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What Kind of Leader Are You?

Danielle Dahl, Lead Contributor

As a manager or leader in your field, do you ever wonder what kind of leader you are? You might have some idea what your leadership style is, but is your self-assessment correct? Do you think your employees would agree? Gain some insight into the different leadership styles, and how your own unique leadership style fits your personality. There is even a link at the end of the article for a quiz you can take!

The leadership style you implement can affect your leadership effectiveness, regardless of the size of the team you are leading. Leaders usually have similar qualities like confidence, commitment, excellent communication skills, and the ability to make decisions. They should all be honest and have a high degree of integrity.

The exceptional leaders will inspire their team to bring their best efforts every day, leave their team feeling trusted and engaged, and use their passion to spread the purpose of the organization. Beyond these qualities, though, leaders are all people and have unique personalities which translate into one of the 10 leadership styles.

The 10 accepted leadership styles

As you read through these, think back to your favorite bosses and figure out which style they used? Then do the same for your least favorite boss. Figuring out what style you appreciate, and which style you don’t might help you better understand your own leadership theory.

What Kind of Leader Are You

1. Autocratic leadership

This type of leader doesn’t like to stray from the rules at all. They are the most strict leaders and insist on maintaining control of all the decisions. Policy and procedure are their favorite words. Their teams usually have little to no autonomy. The autocratic leader must have complete control. They thrive in highly structured environments.

Where this type of leadership works:

It is the most ineffective of the leadership styles, only effective in situations where decision-making is an urgent matter, like the military or some factory environments.

Famous autocratic leaders:

  • Napolean
  • Ridley Scott
  • Lorne Michaels

“I think, at the end of the day, filmmaking is a team, but eventually there’s got to be a captain.” — Ridley Scott

2. Bureaucratic leadership

These leaders are slightly less strict, but they adhere to and enforce rules and regulations. They believe in following the hierarchy within the organization. These leaders receive power from their position and often micromanage their staff. They are results-driven and goal-oriented, often stepping outside of their comfort zone to get things done (as long as it doesn’t violate any policies or procedures).

Where this type of leadership works:

This style of leadership works well in health care settings, prisons, and other organizations where safety is a concern.

Famous bureaucratic leaders:

  • Winston Churchill
  • Steve Easterbrook
  • Alfred P. Sloan

“What I’ve looked to do is try and become a change agent for good, to create the behavioral changes, the cultural changes to really embrace urgency, adopt a higher tolerance to risk, and just encourage people to make decisions.” — Steve Easterbrook

3. Charismatic leadership

The charismatic leader is exactly as the name implies. They are likable, and people follow them because of their infectious personalities. This helps them be successful. Their energy motivates others to bring the same level of passion to the project.

Where this type of leadership works:

This works well in politics, foundations that promote change, and any other high-energy environment that needs frequent morale boosts.

Famous charismatic leaders:

  • Barack Obama
  • Bernadette Devlin
  • Manny Pacquiao

“Keep exploring. Keep dreaming. Keep asking why. Don’t settle for what you already know. Never stop believing in the power of your ideas, your imagination, your hard work to change the world.” — Barack Obama

4. Democratic leadership

The democratic leader often welcomes participation from their team in decision-making. The goal of the democratic leader is to promote the general interest of the group. They encourage healthy discussion and debate. They are highly effective and foster higher productivity in their teams. However, without time to communicate deadlines might get missed, and decisions that need a timely response might suffer.

Where this type of leadership works:

Democratic leadership works well with a group of professionals or experts where everyone knows how to do their job, like tech companies, universities, or construction sites.

Famous democratic leaders:

  • George Washington
  • Nelson Mandela
  • Dwight Eisenhower

“If you want the cooperation of humans around you, you must make them feel they are important—and you do that by being genuine and humble.” — Nelson Mandela

5. Laissez-faire leadership

Laissez-faire leaders exercise a hands-off approach and which enables their employees to assume responsibility in the decision-making process. This is a fully democratic style in which the leaders offer guidance and support, and fewer directives. This leader rarely provides regular feedback, and can often appear unavailable.

Where this type of leadership works:

This leadership style can be effective when working with highly skilled and confident employees who take pride in their work.

Famous laissez-faire leaders:

  • Herbert Hoover
  • Queen Victoria
  • Warren Buffett

“I insist on a lot of time being spent, almost every day, to just sit and think. That is very uncommon in American business. I read and think. So I do more reading and thinking and make less impulse decisions than most people in business. I do it because I like this kind of life.” — Warren Buffett

6. Paternalistic leadership

This type of leader acts like a parental figure to the people they lead. Their sincere concern for the well-being of their followers makes them easy to trust. They expect rules are followed and their employees rarely work independently.

Where this type of leadership works:

Paternalistic leadership is most effective in a family-like environment where co-workers have more intimate contact and turnover is low.

Famous paternalistic leaders:

  • Jose Mourinho
  • Henry Ford

“You don’t have to hold a position in order to be a leader.”  Henry Ford

7. Servant leadership

Servant leaders share power and decision-making abilities with their team. They are the kind of leader that will do anything they ask their people to do. The servant-leader also shows concern for the employees’ personal and professional fulfillment, as they believe that when those two things are aligned, employees are at their best.

Where this type of leadership works:

This leadership style functions best in humanitarian organizations, nonprofits, and teams that aim to create diversity, inclusion, and increased morale.

Famous servant leaders:

  • Martin Luther King, Jr.
  • Mahatma Gandhi
  • Albert Schweitzer

“Everybody can be great… because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  Martin Luther King, Jr.

8. Situational leadership

This is the most versatile of leadership styles because the situational leader can adapt their leadership style based on the needs of their followers or the environment they find themselves. They don’t just pull pieces from other leadership styles, but they use the parts that are most effective for whatever the organization is facing.

Where this type of leadership works:

This style of leadership is an asset in any type of organization thanks to the built-in versatility and ability to react appropriately.

Famous situational leaders:

  • Phil Jackson
  • General George Patton
  • John Wooden

“No one plays this or any game perfectly. It’s the guy who recovers from his mistakes, who wins.”  Phil Jackson

9. Transactional leadership

The transactional leader uses a reward/consequence system to increase the efficiency of existing routines and procedures. The rewards encourage employees to strive for success, while consequences discourage mistakes and failures.

Where this type of leadership works:

This works well where teams are motivated by rewards, and everyone has straightforward task or role.

Famous transactional leaders:

  • Vince Lombardi
  • Bill Gates
  • Howard Schultz

“It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.”  Bill Gates

10. Transformational leadership

Leaders in this style strive to change their followers’ needs and redirect their thinking toward achieving the greater goal. Like charismatic leaders, they lead by sharing their vision and excitement. However, they also focus on motivating and building confidence within their team, attempting to build a corporate culture.

Where this type of leadership works:

This type of leadership style is most effective in organizations that have intellectual team members who do well in interactive environments.

Famous transformational leaders:

  • Oprah Winfrey
  • Steve Jobs
  • Jeff Bezos

“Your work is going to fill a large part of your life, and the only way to be truly satisfied is to do what you believe is great work. And the only way to do great work is to love what you do. If you haven’t found it yet, keep looking. Don’t settle. As with all matters of the heart, you’ll know when you find it. And, like any great relationship, it just gets better and better as the years roll on. So keep looking until you find it. Don’t settle.” — Steve Jobs

Which of these leadership styles resonated with you best?

Most leaders don’t have a predominant style but have characteristics from the other styles they implement into their daily routines.

Which leadership style do you feel you use the most? Take this quiz and share the results below! Mine came out as a democratic leader, which I felt was accurate, although I have traits of some others too!

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