Types of Leadership



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Chapter 3 : Types of Leadership

Topics covered in this snack-sized chapter:



Types of Leadership arrow_upward



Autocratic Leadership

  • Autocratic leadership is an extreme form of transactional leadership, where leaders have a lot of power over their people.
  • Staff and team members have little opportunity to make suggestions, even if these would be in the team's or the organization's best interest.
  • The benefit of autocratic leadership is that it's incredibly efficient. Decisions are made quickly, and work gets done efficiently.
  • The downside is that most people resent being treated this way. Therefore, autocratic leadership can often lead to high levels of absenteeism and high staff turnover.
  • However, the style can be effective for some routine and unskilled jobs: in these situations, the advantages of control may outweigh the disadvantages.
  • Autocratic leadership is often best used in crises, when decisions must be made quickly and without dissent.
  • For instance, the military often uses an autocratic leadership style; top commanders are responsible for quickly making complex decisions, which allows troops to focus their attention and energy on performing their allotted tasks and missions.

  • Bureaucratic Leadership

  • Bureaucratic leaders work "by the book." They follow rules rigorously, and ensure that their people follow procedures precisely.
  • This is an appropriate leadership style for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances, or at dangerous heights) or where large sums of money are involved. This is also useful in organizations where employees do routine tasks (as in manufacturing).
  • The downside of this leadership style is that it's ineffective in teams and organizations that rely on flexibility, creativity, or innovation.
  • Much of the time, bureaucratic leaders achieve their position because of their ability to conform to and uphold rules, not because of their qualifications or expertise.
  • This can cause resentment when team members don't value their expertise or advice.

  • Charismatic Leadership

  • A charismatic leadership style can resemble transformational leadership because these leaders inspire enthusiasm in their teams and are energetic in motivating others to move forward.
  • This ability to create excitement and commitment is an enormous benefit.
  • The difference between charismatic leaders and transformational leaders lies in their intention.
    • Transformational leaders want to transform their teams and organizations.
    • Charismatic leaders are often focused on themselves, and may not want to change anything.

  • The downside to charismatic leaders is that they may believe more in themselves than in their teams.
  • This can create the risk that a project or even an entire organization might collapse if the leader leaves.
  • As such, charismatic leadership carries great responsibility, and it needs a long-term commitment from the leader.

  • Democratic/Participative Leadership

  • Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. They encourage creativity, and team members are often highly engaged in projects and decisions.
  • There are many benefits of democratic leadership.
    • Team members tend to have high job satisfaction and are productive because they're more involved in decisions.
    • Helps in developing people's skills.
    • Team members feel in control of their destiny, so they are motivated to work hard by more than just a financial reward.

  • Because participation takes time, this approach can have slow decision-making, but the result is often good.
  • The approach can be most suitable when working as a team is essential, and when quality is more important than efficiency or productivity.
  • The downside of democratic leadership is that it can often hinder situations where speed or efficiency is essential.
    • For instance, during a crisis, a team can waste valuable time gathering people's input.
  • Another downside is that some team members might not have the knowledge or expertise to provide high quality input.

  • Laissez-Faire Leadership:

  • This French phrase means "leave it be," and it describes leaders who allow their people to work on their own.
  • This type of leadership can also occur naturally, when managers don't have sufficient control over their work and their people.
  • These leaders may give their team members complete freedom to do their work and set their own deadlines.
  • They provide team support with resources and advice, if needed, but otherwise don't get involved.
  • This style can be effective if the leader monitors performance and gives feedback to team members regularly.
  • It is most likely to be effective when individual team members are experienced, skilled, self-starters.
  • The main benefit of this leadership is that, giving team members so much autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction and increased productivity.
  • The downside is that it can be damaging if team members don't manage their time well or if they don't have the knowledge, skills, or motivation to do their work effectively.

  • Servant Leadership

  • When someone at any level within an organization leads simply by meeting the needs of the team, he or she can be described as a "servant leader."
  • In many ways, servant leadership is a form of democratic leadership because the whole team tends to be involved in decision making.
  • Servant leaders often "lead from behind," preferring to stay out of the limelight and letting their team accept recognition for their hard work.
  • It is a good way to move ahead in the world where values are important, and where servant leaders can achieve power because of their values, ideas, and ethics.
  • This approach can help to create a positive corporate culture and can lead to high morale among team members.
  • This style takes time to apply correctly, and is ill-suited in situations where one has to make quick decisions or meet tight deadlines.
  • It is often most practical in politics, or in positions where leaders are elected to serve a team, committee, organization, or community.

  • People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership

  • In people-oriented leadership, leaders are totally focused on organizing, supporting, and developing the people in their teams.
  • This is a participatory style and tends to encourage good teamwork and creative collaboration. This is the opposite of task-oriented leadership.
  • People-oriented leaders treat everyone in the team equally.
  • The benefit of this style is that people-oriented leaders create teams that everyone wants to be part of.
  • Team members are often more productive and willing to take risks, because they know that the leader will provide support if they need it.
  • The downside is that some leaders can take this approach too far; they may put the development of their team above tasks or project directives.

  • Task-Oriented Leadership

  • Task-oriented leaders focus only on getting the job done and can be autocratic.
  • They actively define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, and plan, organize, and monitor work.
  • These leaders also perform other key tasks, such as creating and maintaining standards for performance.
  • The benefit of this leadership is that it ensures that deadlines are met, and is especially useful for team members who don't manage their time well.
  • These leaders don't think much about their team's well-being, so this approach can suffer many flaws of autocratic leadership, including causing motivation and retention problems.

  • Transactional Leadership

  • This leadership style starts with the idea that team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job.
  • "Transaction" usually involves the organization paying team members in return for their effort and compliance.
  • The leader has a right to "punish" team members if their work doesn't meet an appropriate standard.
  • Although it sounds controlling and paternalistic, transactional leadership offers some benefits.
  • This style clarifies everyone's roles and responsibilities.
  • Another benefit is that, because transactional leadership judges team member’s performance, people who are ambitious or who are motivated by external rewards (including compensation) often thrive.
  • The downside in this style is that team members can do little to improve their job satisfaction. They can feel stifling, and it can lead to high staff turnover.
  • It has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work. However, it can be effective in other situations.

  • Transformational Leadership

  • Transformation leadership is often the best leadership style to use in business situations.
  • These leaders are inspiring because they expect the best from everyone on their team as well as themselves.
  • This leads to high productivity and engagement from everyone in their team.
  • The downside of this leadership is that while the leader's enthusiasm is passed onto the team, he or she can need to be supported by "detail people."
    • From Mahatma Gandhi and Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King and Steve Jobs, there seems to be as many ways to lead people as there are leaders.
    • Business people and psychologists have developed useful, simple ways to describe the main styles of leadership.
    • By understanding these styles and their impact, one can develop his/her own approach to leadership and become a more effective leader.


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