Styles of Leadership

Any effective leader will create an inspiring vision that their team or followers can share, motivate their team or followers to work toward that vision, bring together team members with varying skill sets to effectively work together, and deliver on their vision through the cooperation of their follow-ship.

Understanding your style of leadership, what kind of leader you are, and your source of authority is the first step in becoming a memorably effective leader.

Leaders and Leaderships Categorized

The difference between a positive leader and a negative leader can be the difference between Emmeline Pankhurst and Virgil Lee Griffin. Both derived their power and authority from the love and admiration of their followers.

Emmeline Pankhurst inspired women to fight for the right to vote, rather than politely ask and wait. She fought tirelessly for a noble cause which she likely knew she would not live to see realized. She fought for the future of women, gave of herself for her cause, and sacrificed her freedom to do so on more than one occasion.

On the other hand Virgil Lee Griffin was a Klansman who was convicted of posing as a policeman and of cross-burning. While holding on to the ideas of the past, he was promoted through the ranks of the KKK during his lifetime. Many men who held similar beliefs followed Griffin as their leader.

Sources of authority are based in charisma, tradition, and rational-legal.

Traditional authority is a source of authority based on the idea of accepting an authority figure because of tradition or history. Monarchies are the most demonstrative example of this type of authority.

We elect our rational-legal authority figures, as in the cases of Senators and U.S. Presidents, because they have a component of charisma. Their source of power is derived from our choice to follow their lead.

But charisma will also lend authority to any position or individual, even when they have no structural, legal, or elected position. We tend to worship charismatic leaders, and often fail to challenge them. For this reason, charismatic leaders often hold the most sway over hearts and minds and can be the most dangerous if they don’t maintain equal skill in self-discipline.

Leadership Styles

No matter the type of leader or the source of their authority, every leader will utilize one (or possibly more) of 7 different leadership styles.

• Democratic
• Autocratic
• Laissez-Faire
• Strategic
• Transformational
• Transactional
• Bureaucratic

Democratic and Strategic leadership styles are the most commonly effective because they openly respect and represent lower-level employees, subordinates, or constituencies on a higher level.

Democratic leaders will involve their subordinates in the decision-making process. Decisions are often made through a series of discussions where differing opinions, philosophies, visions, or goals may be shared. Final decisions are ultimately the responsibility of the democratic leader, both to make and to accept the consequences for.

Strategic leaders are able to balance the requirements and standards of higher management or positions while also maintaining a high quality of standards for work or living for those they lead. They often balance the needs of one group with the needs of another.

The leadership styles that are only sometimes effective are Laissez-Faire, Transformational, and Transactional.

Laissez-Faire essentially means “let them do.” It is sometimes effective because it can empower employees to work from their own ambition and discipline. However, it’s also ineffective at times because many employees, while disciplined, will often lack the ambition to improve.

Transformational leadership depends on motivating people to expand what they’re capable of. It’s a growth-minded leadership style with the downside of allowing leaders to lose sight of what a person’s potential limits or learning curves actually are.

Transactional leaderships will depend on incentivizing people to perform rather than motivating them in some way. The downside for this is that it only encourages “bare minimum” performance.

Rarely effective leadership styles are Autocratic and Bureaucratic.

Autocratic leaders will run their offices or organizations like sweat shops. They rarely value their employees or try to empower them. Autocratic leaders put very little stock in the opinions or advice of their advisors.

Bureaucratic leaders may listen to their employees or subordinates, in contrast to autocratic leaders, but they will often shut down or reject input that exists in contrast to stated policies and practices of an organization or institution.

Autocratic and Bureaucratic leadership styles stifle innovation and inspiration, so they’re not recommended for leaders who are trying to encourage growth or change in some way.

But no matter the leadership style which you ascribe to or naturally lean towards, every leadership style has a time and place. Every leadership style also has its own set of pros and cons. It’s good to know what kind of leadership style will best benefit your institution, organization, or purpose, and also which leadership style you have a natural proclivity for.

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