Some people say that leaders are born and not made. While it may be kind of romantic to believe that, it’s actually far from the truth.
Of course, we can’t deny that some people gravitate towards becoming leaders and have qualities that help them become such. Those are usually the kids who always want to take the lead on a project at school, who want to become the captain of the football team, or who try to become the class president. However, wanting to be a leader and actually being capable of becoming one are two very different things. Often, people who aren’t interested in leading or who doubt their qualities become the ones who are actually able to inspire people and get them moving forward. That’s because they have a leadership style that can win over others, which provokes trust and helps build relationships. Of course, every person has his own way of leading. However, learning how to adapt your leadership style into one that’s effective is key.
That’s why, in this article, we will talk all about leadership styles – what the most common ones are, how you can find your own, and why it matters to have one that is suitable for your personality.
The Five Leadership Styles You Need to Know About
When you first start reading about different types of leadership, you may be inclined to think that some are better than others. However, the truth is that each style has its own place in the toolkit of all good leaders. More often than not, remarkable leaders are able to pull off more than one leadership style, depending on the situation they’re in.
Leadership styles are on a continuum, and they range from autocratic at one end to laissez-faire at the other, with several different styles in between. Let’s get started.
If you’ve heard the phrase, “Do as I say,” well, then you should know that it’s perhaps the best description of the autocratic leadership style. Typically, such leaders believe that they are the smartest person in the room and have more experience and knowledge than anyone else on their team. That’s what leads to them making decisions with little to no input from other colleagues.
This command-and-control approach was the norm in the past; however, it has become incredibly unpopular in today’s climate. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t situations where it’s the best possible approach. For example, if you find yourself in a place where you need to make crucial decisions on the spot, with little to no time, then taking the autocratic approach and making the decision to the best of your abilities is absolutely what you must do. Sometimes, this overconfident, self-assured approach is the best option, especially when you have no reaction time and are made to think on your feet.
With that said, if you work in a team full of experienced professionals, the autocratic style is almost always a no-go, since in those teams, respecting the opinions of others and considering them when making decisions is vital for good cooperation and success.
These leaders are sometimes called visionaries, and the main phrase that defines their leadership style is “Follow me.” This way of managing a team is thought to be used by confident leaders who are able to set expectations and lead the way while being able to create energy and excitement within their followers.
Whenever a situation feels uncertain or difficult, this kind of leader is able to pull people back up and lift them on their shoulders. They’re able to show the direction of the company, and their confidence inspires trust and devotion amongst employees. Unlike autocratic leaders, those who practice the authoritative style usually take the time to explain their way of thinking and their decision instead of simply barking orders at team members. Along with that, they allow everyone to participate in the process and are able to hear the input of others if it helps reach the common goal.
The authoritative leadership style is often used by leaders whenever tough situations arise or when the company needs to reach a specific goal. With that said, it’s really hard to “become” an authoritative leader if you don’t have the drive inside you and you don’t “feel” this approach. It takes an ability to remain calm in difficult times while managing to make important decisions with clarity and devotion.
If you think about a democratic leader, you may think of the question, “How do you see things?” These leaders are defined by their willingness to share information with employees, ask for their opinion, and collaborate with them before making any final decisions.
Nowadays, this leadership style is preferred by many, as it promotes trust and cooperation and creates a team environment within the company. It also enables employees to grow and develop and is often helpful in getting teams of highly-dedicated professionals to succeed. Typically, a democratic leader gets people to do what they want but allows them to do it in their own way. This means that he gives his employees creative space and allows them to make decisions on their own, which in turn helps build other leaders within the team.
For most people, democratic leaders are the best. They’re a dream to work with – supportive, smart, encouraging, and inspiring. However, the success of this leadership style depends on the employees – if you work with dedicated professionals, it will bring positive results, but if you work with people who lack skills, knowledge, and discipline, it can turn into a disaster.
People with a coaching leadership style are likely to have a “consider this” attitude about work-related issues. Such leaders act like team coaches and often view employees as a talent pool that needs to develop, which is why their main job is to unlock the potential of all team members and motivate them to perform at their very best.
Leaders who have this coaching style are very people-oriented. They open their hearts and doors to the employees and believe that everyone possesses exceptional qualities that make them unique. That’s why leaders with the coaching style are known to give very little direction to their employees and instead encourage them to explore unique paths and develop their abilities to achieve their maximal potential.
This leadership approach can be extremely beneficial if you work in a team with young people or employees who have talent but lack experience. Young, talented workers only need someone to nurture them and believe in them from there. They can take over and achieve success.
