s–is heard, the benefits from working as a group are nullified. Still, for situations such as construction work, this style is particularly effective because total control is critical for success.

Democratic or participative leadership

Democratic leaders still have the last word on major decisions, but they also ask their teammates for their input. Thus, employees or subordinates will feel as if their opinion is valued, since they were given access to the decision-making process.

Furthermore, this will also grant the team members valuable experience, thereby improving their skill set. With some semblance of control in their hands, their confidence is improved as well. Because of the democratic (and therefore slower) workflow, this kind of approach is best suited to situations where the quality of the product outweighs the speed at which it is produced.

Hands-off leadership

A hands-off leader will leave their employees to their own devices, showing that they have utmost faith and trust in their team. Also known as laissez-faire leadership, this works best for leaders of highly skilled and motivated subordinates, such as that in a research environment or when all members of a team are peers.

However, if not managed well, this is likely to lead to a complete lack of direction, and perhaps even anarchy in the workplace. This can be managed by regular status reports and communication.

Emergent leadership

This is not a style of leadership per se, but is a fairly recent phenomenon in workplaces where de jure leaders are often absent, such as call centers.

One situation in the Philippines called for customer service representatives to address the issues of a particularly petulant customer. Lacking sufficient documentation on the issue, one agent determined the protocol to follow, resulting in the satisfaction of the caller.

Emergent leadership is best suited for temporary situations such as the above, as well as others like jury duty or directionless staff meetings.

Facilitative leadership

Facilitative leaders are among the most subtle and unassuming of leaders. Instead of giving directives and making their authority felt, they take the stance of a member of the group, offering suggestions to direct the course of action. This helps the other teammates feel empowered, leading to a greater sense of accomplishment.

Transactional leadership

Transactional leadership operates on the quid pro quo philosophy—actions merit corresponding rewards or punishment. This works best when the line between leader and subordinate is clearly delineated, and provides employees ample motivation to work.

Servant leadership

Servant leaders follow a style similar to facilitative leadership, but they are even more integrated with the team. They assume the status of leader just by doing great work on behalf of the group, and are then recognized for their efforts. Servant leaders become so because of their work ethic and values, but may be superseded by more traditional leaders exerting their power.

Quiet Leadership

Following the tenets of both servant and facilitative leadership, quiet leaders focus on enabling members of their team, which is composed of colleagues and peers. This approach is also described as “leading from behind,” and the quiet leader is known as the “first among equals.”

This works best in true democratic situations, such as members of the faculty in a university where the department chair is often most effective when practicing quiet leadership.

Task-oriented leadership

Task-oriented leaders are focused completely on the task at hand, often to the detriment of their employees or teammates. As such, this veers close to inadvertent autocracy. However, this is less a constant philosophy and more of a response to circumstances, such as a looming deadline. This type of leadership is perfect for crunch time scenarios.

People-oriented or relations-oriented leadership

The converse of task-oriented leadership, this focuses on supporting the people on the team, leading to effective work as a group and facilitating collaboration. This could result in a lack of focus, however, and leaders can resort to task-oriented leadership in high-pressure situations.

Transformational leadership

Transformational leaders focus on the “big picture,” and are exceptionally skilled at sharing their expansive vision with everyone. Truly transformational leaders are able to convert their employees to their cause, motivating them to work. However, because of their focus on the long-term, they require assistants to organize the smaller details.

Situational leadership

Situational leadership is not defined, but is a contextual approach utilizing the methods detailed above. Situational leaders are familiar with the strengths and weaknesses of each leadership style, and know the right situations in which to use them. Situational leaders are also aware of the goals of the group, as well as the individual members of the team, so that any approach they take at any time is calculated to be the most effective.

Question: Now that we’ve comprehensively covered the various leadership approaches, which type do you think would suit you and your team’s work environment?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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32 thoughts on “Knowing the Leader in You: Different Types of Leadership

  1. Hi Teoddy. I had no idea there were so many different leadership styles! Within the business I work for, I can see how different styles suit different teams – the CEO leads differently to the manager of HR, for example.

    I wonder how leadership styles change before and after formal training. I know some people that have been ‘forced’ into a leadership position because of circumstances – a promotion meaning they now have to grow a team. They may not necessarily be a natural fit for that role. Can we call this reluctant leadership?!!!

    Do you think leadership styles change depending on the type of team the person is leading? Or does the natural leadership style remain unchanged?

