Leadership Styles: Choosing the Right Approach for the Situation (2022)

Types of Leadership Styles

There are as many approaches to leadership as there are leaders, from Lewin’s Leadership Styles framework of the 1930s to the more recent ideas about transformational leadership. There are also many general styles, including servant and transactional leadership. Building awareness of frameworks and styles can help you to develop your approach and to be a more effective leader.

From Winston Churchill and Angela Merkel, to Queen Elizabeth I and II, and Martin Luther King, there can be as many ways to lead people as there are leaders.

Fortunately, businesspeople and psychologists have developed useful frameworks that describe the main ways that people lead. When you understand these frameworks, you can develop your own approach to leadership, and become a more effective leader as a result.

In this article and video, we'll highlight some of the common approaches to leadership that you can use. We'll also look at some specific styles of leadership, and we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of each.

If you're looking for a broader discussion of what makes a leader – or not – read our guide to What Is Leadership?

Click here to view a transcript of this Leadership Styles video.

Useful Leadership Style Frameworks

So, let's look at some useful approaches – shown mainly in the order they appeared – that you can use to become a more effective leader. Your own, personal approach is likely to be a blend of these, depending on your own preferences, your people's needs, and the situation you're in.

(Video) 5 Different Types of Leadership Styles | Brian Tracy

Lewin's Leadership Styles

Psychologist Kurt Lewin developed his framework in the 1930s, and it provided the foundation of many of the approaches that followed afterwards. He argued that there are three major styles of leadership:

  1. Autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their team members, even if their input would be useful. This can be appropriate when you need to make decisions quickly, when there's no need for team input, and when team agreement isn't necessary for a successful outcome. However, this style can be demoralizing, and it can lead to high levels of absenteeism and staff turnover.
  2. Democratic leaders make the final decisions, but they include team members in the decision-making process. They encourage creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. As a result, team members tend to have high job satisfaction and high productivity. This is not always an effective style to use, though, when you need to make a quick decision.
  3. Laissez-faire leaders give their team members a lot of freedom in how they do their work, and how they set their deadlines. They provide support with resources and advice if needed, but otherwise they don't get involved. This autonomy can lead to high job satisfaction, but it can be damaging if team members don't manage their time well, or if they don't have the knowledge, skills, or self motivation to do their work effectively. (Laissez-faire leadership can also occur when managers don't have control over their work and their people.)

Lewin's framework is popular and useful, because it encourages managers to be less autocratic than they might instinctively be.

The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid

The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid was published in 1964, and it highlights the most appropriate style to use, based on your concern for your people and your concern for production/tasks.

With a people-oriented style, you focus on organizing, supporting, and developing your team members. This participatory style encourages good teamwork and creative collaboration.

With task-oriented leadership, you focus on getting the job done. You define the work and the roles required, put structures in place, and plan, organize, and monitor work.

According to this model, the best style to use is one that has both a high concern for people and a high concern for the task – it argues that you should aim for both, rather than trying to offset one against the other. Clearly, this is an important idea!

Path-Goal Theory

You may also have to think about what your team members want and need. This is where Path-Goal Theory – published in 1971 – is useful.

For example, highly-capable people, who are assigned to a complex task, will need a different leadership approach from people with low ability, who are assigned to an ambiguous task. (The former will want a participative approach, while the latter need to be told what to do.)

With Path-Goal Theory, you can identify the best leadership approach to use, based on your people's needs, the task that they're doing, and the environment that they're working in.

Six Emotional Leadership Styles

Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee detailed their Six Emotional Leadership Styles theory in their 2002 book, "Primal Leadership."

The theory highlights the strengths and weaknesses of six common styles – Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and Commanding. It also shows how each style can affect the emotions of your team members.

Flamholtz and Randle's Leadership Style Matrix

First published in 2007, Flamholtz and Randle's Leadership Style Matrix shows you the best style to use, based on how capable people are of working autonomously, and how creative or "programmable" the task is.

