Pretty much all leaders have a natural leadership style. And while these styles can vary in execution or how they appear and/or come across to others, surprisingly, they usually fall into similar overall categories.
Leadership styles have been studied for some time now. The research and experiments done on leadership styles seem to support a unified leadership style theory. However, it has also been shown that many leaders practice situational leadership – where their leadership style varies according to what they are dealing with – and leadership styles can change and evolve over time.
Do you consider yourself a good leader? Why? Why not?
The good news is that if you feel like your leadership style isn’t working for you or others, we might be able to help you develop one that is more conducive to your personal desires, as well as the goals of your business or organization.
First, let’s identify what leadership style you’re currently using.
Lewin’s Leadership Styles is probably one of the oldest leadership style classifications that has been studied and reviewed. Kevin Lewin created this leadership framework in the 1930’s and many modern leadership style classification models still carry over many of his ideas.
Lewin’s Leadership Styles define 3 basic types of leaders:
- This type of leader makes decisions without team input
- It can be helpful when quick decisions are needed or when the team doesn’t need to have buy-in for a positive outcome
- On the other hand, it can hurt team morale and has been correlated with high absenteeism and turnover
- Democratic leaders make final decisions but after getting team input
- This type of leader encourages creativity and as a result, team members are usually well engaged
- Team members of democratic leaders also report high levels of satisfaction and show high productivity
- Team members are generally satisfied
- However, this type of leadership can make it difficult when quick decisions are necessary
- Team members get a lot of freedom in their role and how they get work accomplished
- These leaders might guide but generally don’t get overly involved in work
- Team members experience high levels of satisfaction
- On the other hand, this style isn’t for all teams – especially ones that have unmotivated workers or workers without the knowledge and experience to do their job right, much less well.
Here are some more popular leadership styles that have been defined recently:
The Blake Mouton Managerial Style –
This style says most managers are either people-oriented leaders (most concern for the team members) or task-oriented leaders (puts the job first); argues you shouldn’t skew to either direction but strive for balance between the two.
The Path Goal Leadership Styles (1971) –
This leadership style suggests that people assigned a complex task will need a different leadership style than people assigned simple jobs or objectives will need. You can use this theory to find the best leadership style based on your team’s needs, the task, and the environment.
The 6 Emotional Leadership Styles (2002) –
This rubric comes from Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatis and Annie McKee in their book, “Primal Leadership.” It highlights the strengths and weaknesses of six common emotional leadership styles including: visionary leadership, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. Then, this framework addresses how each of these also affects the emotions – and outcomes – of your team.
Transformational Leadership (1978; 1985) –
Transformational leadership is probably the best modern leadership style for business and the professional world in general. Here are some trademarks of a transformational leader:
- Has high integrity and high emotional intelligence
- They motivate others through a shared vision of the future
- They communicate well
- They are self-aware and authentic
- The are empathetic and humble
Today, many experts consider transformational leadership the best leadership style for business.
They say transformational leaders better inspire their team, based on their natural assumptions and expectations that people will generally do the best job of which they are capable.
Transformational leaders routinely also keep themselves just as accountable as they hold their team. They are usually transparent and clear with their ideas and goals and are good at conflict resolution. It’s not really any surprise that such a leader will generally then have a highly productive and satisfied team.
Yet, while transformational leadership has been generally proven to be the best leadership style or framework to use professionally in the workplace, it’s always important to keep the other leadership styles in mind as well. Of course, you have to use one that matches with your innate personality and that of your team.
Naturally, this means you need to know yourself and your team first.
Furthermore, sometimes – often, actually – situations can be complex and/or require fast decisions with far-reaching outcomes and consequences. True leadership then, comes from not only being able to recognize the styles of leadership, but also understanding which one is appropriate and best for who, when, and in what situations.