What’s your leadership style?

Last updated on 19 October 2022

An effective leader can create a positive workplace culture for all staff. [Source: iStock]

Whether you are the Chief Executive Officer (CEO), a General Manager, or a team leader, your role is to inspire, motivate and guide others for the betterment of your organisation. Your leadership style will play a key part in that process and understanding the type of leader you are can make sure you’re working to your strengths.

Leadership is simply defined as “the action of leading a group of people or an organisation”, but in reality there is much more to it. 

There are direct outcomes of poor leadership that can impact operations, such as high staff turnover, poor workplace culture or below average delivery of services.

But an effective leader can create a positive workplace culture where staff retention and attraction is high, services are delivered to a high standard, and everyone has a chance to flourish.

The different types of leadership

Understanding the different leadership styles and identifying which one most describes you as a leader will help you become more self-aware of your strengths and potential weaknesses. It can help you recognise leadership traits in colleagues and staff that could benefit your service delivery.

You can also acknowledge your own leadership methods, behaviours and expectations, to guide and inspire staff while maximising your organisation’s potential through high quality management.

You may not be one specific type of leader; your leadership style may be a combination of different types which indicates you can be adaptable and fluid depending on the situation.

These are the most common types of leadership styles and their strengths and weaknesses.

Democratic leadership

A democratic leader takes on the opinions of others when making decisions or delegating tasks. You are likely to be inclusive with strong communication skills and the belief that shared responsibility is an important aspect of leadership. 

Democratic leadership is also referred to as participative leadership, a name reflecting its collaborative nature. 

Strengths – You are open to discussion, want to empower others and recognise the importance of teamwork, especially when it comes to problem solving. 

Your strengths in leadership also extend to being able to acknowledge the experience and limitations of others. You can recognise learning opportunities and must be able to confidently lead.

What to watch out for – Some democratic leaders may struggle with making the final decision, so be careful that you do not delegate too much responsibility or take the word of others to make every decision. When important decisions require quick thinking, you need to be able to step up.

Transformational leadership

A transformational leader is focused on growth and evolution. This is the perfect leadership style for a team leader training new staff, or a person in senior management that has just taken on a new challenge.

Your goal is to elevate an organisation and tap into the full potential of staff and resources. 

Strengths – A critical mind allows you to assess strengths and weaknesses quickly, while you are never short-sighted when setting out timelines and tasks. You enjoy a hands-on approach that inspires others. 

What to watch out for – It is crucial you do not lose sight of the here and now. Some transformational leaders may get caught up in growth and new opportunities that put existing success under pressure.

Laissez-Faire leadership

Laissez-faire is a French saying that means allow to do or let them do. This is a delegative leadership style where you give more authority to staff and rarely intrude or micromanage.

Strengths – If you have an experienced and highly skilled team, your ability to trust and support them where needed is crucial. You will have a positive attitude and can remain engaged with staff development without having to intrude.

What to watch out for – If you have a more inexperienced team, you are at risk of missing opportunities for support and growth. Staff may feel as though they are not supported enough without regular guidance.

Transactional leadership

Transactional leaders believe in an action and reward, or action and punishment, style of management. You incentivise staff through bonuses and rewards as a way to motivate them to achieve targets. 

Strengths – For some, clarity and structure is a highly effective way to work, especially when there are set responsibilities and tasks. You can also identify staff that are committed, hard working and perhaps deserving of more responsibility.

What to watch out for – Not all staff will push for rewards and you may find that transactional leadership causes some people to feel unappreciated. You can also fall into the trap of “punishing” individuals rather than addressing the cause of failure.

Coaching leadership

Arguably the most inclusive leadership style, you likely fit the coaching leadership model if you identify and nurture strengths while maximising team performance and success.

It’s a type of leadership that requires experience and authority as others will look to your actions as guidance.

Strengths – You are hands-on, strategic and can identify weaknesses and like to support staff through mentoring, problem-solving and encouragement. 

What to watch out for – Not everyone can follow in your exact footsteps. It is easy for some leaders to micromanage and indirectly harm the confidence of others by not valuing their contributions or over-coaching.

Strategic leadership

Strategic leaders are often those in management roles. You understand there is a need to balance expectations, performance, finances and growth. A strategic leader is accountable and collaborative, and able to work with various departments and other leaders to achieve the best possible results. 

Strengths – You have the ability to look at the bigger picture, rather than other leadership styles that are more individual focused. You recognise the importance of collaboration and teamwork for mutual benefit.

What to watch out for – You do not want to take on too much responsibility without delegation. Too much responsibility and pressure can lead to burnout, which can impact those around you who are looking for your support.

The makings of a good leader

There are common strengths that make a good leader, such as the ability to set a positive standard and support others to learn. And although your attitude towards leadership may suit one style over another, you recognise that there are times when you need to be flexible.

It is also never too early or late to make changes to your leadership style. Taking on feedback means you can show others there is always room to grow and develop. If you are continually improving your own leadership, then others will always look to you for guidance.

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