(Video) Choose the leadership style that fits the person and task | Situational Leadership in CI practice

The matrix is divided into four quadrants – each quadrant identifies two possible styles that will be effective for a given situation, ranging from "autocratic/benevolent autocratic" to "consensus/laissez-faire."

Transformational Leadership

The leadership frameworks discussed so far are all useful in different situations, however, in business, "transformational leadership" is often the most effective style to use. (This was first published in 1978, and was then further developed in 1985.)

Transformational leaders have integrity and high emotional intelligence. They motivate people with a shared vision of the future, and they communicate well. They're also typically self-aware, authentic, empathetic, and humble.

Transformational leaders inspire their team members because they expect the best from everyone, and they hold themselves accountable for their actions. They set clear goals, and they have good conflict-resolution skills. This leads to high productivity and engagement.

However, leadership is not a "one size fits all" thing; often, you must adapt your approach to fit the situation. This is why it's useful to develop a thorough understanding of other leadership frameworks and styles; after all, the more approaches you're familiar with, the more flexible you can be.

Specific Leadership Styles

As well as understanding the frameworks that you can use to be a more effective leader, and knowing what it takes to be a transformational leader, it's also useful to learn about more general styles, and the advantages and disadvantages of each one.

Let's take a look at some other styles of leadership that are interesting, but don't fit with any of the frameworks above.

Note:

Remember, not all of these styles of leadership will have a positive effect on your team members, either in the short or long term. (See our article on Dunham and Pierce's Leadership Model for more on how your actions as a leader will affect your team.)

Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders follow rules rigorously, and ensure that their people follow procedures precisely.

This is appropriate for work involving serious safety risks (such as working with machinery, with toxic substances, or at dangerous heights), or with large sums of money. Bureaucratic leadership is also useful for managing employees who perform routine tasks.

This style is much less effective in teams and organizations that rely on flexibility, creativity, or innovation.

(Video) Leadership Styles Which Type Of Leader Are You Autocratic Democratic Laissez-faire Leadership Styles

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership resembles transformational leadership: both types of leaders inspire and motivate their team members.

The difference lies in their intent. Transformational leaders want to transform their teams and organizations, while leaders who rely on charisma often focus on themselves and their own ambitions, and they may not want to change anything.

Charismatic leaders might believe that they can do no wrong, even when others warn them about the path that they're on. This feeling of invincibility can severely damage a team or an organization, as was shown in the 2008 financial crisis.

(Video) 9 Leadership Styles in Management | And How to Find Yours | KG Butler

Servant Leadership

A "servant leader" is someone, regardless of level, who leads simply by meeting the needs of the team. The term sometimes describes a person without formal recognition as a leader.

These people often lead by example. They have high integrity and lead with generosity. Their approach can create a positive corporate culture, and it can lead to high morale among team members.

Supporters of the servant leadership model suggest that it's a good way to move ahead in a world where values are increasingly important, and where servant leaders can achieve power because of their values, ideals, and ethics.

However, others believe that people who practice servant leadership can find themselves "left behind" by other leaders, particularly in competitive situations.

This style also takes time to apply correctly: it's ill-suited to situations where you have to make quick decisions or meet tight deadlines.

Transactional Leadership

This style starts with the idea that team members agree to obey their leader when they accept a job. The "transaction" usually involves the organization paying team members in return for their effort and compliance on a short-term task. The leader has a right to "punish" team members if their work doesn't meet an appropriate standard.

Transactional leadership is present in many business leadership situations, and it does offer some benefits. For example, it clarifies everyone's roles and responsibilities. And, because transactional leadership judges team members on performance, people who are ambitious or who are motivated by external rewards – including compensation – often thrive.

The downside of this style is that, on its own, it can be chilling and amoral, and it can lead to high staff turnover. It also has serious limitations for knowledge-based or creative work.

As a result, team members can often do little to improve their job satisfaction.

Key Points

In business, transformational leadership is often the best leadership style to use.

However, no one style of leadership fits all situations, so it's useful to understand different leadership frameworks and styles. You can then adapt your approach to fit your situation.

