Key learning outcomes:

  • Learn the most common leadership styles and their advantages and disadvantages.
  • Identify the leadership styles that help to motivate staff and ensure job satisfaction.
  • Recognise which leadership styles will negatively impact staff morale and engagement.
  • Understand that a leader may adopt more than one leadership style, depending on the circumstances.


Leadership is like any other skill – it takes practice and experience to get the best possible results. Great leaders understand that they must be able to vary their leadership style depending on the situation they are in and who they are working with at the time. Remember, your role as a leader is to support those around you to perform at their best. If you find that you are not seeing the results that you want, it may mean that you need to change your approach. In this article we will outline some of the most common leadership styles and give you some guidance on when to use each style.

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leaders follow the rules and expect others to do the same. They will make decisions without any input from the team. Autocratic leaders are often portrayed in films about the military where lower ranked personnel are expected to follow orders from higher ranked colleagues without a second thought.

This leadership style is most appropriate in the following circumstances:

There may be times when autocratic leadership is useful; however, if used on an ongoing basis, it can lead to a loss of morale and reduced engagement among the team. This style also tends to stifle any opportunity for those around you to develop their own decision-making and leadership skills.[wlm_ismember]

Participative Leadership

This leadership style is also referred to as “democratic leadership”. These leaders retain the final say in decision-making, but actively encourage team members to contribute. This style of leadership tends to lead to high levels of productivity and job satisfaction. Participative leaders offer guidance, but also work in with the team.

You can use this style of leadership when:

Participative leadership is known as one of the most effective leadership sty les as it works to build high levels of engagement within the team; however, it is important to understand that it may not be the most appropriate when quick or critical decisions need to be made.

Laissez-faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leaders offer support and guidance when asked, but otherwise let the team make their own decisions. They offer those around them a high level of autonomy and this can lead to increased levels of job satisfaction and employee engagement. A cohesive team will increase your business’s productivity.

Use the laissez-faire leadership style when:

While this style can be effective under certain circumstances, there can be problems if the team are not capable of managing their own time and workflow. It is not appropriate unless the team is highly skilled and motivated. It is important to note that this leadership style may evolve when a leader does not have control over the team.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leaders inspire those around them through the power of their personality. They tend to be highly passionate and energetic and have a high level of self-belief. You will see charismatic leaders achieve high levels of productivity through their ability to motivate others to act. Entrepreneurs and high-profile leaders will often display this style of leadership.

Charismatic leadership can be appropriate when:

The downside of a charismatic leader can be that success is often dependent on the leader remaining with the group; should they leave, the team may not have the ability or confidence to move forward. Another thing to be aware of is charismatic leaders can have a tendency to be over-confident and this can lead to high-risk decisions.

Servant Leadership

A servant leader is one who puts the needs of the team above all else. They tend to let others take the credit and will involve the whole team in decision-making. A “servant” can be anyone who meets the team’s needs regardless of their level or position.

Servant leadership is appropriate when:

Servant leadership can lead to high levels of job satisfaction as it puts people before business. However, it should be noted that servant leadership is not appropriate when quick or critical decisions need to be made.

Transactional Leadership

This style of leadership works on the premise that when someone agrees to join the team, they automatically agree to follow the leader. In an employee–employer relationship, the transaction is the compensation that is paid when the agreed tasks or duties are performed.

Transactional leadership can be beneficial:

Transactional leadership can be useful in situations where incentives can lead to higher levels of performance, especially when used on a short-term basis. The downside is that this style of leadership, if used on an ongoing basis, can lead to lower levels of job satisfaction and employee engagement. It also tends to stifle creativity and does not encourage decision-making or self-leadership.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders have the ability to motivate others through communication of a shared vision for the future. They set high standards for others, but hold themselves accountable as well. They set clear goals and have an ability to get the best from those around them.

Use transformational leadership:

Transformational leadership is considered to be the most effective in business; however, it should be noted that it relies on everyone in the team giving their best effort. It can lead to high levels of employee engagement and high productivity when there is a shared commitment to a common goal.


The key to being a great leader is having the ability to use more than one leadership style. You may find that you tend towards one particular style, but there will be times when you should consider another approach to enable you to get the best possible results.[/wlm_ismember]

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