If you want to get ahead in business or any other field, you’ll likely need leadership qualities. It’s a rare person who succeeds without ever having to lead or motivate others. The good news is, leadership is far more a skill than it is an innate talent. You can learn to lead. And that begins by understanding the different types of leadership styles—and knowing which is right for your personality, industry, and career goals.
The most common leadership styles are:
Often considered the gold standard of leadership styles, transformational leadership focuses on inspiring your team members and providing them with the coaching they need to excel without a lot of supervision or micromanaging. It’s a particularly good style in any field that relies on innovation.
Transactional leaders are all about incentives and disincentives. If your people perform well, you reward them (with bonuses, better offices, awards, etc.). If they perform poorly, you punish them (with withholding of bonuses, demotions, privilege revocations, etc.). While many leaders, especially in the sales world, are transactional in their style, it tends to be ineffective in less competitive settings.
Autocratic leaders make all the decisions and expect obedience. They tend to be micromanagers and don’t like to be questioned. Under this leadership style, team members’ creative solutions to problems may be overlooked and team morale can be impaired.
Leaders who are democratic prefer to lead by consensus. They often listen carefully to the ideas of team members and use that input when making decisions. If you have a talented team, democratic leadership can help ensure you don’t miss the best ideas.
Best described as hands-off, laissez-faire leadership lets team members more or less do as they please. It’s a style that can lead to a lot of problems unless you have a unique kind of team capable of staying motivated and making good decisions with little oversight or coaching.
Leaders who adopt a charismatic style rely on the force of their personality to motivate their team. Charismatic leaders are charming, and people often want to work for them and impress them. If you have natural charisma, this style can be useful. But it can also leave teams under-coached and incapable of performing well without your presence.
Leaders who are situational change up their style to fit current needs. Only the most skilled leaders can successfully change styles without creating complications, but situational leadership can be a good way to lead, especially if you’re overseeing a large team or a wide variety of projects in multiple locations.
So, which kind of leader are you? And what kind of leadership style should you learn to use? For many, developing the right leadership qualities takes time. And it takes learning about leadership from a program like Walden University’s Graduate Certificate in Leadership or our more expansive MS in Leadership. The more you know about leadership, the more likely it is that you can succeed in a leadership role.