(Video) HOW TO ANSWER: What’s Your Leadership Style? (Interview Question & TOP-SCORING ANSWER!)

FAQs

What is your leadership style best answer? ›

Example Answer #1:

“I would describe my leadership style as direct, and leading by example. I enjoy delegating tasks and taking the lead on projects, but I also like to stay involved and inspire my team by showing that I'm working hands-on to help them, too.

What is the best leadership style for all situations? ›

Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles. This is because it allows lower-level employees to exercise the authority they'll need to use wisely in future positions.

What are the situation approaches to leadership? ›

The situational approach to leadership asserts that there is no one best way to lead others and emphasizes that a leader's style and behavior should depend on the characteristics of his or her followers.

What are the factors you will consider in choosing your leadership style? ›

All leaders should be in tune with four key factors of leadership: the led, the leader, the situation and the communication. All four factors must always be considerations when exercising leadership, but at different moments, they affect each other differently.

How can you describe yourself professionally examples? ›

Sample answers:

I am a hard-working and driven individual who isn't afraid to face a challenge. I'm passionate about my work and I know how to get the job done. I would describe myself as an open and honest person who doesn't believe in misleading other people and tries to be fair in everything I do.

Which leadership style is most effective and why? ›

1. Authoritative Leadership. The authoritative leader knows the mission, is confident in working toward it, and empowers team members to take charge just as she is. The authoritative leader uses vision to drive strategy and encourages team members to use their strengths and emerge as leaders themselves.

Which leadership style is most suitable when there is less time for decision making? ›

Authoritarian (Autocratic) Leadership

While authoritarian leadership sounds stifling, it has its place: it's best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision making, or when the leader has expertise that the rest of the group does not.

Which type of leadership style is most helpful in emergency situations? ›

Authoritarian leadership (“Do as I tell you!”)

This style is particularly recommended in emergency situations where quick action is required.

What do you mean by situation approach? ›

The situational approach suggests that any individual has the potential, given favorable present environmental circumstances, to commit a crime regardless of their psychological disposition.

Which approach is also referred as situation approach? ›

The contingency approach, often called the Situational Approach is based upon the premise that all management is essentially situational in nature. All decisions by managers will be affected (if not controlled) by the contingencies of a given situation.

Why is situational leadership important? ›

Successful leaders who use the situational leadership approach influence team members in order to achieve the optimal strength of the team. When the team is optimized, collaboration becomes a means to get creative collectively and make valuable innovations that are beneficial to any business.

What is the most important factors that may influence the decision making of a leader? ›

These factors include: past experience cognitive biases, age and individual differences belief in personal relevance and an escalation of commitment as well as the influence what choices people make.

What factors that will influence the choice of leadership styles or Behaviours in workplace situations? ›

Amongst the most important factors that influences the choice of leadership styles or behaviors in workplace situation are related to The Leader, The Subordinates, Institution or Workplace and finally factors related to The Situation and The Environment.

How do you deal with pressure or stressful situations? ›

2. Commit to a Positive Attitude
  1. Decide what you can do. Pinpoint which parts of the situation you have the power to change or influence for the better. ...
  2. Get support. Find someone to talk to about your situation. ...
  3. Care for yourself. Take especially good care of yourself when stress in your life is high.

What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader? ›

  • Respect. as demonstrated by self respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.
  • Making a Difference. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Authenticity. ...
  • Courage. ...
  • Service. ...
  • Humility. ...
  • Wisdom.

How do you become a good leader interview question and answer? ›

Top 20 Leadership Interview Questions and Answers
  1. Tell me/us about the time you demonstrated leadership skills at work? ...
  2. What is your leadership style? ...
  3. Which supporting skills do you think are more important for a leader? ...
  4. How do you manage a conflict situation? ...
  5. What was the hardest decision you have taken as a leader?
21 Jun 2022

How would you describe yourself in 3 words? ›

Example answers for "Describe yourself in 3 words"
  • "I'd describe myself as driven, communicative and reliable. ...
  • "I'm organized, patient and helpful. ...
  • "First, I'm passionate. ...
  • "The first word I'd use to describe myself is approachable. ...
  • "Enthusiastic, confident and friendly are three words I'd pick to describe myself.
3 Jan 2022

How would you describe yourself in one word answer? ›

Sample answer

To describe myself in one word, I'm a very ambitious person. I take up all learning opportunities that enhance my skills and know-how to cope up with failures. I like challenging myself to find creative solutions as quickly as possible and resolve any issues at hand.