    – Razwana

    • Hello Razwana,

      Glad you enjoyed his post. You have some great questions. I personally think it’s smart to know and be able to change leadership styles depending on who you are leading. Everyone is different and can’t be lead the same way. Thank you for reading and sharing.

  2. Thanks for this Teoddy. It was well thought out and well put together.

    I wonder if the most successful leaders morph into the leader that’s called for, based on the dynamics and/or culture of the team? One leadership situation where I see this happening is when the leader is promoted from within the ranks of the team. While difficult to navigate, this leader has a benefit in that he/she already knows the existing culture and values.

    • Glad you enjoyed the leadership styles. Great points, I do think promoting from within allows the person to be able to quickly and better leader the team. Since everyone knows each other already. Thank you for adding to the discussion.

  3. There was a time when autocratic was my style, probably typical to most insecure and inexperienced leaders and more common in people who’ve recently made the transition from manager to leader. I’d like to think that I’m more of a situational leader now, but each day brings new choices… Great comprehensive list.

  4. I find myself a mix of transformational leadership and task oriented leadership. I am the guy in my ministry who creates the vision, develops the team, and empowers them in their role, but I am also a workhorse. If we don’t have someone on the team yet to fulfill a role, I do that work as well until we can find someone.

  5. I’ve most often been the democratic, people-oriented, transformational kind of leader, but I think there are other kinds of leadership styles I could adopt (like servant leader, for example). Thanks for the thorough discussion.

  6. I used to work for two people with styles above. My immediate supervisor had an Autocratic style. Then his boss has a Hands off Leader. With the two it was really difficult to get along.

  7. I’m certainly more of a “hands-off” type of leader. I expect those on my team to be adults, show some initiative and get the job done. I’m there for them if they have a need but generally I’m not going to be super detailed in my instructions because I want them to use their creativity to figure it out.

    This works well for some people but I have to be careful because there are also some people on my team who like to have more detailed hands on instruction.

    • Great points about your team. The “hands-off” style is a good one. Allowing the team to take ownership and action while supporting them. Thank you for reading and adding to the post.

  8. I work mostly independently now but I thrive best when working under facilitative leadership because it allows for empowerment of team members and working in cohesion of a common good. The worst of course is autocratic. Worked for that kind of a leader for a couple of years before changing careers :) While we may not know what the leadership style is by name, we know if it makes us feel good or worse about ourselves. THanks Teoddy for a comprehensive post.

    • Great point about different leadership styles having a good or bad impact. I’ve worked for a few different managers who where autocratic, and it was tough. Thank you for reading and sharing your thoughts.

  9. I believe that Servant Leadership can drive other styles. For example, sometimes the best thing I can do to serve others is to help them remain task oriented, other times the team will be best served if I am hands off.
    For this reason: if you focus on your team and their success, and understand various approaches – then I’d say Servant Leadership is the “One Style to Rule Them All.”

  10. This is quite a list – and shows just how varied leaders are in their styles (probably because we are all unique people!)… I usually frame it between centralized command and control versus decentralized leadership – which was especially apparent after reading It’s Your Ship. Great post!

  11. Wow this was really comprehensive. Great stuff.

    I’d say out of all these leadership types, I can resonate with the facilitative leader the most. I enjoy being an equal, and not a superior to the group I am in. I also think that with a great group, collaboration can be powerful.

    Being a facilitator always feels good as you get to see the genuine sense of accomplishment derived from your decisions.

    I’m sure in the future I’ll get to experience plenty more of these. I look forward to the journey :)

    • Hello Kevin,

      Glad you enjoyed the post. I think it’s important to know our personal style and the others so we can get along and see how other people work. Thanks for adding to the discussion.

  12. I know I’ve been guilty before of being too much of a hands-off leader. It was mainly that I trusted people, and I wanted to let them do their thing. But it ended up leaving them feeling unsupported – which is the exact opposite of what I wanted to convey!

  13. I’m most comfortable with situational/faciliative/servant/participative leadership. But I’m also aware of my weaknesses that I need to work on – a tendency to avoid conflict and direct feedback. Under pressure I can cave too easily without working for a win/win or being directive enough. So it helps to know the “weakness” tendencies of each style of leadership, and work on those while leading with our strengths.

    • Hello Steve,

      It’s great that you are self-aware, that’s so important. Thanks for being the point up about knowing the “weakness” within each style. It’s always great to hear from you.