To be a successful leader, you have to understand what type of leadership works best for both you and the people you manage. Because if there’s not a fluid match, you can forget about moving a team — and business — forward.
So, what’s in a leadership style? Typically, a “leadership style” refers to a leader’s characteristics when managing (and motivating) a team by directing, guiding and inspiring others. The most powerful leaders have the greatest ability to inspire change and influence other people. Of course, everyone is different and that’s especially true when it comes to leadership, for both the leaders and the followers.
To figure out what type of leader you are, here are eight of the most common leadership styles.
Authoritarian leaders (also known as autocratic leaders) provide clear and precise direction on what needs to be done and how it should be done. As in its name, authoritarian leaders focus on control and power as their key to successful management, making the division between leader and follower well-defined. Authoritarian leaders tend to be decisive, domineering and confident.
If you have an authoritarian leadership style, it’s important to remain conscious of your actions and others perceive you, as to not cross the line of becoming too overpowering or aggressive.
Participative, or democratic, leadership is a management style where people not only lead others but involve themselves in the group’s activities. Participative leaders will often encourage team members to become more involved in certain tasks or projects, but they will also lead by example.
Typically this type of leadership can help to develop a more engaged and collaborative work environment. Participative leaders will take into account input from others but when it comes to decision-making time, believe that it is their thoughts that have the final say. Common traits of a participative leader include commitment, enthusiasm, empathy and drive.
If you identify yourself as easily adaptable to changing environments and people, your style might fall under situational leadership. Situational leaders possess the ability to adapt to various scenarios and different types of personalities.
In order to move a company forward and achieve goals, situational leaders understand that they have to adjust their management to fit the types of followers that they are trying to influence. Self-awareness, sociability and adaptability are among the top qualities of situational leaders.
Transformational leadership focuses on moving a company forward and ultimately “transforming” it. These types of leaders typically focus on ways to motivate employees, oftentimes pushing them outside of their comfort zones.
Transformational leaders are growth-minded and want what’s best for the future of their company — oftentimes putting company objectives before employees. Transformational leaders can be adventurous, outgoing and fearless.
Transactional leadership focuses on order and structure. Typically, these types of leaders will reward employees when they’ve done something correct, and discipline them when the case is the opposite.
They will oftentimes use rewards such as bonuses or extra vacation days to motivate and incentivize employees. They focus on input (the work people put in) and output (the result of their work). Common traits of transactional leaders are organization, discipline and motivation.
Similar to authoritarian leaders, bureaucratic leaders depend on themselves to make decisions. However, unlike authoritarian leaders, bureaucratic leaders will listen to the input of their employees when it comes to decision-making.
The catch is — if a bureaucratic leader thinks that employees’ input goes against company goals or policies, he or she is quick to reject them. While these types of leaders might not come off as controlling like authoritarian leaders often do, they can end up holding employees back by discouraging innovation and an open work environment.
The primary goal of servant leadership is to serve those you’re leading. A servant leader approaches decision-making as a collective effort, and both encourages and values the input of others. Essentially, these types of leaders believe in a power-sharing business model; they are the opposite of authoritarian leaders.
While servant leadership can increase employee morale and team cohesiveness, it’s important for servant leaders to be wary of certain issues like a lack of authority or putting employee preferences above business objectives.
Also known as delegative leadership, laissez-faire leadership is characterized by a hands-off approach. These types of leaders are the opposite of micromanagers — in fact, sometimes too much.
Laissez-faire leaders expect and trust their employees to complete the tasks and projects delegated to them. And while this can often be empowering to employees, sometimes it can limit employee development and overlook important growth opportunities for the company.
Rose is a writer and artist living in New York City. She writes for magazines, startups and websites, including Entrepreneur Magazine, Frontrunner Magazine, Homepolish and more.