What are Common Types of Leadership?
How do various leadership styles perform? How does somebody develop a style of leadership?
There are a number of leadership types that have been observed and studied, as you certainly know. Authorities and experts have several common systems for classifying these different styles.
All the classification systems of leadership below are valid and offer some guidance from which a leader can learn. Look at the several classification systems below, and consider which one best suits your needs and your situation.
“Most of the work that is accomplished is not yours, it’s the work of others. The leader who can be the coach, coordinator, and cheerleader will be successful in today’s business environment.”
(Ed Rehkopf, Leadership on the Line)
Some authorities say leadership consists of three styles:
• Authoritarian or autocratic – this is the commanding style—“Do as I say, because I am the boss.” This style is based on the power of the position.
• Democratic or participative (sometimes called authoritative) – this is the style that includes participation and greater equality between leader and followers. This leader asks, “What do you think?” and may make some decisions by majority rule.
• Laissez-faire or free reign – this style is unengaged in leadership, and simply lets people do their own thing with the leader exerting few controls.
The free reign style can be good or bad, depending on whether the followers are high performers or not. Good performers need free reign to perform best, but for beginners and marginal performers this style is completely ineffective.
Some authorities say leadership can be categorized into two styles:
• Transactional – focused on operations or the “business” of the organization. This leadership goal is to maintain the status quo. In this conception leadership rests on the unspoken agreement between leader and employee, in which the leader is “in charge,” and the employee, by accepting the job, agrees to that fact.
• Transformational - focused on creating a new and shared vision of the future. How do we get from where we currently are to where we need to be? The status quo is no longer enough. This style seeks to transform the organization.
This classification of leadership types is based on the work of Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard and is well-respected. They believe that leaders should be able to move back and forth between four styles, based on the needs of the follower and the situation itself.
S(Style)1 – Telling or Directing; leader makes decisions and communication is primarily one-way.
S2 – Selling or Coaching; leader involves followers in offering ideas but leader still makes decisions.
S3 – Participating or Supporting; leader allows followers to have an increasing say in decisions but provides coordination and guidance.
S4 – Delegating; leader allows capable others to perform largely on their own and make their own decisions.
Hersey and Blanchard say that all of these styles are appropriate and necessary under particular conditions. A good leader uses all these styles and at the correct times.
Other Common Leadership Styles:
Several other common leadership styles have been widely studied. Two of them are: Servant leadership and bureaucratic leadership.
The style called servant leadership is based on a term coined by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s. This refers to anyone (whether having a formal leadership title or not) who leads by meeting the needs of others or of his or her team. This leadership style is based on strong values and personal integrity. It’s quiet, without fanfare.
This type can be defined as “by the book” leadership. This leader focuses on policy and procedures and seeks to keep things fair and well-organized.
The RIGHT Leadership Style...?
Many experts believe there is no one “right” leadership type or style.
While this is partly true, if there is one default style of leadership that is most effective in today’s organizational environment it is probably something resembling "participative."
The visionary style, especially when it includes democratic and participative elements, is also nearly always effective.
Review the most effective styles for the 21st century here.
In the early years of an organization’s development the leader may need to be somewhat more authoritative and directive (not authoritarian. See above definitions.) – providing a fair and just source of answers and boundaries. This leadership type at this juncture helps provide stability and lays the foundation for growth.
As the organization matures, followers can increasingly participate in setting goals and solving problems. A laissez-faire style, or delegating style, is more appropriate as the organization matures and followers learn and grow.
Your leadership style does not have to be based merely on your personality – you can choose a style. You can and should further develop your ability to use various leadership styles.
Create an inclusive style, a style that you can vary. Try new behaviors and techniques, depending on what the situation calls for and what fits with your personality and your values.