leadership styles

The 3 fundamental leadership styles. Examples and when to apply each style.

You cannot be a great leader. You are not even a mediocre leader if you don’t know the various leadership styles. The reason is that different teams and situations require you to adapt your leadership style to succeed.

This blog post will teach you the main leadership styles and when to apply each.

What is leadership?

Leadership is the ability to inspire a team to achieve a certain goal. ” Tony Robbins

You might want to read also my post about leadership vs management.

What are leadership styles?

Leadership styles are methods and behaviours when motivating, managing, and directing other individuals. In a 1939 study, a psychologist named Lewis and his research team found that a leader’s personality is less important than the leadership style used. Thus this is the reason why it is essential to know the different leadership styles because although you have a natural style, you will also need to be sufficiently malleable to apply other styles if the situation requires.

Why is it important to know the main leadership styles?

You will naturally gravitate to a particular or a combination of multiple styles, but depending on the characteristics of your team, you must adapt. A less experienced team might require a more active presence, whereas a more senior team might require less oversight and help. Applying the wrong leadership style will inevitably create frustration and conflict.

What are the main leadership styles?

In 1939, a psychologist named Kurt Lewis and his research team conducted a study to identify the basic leadership styles and their impact on leading groups of individuals. They identified three basic leadership styles Authoritarian (Autocratic), Participative (Democratic), and Delegative (Laizzez-Faire). This study is the basis for leadership styles and has been a reference since then.

Without further ado, these are the main leadership styles:

Authoritarian Leadership

In this style of leadership, the leader makes all the decisions himself. Communicates them to the team members to execute them. The team members don’t have much autonomy. The future is uncertain because they would need to wait for the leader to tell them what to do. The leader decides how to split the work between team members and who will work on what. 

Although this leadership style doesn’t mean toxic or hostile behaviour, instead is most of the time a need to control and command everything.

Top 3 positive aspects of this style

  1. Usually effective with more junior members who need more guidance and direction.
  2. It might create faster execution if applied correctly and in the right situations since the way forward is only the leader’s responsibility.
  3. The decisions or knowledge doesn’t need to be all present the leader can make decisions with a small group of trusted peers. However, it is the leader’s sole responsibility to make decisions faster.

Top 3 negative aspects of this style

  1. Difficult to produce results with more senior members as they would like more autonomy.
  2. When applied to the wrong team setup can create resistance to execution.
  3. There isn’t much discussion about alternative solutions; the execution tends to depend on the leader’s capacity and not the team’s.

Participative Leadership

This leadership style is also known as Democratic. It is a much more collaborative style. The group makes all the decisions with encouragement and support from the leader. The group has full autonomy to discuss the problems and find solutions. In case of challenges, the leader, if requested, can provide alternative solutions. Work is split into tasks and assigned to each team member by group decision. The leader in this style should be “objective” and “fact-minded” in praise and criticism. 

The leader has enough participation in the teamwork. However, he doesn’t do much of the team’s work himself.

Top 3 positive aspects of this style

  1. Works well with relatively experienced leaders and a mix of senior and junior team members
  2. It can be effective on junior teams or non-creative domains
  3. The team makes decisions, reaching consensus; therefore, it is also easier to get the majority of team members accountable for achieving results

Top 3 negative aspects of this style

  1. The team can start to depend on the leader due to his presence if the leader doesn’t have sufficient experience to enforce boundaries.
  2. Depending on whether the leader is present, the team might be delicate to a more authoritarian or delegative environment.
  3. Reaching a consensus among everyone might take time.

Delegative Leadership

On the other side of the Authoritarian style is the Delegative style. The team have all autonomy for how to organize themselves. Make decisions without any participation of the leader. The leader provides support material to the team but doesn’t participate in the discussions or work. However, making himself available to give more support materials if needed. Feedback on the team and individual’s performance is uncommon and only done if asked. The leader doesn’t attempt to participate or interfere in the group activities.

Top 3 positive aspects of this style

  1. High creative and performant teams can make their decisions and operate in the leanest way.
  2. This style scales better as there isn’t a dependency on the leader’s knowledge.
  3. If applied correctly, team members should feel valued as the leader demonstrates trust in their ability to self-organize.

Top 3 negative aspects of this style

  1. Team performance might be at risk as the leader is not effectively communicating what the company and team goals are
  2. For the same reason, team development can be limited
  3. If applied to teams with the majority of team members that like discipline and follow steps, it will be challenging for those team members to work without supervision.

How do I know my natural leadership style?

The best way to know your style is to ask for team feedback. It can be direct feedback or even an anonymous survey but asking for feedback is the best way to see as you might create a wrong impression from what you think are your leadership traits and skills.

How do I change my leadership style?

You don’t necessarily need to change your leadership style, but you must adapt from time to time to get the best out of your teams. There will always be traits in your leadership style that will feel more natural to you than others but at the end of the day.

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