How do you define yourself in one word? ›

Best Words to Describe Yourself:
  1. Adaptable.
  2. Adept.
  3. Adventurous.
  4. Affectionate.
  5. Ambitious.
  6. Artistic.
  7. Assertive.
  8. Attentive.
5 Oct 2021

What leadership style is used to maintain a strong control in the department? ›

Authoritarian management styles. The authoritarian management style manages through clear direction and control. It is also sometimes referred to as the autocratic or directive management style. Authoritarian managers typically assert strong authority, have total decision-making power, and expect unquestioned obedience ...

What is the most effective leadership style to motivate staff? ›

In developed nations, the democratic leadership style is one of the most effective. It helps employees feel valued, gives them a sense of ownership over their position, and motivates high productivity. If motivating your team is your goal, you'd be wise to apply principles of the democratic leadership style.

Which leadership style do you think is the least effective and why? ›

Autocratic leadership: It is least effective because an autocratic leader takes every decision, and employees' ideas and input also matter. An autocratic leader does not take any pinion of teams. Employees, in this case, feel unappreciated, demoralized, and undervalued.

In what way must a good leader approach the four different leadership styles? ›

In what way must a good leader approach the four different leadership styles? A good leader must be willing to adopt the style which suits the situation they are in.

Which leadership that always control over his staff and rarely consider the worker suggestions? ›

Autocratic Leadership Style

Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style where the boss has absolute control over decisions in the workplace. Team members are not asked for input; they are expected to comply with all decisions and orders made by their leader.

What leadership style is best for change? ›

Transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership is a leadership style in which leaders inspire their teams and employees to work toward a needed change and guide them to become better versions of themselves.

Which leadership style is in accordance with solving a crisis situation? ›

One of the best leadership styles for managing an external crisis is transformational.

When should situational leadership be used? ›

Leaders evaluate the situation and decide which leadership style is most supportive. Situational leaders tend to stay in close communication with team members. They assess and adjust their approach to provide what's needed to support success. This helps them build strong relationships with the team.

Which type of leadership style is useful in emergency situations when members are new to the workplace or situation or when time is short? ›

Emergency or crisis situations can benefit from transactional leadership if everyone needs to band together and get a short-term goal done quickly. This form of managerial leadership works best if a team needs to execute on a problem, rather than iterate on possible solutions.

What are the situation approaches to leadership? ›

The situational approach to leadership asserts that there is no one best way to lead others and emphasizes that a leader's style and behavior should depend on the characteristics of his or her followers.

How does the situational approach work? ›

The situational approach involves leaders being able to adapt depending on the needs of subordinates. This approach is illustrated by the Situational Leadership II Model developed by Hersey and Blanchard (Northouse, 2013). The theory states that different leadership styles are required in different situations.

What is the basic principle of situational approach? ›

According to the Situational Approach, and to insure that the language that is being taught is realistic, all the words and sentences must grow out of some real situation or imagined real situation. Thus, the meaning of words are tied up with the situations in which they are used.

What is the basic assumption of situational approaches to leadership? ›

Situational theories of leadership work on the assumption that the most effective style of leadership changes from situation to situation. To be most effective and successful, a leader must be able to adapt his style and approach to diverse circumstances.

What are the characteristics of situational approach? ›

Common traits that a situational leader illustrates or is capable of illustrating in the workplace include:
  • Direction. Some teams or organizations require a high level of direction to be successful. ...
  • Flexibility. ...
  • Encourage participation. ...
  • Delegation. ...
  • Regular coaching. ...
  • Honesty.