This leadership style has a “people first” approach and puts the needs of the employees in first place. These types of leaders tend to become very close to their team members and develop genuine friendships with them, regardless of the situation at work. That’s because these leaders are known to be people who support their employees in the workplace and take care of their emotional needs – meaning that they care and pay attention to the way people feel at all times. This attitude is what helps make the connection between the leader and the employees.
This leadership style is can be very good for highly competitive teams, where employees are always at arms with one another. It’s also good to be used in difficult situations when people are feeling uncertain and need some reassurance. Typically, affiliative leaders are everyone’s favorites, as they treat the team like a group of friends instead of as a group of employees. However, the coin has two sides. Even though sometimes this sort of “freer” leadership style can bring success, it can also turn a bad situation worse if the leader over concentrates on “feelings” and forgets about the actual work that needs to get done.
How to Choose Your Leadership Style
Let’s start with a disclaimer here. Choosing a leadership style is not like choosing a football team to support – you don’t have to be faithful to the cause your entire life. Instead, you can switch between different styles, depending on the situation, the team you’re working with, and the goals you want to achieve.
If you’re a leader of a big organization, you often switch between different styles, depending on the people you’re communicating with. There’s still one approach that suits you best. Determining which style fits you best should be natural, but some questions might help you find the answer to that question faster. Consider the following:
- What do you value more – having good relationships with others or achieving goals?
- Do you prefer working in a tight structure, or do you value having a bit more freedom?
- Would you make decisions on your own or by consulting the opinions of others?
- What kind of goals do you tend to focus on – short-term or long-term ones?
- Where do you believe motivation comes from: empowerment or clear direction?
- What does a positive team dynamic feel like, according to you?
These are just some examples of the kinds of questions you need to ask yourself before choosing a leadership style that you will embody. But there’s also the question of which style naturally fits your personality and the way you go about things. Some people have it in them to be more dominant-assertive and they have a hard time accepting the opinions of others, and so they’re more drawn to the autocratic style by default. On the other spectrum, there are those who do everything possible to avoid conflict, dislike having strained relationships with others, and enjoy having more freedom and creativity in their daily lives, so the affiliative style fits them better. With that said, on your journey to developing your leadership style, you should consider using these strategies.
Try out various approaches in different situations and pay attention to the outcome. Only do it at times when you know that even if things go badly, the damage wouldn’t be too severe. However, when you do it, try to take notes on whether it worked or not, how different team members reacted and why they did so. This will help you figure out if this style is suitable for a particular type of person, and so you will know when you can use it effectively in the future.
Try to Find a Mentor
Having someone to look up to, someone who has more knowledge and experience, is vital for any leader’s development. Such people can offer you great insight as to how they developed their style and what difficulties they faced, but they can also give you advice when you feel lost, or you don’t know which style to use in a particular situation. Furthermore, having a mentor that you respect will tell you all you need to know about your personality and the type of people you thrive under. From there, you can learn important lessons about how to nurture potential leaders in the future when you take the spot of a mentor.
Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Feedback
No one enjoys hearing criticism. However, constructive feedback is a key ingredient in the recipe for success. Hearing what your colleagues, team members, and even friends think of the way you approach your job may help you gain insight into which areas you need to work on. Furthermore, knowing what others think of you will help break your perception of yourself, as sometimes the person we believe we are doesn’t match up with what others are seeing from us.
Along with that, seeking and accepting feedback shows your emotional maturity and willingness to listen and adapt – an important message that quickly spreads to your employees, as actions are always louder than words.
Even though you may switch leadership styles depending on the situation, you’re, after all, a leader, not an actor. Don’t try to play a role just because you think it’s the best one for your current team. Try to be as authentic and transparent as possible. Even if you’re struggling, it’s better for people to know you’re making an effort to change instead of just pretending to be someone else.
Furthermore, playing pretend is exhausting, and at some point, you will grow tired of it. That’s why the leadership style you choose should represent who you are as a person, first and foremost. It should reflect your desires, moral compass, and beliefs in the best way possible, and it should play to your strengths. If you’re good with people – caring, emphatic, and emotionally supportive – it’s not worth trying to be autocratic or authoritative. You can be tougher in certain situations, but not all the time. The same applies in reverse. If you’re generally more closed-off, goal-driven, and strict, pretending to be all hugs and love won’t convince anyone. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and be kind.
Be the Kind of Leader You Wish You Had
When choosing a leadership style, the most important thing is to be at peace with who you are as a leader. Be someone that you would want to work with, who operates with honesty, integrity, and according to your own moral compass. That way, you will never be disappointed with the decisions you make.
Remember, different leadership styles suit various situations. Sometimes being an autocrat is the only way, while letting freedom and creativity flow is the best option in other scenarios. That’s why you need to be able to adapt and adjust at all times.