How does the situation affect leadership? ›

The leaders' perception of the follower and the situation will affect what they do rather than the truth of the situation. The leader's perception of themselves and other factors such as stress and mood will also modify the leaders' behavior.

What is the best leadership style? ›

1. Authoritative Leadership. The authoritative leader knows the mission, is confident in working toward it, and empowers team members to take charge just as she is. The authoritative leader uses vision to drive strategy and encourages team members to use their strengths and emerge as leaders themselves.

How can I improve my situational leadership skills? ›

How to Improve Situational Leadership Skills
  1. Keep Emotions Neutral. “Maintain emotional neutrality to ensure that you approach an employee correctly,” said Bitton. ...
  2. Have Clear Communication. ...
  3. Understand the Team. ...
  4. Learn to Be Persuasive. ...
  5. Be a Problem Solver.
3 Dec 2021

Is situational leadership the best leadership style? ›

Situational leadership defines four development levels, paired with four behaviors, as a way of understanding a person's growth and what is required from a leader to help them move forward. None of these behaviors is the “best,” because all of this is about taking a situational approach.

What are the 4 basic leadership styles? ›

Types of Leadership Styles
  • Autocratic.
  • Democratic.
  • Laissez-faire.
  • Transformational.
14 Mar 2022

What do you say in an interview about leadership? ›

Showcase skills and qualities such as patience, active listening, empathy, positivity, reliability and team building. Example: “While communication skills help me to be a good leader, holding myself accountable is essential to lead by example.

Why do you want to be a leader best answer? ›

Here's a sample answer: I believe I can lead and inspire a team to perform their best and try to accomplish goals. I can achieve this through relationship building, being motivated about the goals, and influencing others around me.

How do you show leadership skills in an interview? ›

How to explain the ways you demonstrate leadership
  1. Review the official job description. ...
  2. Understand the company culture, values, and mission. ...
  3. Identify your areas of strength. ...
  4. Determine relevant skills related to the job description. ...
  5. Explain what you value in leadership. ...
  6. Provide a structured example.
29 Jun 2021

Why is it important to know your leadership style? ›

Why is it important to know your leadership style? An awareness of different styles - and their strengths, weaknesses, and suitability - allows you to work in the way that best lends itself to your personality. This will bring the most benefit to the people you are leading and the organisation you are working within.

What leadership style is used to maintain a strong control in the department? ›

Authoritarian management styles. The authoritarian management style manages through clear direction and control. It is also sometimes referred to as the autocratic or directive management style. Authoritarian managers typically assert strong authority, have total decision-making power, and expect unquestioned obedience ...

What are the main types of leadership style and define each? ›

4 Different Types of Leadership Styles
  • Autocratic or Authoritarian leadership. An autocratic leader centralizes power and decision-making in himself. ...
  • Democratic or Participative leadership. Participative or democratic leaders decentralise authority. ...
  • The Laissez-faire or Free-rein leadership. ...
  • Paternalistic leadership.

What are the qualities of a good leader? ›

Good leaders possess self-awareness, garner credibility, focus on relationship-building, have a bias for action, exhibit humility, empower others, stay authentic, present themselves as constant and consistent, become role models and are fully present.

What are the most important values you demonstrate as a leader? ›

  • Respect. as demonstrated by self respect and respecting others regardless of differences; treating others with dignity, empathy and compassion; and the ability to earn the respect of others.
  • Making a Difference. ...
  • Integrity. ...
  • Authenticity. ...
  • Courage. ...
  • Service. ...
  • Humility. ...
  • Wisdom.

Videos

1. Leadership style
(Leadership and Corporate insights)
2. How to Find Your Leadership Style: Crash Course Business - Soft Skills #14
(CrashCourse)
3. What is Situational Leadership? Getting the Best from People, Day-to-Day
(Online PM Courses - Mike Clayton)
4. Situational Leadership Model Explained
(EPM)
5. Vic Wadhwa’s Leadership Styles Guide for Beginners
(Vic Wadhwa)
6. What is your Leadership style
(Mentorslab - VM )

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