Leading and managing teams isn’t easy. Understanding and developing your own leadership style is vital to managing effectively, helping you to consistently motivate your people and deliver team performance.
Everyone’s leadership style is unique, based on personality, experience, and the situation the leader operates in. However, research shows that types of management styles fit into specific broad categories, based on the characteristics that leaders display. By understanding this and developing your style and behaviour you can dramatically improve performance. This blog therefore explains a range of leadership and management styles that you should explore and consider trying – along with some that you should aim to normally avoid.
Factors that impact your choice of management style
Before we start, there are two big points to flag when it comes to developing your leadership style.
Firstly, most great leaders don’t follow a single style, but combine elements from several, depending on the circumstances and who they are interacting with. For example, if you have a vital deadline looming, even the most democratic of managers might start cracking the whip and adopting a more autocratic management style to get things over the line. Alternatively, you might use different styles with different team members, based on an understanding of what best motivates them to do their best.
Secondly, the leadership style that works best will depend on the organisation, culture, and setting you are in. If you are in a tightly regulated industry such as financial services or healthcare, you need to keep closer control over how your team operates than in a more creative sector, where you can give people free rein in how they complete tasks. Professionals develop their own style and leadership skills, based on these factors.
Exploring the range of leadership styles
A quick internet search brings up hundreds of books, articles, and blogs showcasing a huge number of management styles and leadership approaches, many of which seem very similar. For example, management thinker Daniel Goleman identified six styles of leadership – Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pace Setting and Commanding. So how do you decide which is best for you?
A useful way to cut through the confusion is to think of management styles as being on a line. At one end you have full, autocratic styles used by leaders who rely on orders, control, and micromanagement by fear. At the other you’ve got a complete laissez faire approach where leaders just let everyone get on with their jobs, trusting them to deliver.
Based on this concept, we’re going to explain the benefits and potential drawbacks of 9 types of management style.
- Democratic leadership
Also known as participative leadership, teams and companies are run like a democracy. Everyone has a voice, and leaders are keen to involve everyone in company decisions. This style focuses on building team togetherness and ensuring that everyone feels valued. The only downside is that discussing everything takes time. It can make democratic leaders look indecisive and unable to make decisions for themselves. That means while it can be used effectively most of the time, in critical situations leaders need to switch to more autocratic and commanding methods.
- Visionary leadership
With the visionary management style, leaders have a clear picture of what needs to be done on a strategic level – and the communication skills to get their team on board with it. By engaging them early employees feel motivated and inspired to perform at their best to turn vision into reality. Success requires a great deal of charisma and strong communication skills, however. Fail to convince people about the purpose behind your vision and they won’t engage or help you deliver it.
- Coaching leadership
Coaching leaders are focused on supporting their people, helping them develop their talents and achieve their potential. They have the empathy to recognise employee strengths and weaknesses and the ability to deliver regular, constructive feedback and opportunities to promote growth. While this undoubtedly delivers results in most circumstances, employees have to be open to changing and improving. This style won’t deliver when people just see work as a job to be done, rather than a career to develop. Coaching also takes up a large amount of time, preventing leaders from covering other parts of their role.
- Servant leadership
Servant leaders put their people first. They are focused on building harmonious teams where everyone has a work environment that supports their needs. The idea is that this leads to motivated staff and better performance. Clearly playing close attention to what employees want is a positive characteristic. However, it does come at a cost – focusing solely on staff can neglect the bigger picture and give the impression that the quality of work delivered doesn’t matter. It therefore needs to be used in a balanced way alongside other styles.
- Laissez faire leadership
As the name suggests, the laissez faire manager just lets things happen. They don’t micromanage but trust their people to get on with the job and deliver great performance. Providing autonomy increases motivation and encourages people to use their initiative, all good for creatively solving issues. However, the downside is a lack of control – and it requires your team to be skilled self-starters who can be trusted to perform without supervision.
- Transformational leadership
Transformational leaders inspire their staff to perform effectively by focusing on their needs and supporting them to improve, as we explain in more detail in this in-depth blog. Transformational leaders and their teams are constantly innovating and challenging the status quo. This helps build a strong company culture and motivates employees to be creative. Transformational leaders require a wide range of skills to be successful, but the positive news is that these can be coached and developed through techniques such as 360 degree feedback.
- Transactional leadership
Often seen as the opposite of transformational leadership, transactional (or bureaucratic) leaders motivate staff through a system of rewards and punishments, such as bonuses or overtime. While this can be seen as old-fashioned and uncreative by many, it can be effective in specific situations where routine tasks need to be completed efficiently. For example, if a short-term deadline must be hit, providing overtime pay will motivate people to get work completed. It doesn’t inspire over the long-term however or tap into creativity and innovation within staff.
- Pacesetting leadership
Pacesetting leaders tend to be high achievers who lead by example and ask a lot from their team. They set high or hard to reach goals and expect their people to meet them. Often ruthless, pacesetting leaders use detailed performance metrics to show who is meeting their standards and reward them accordingly. The pacesetting style can work in situations such as sales but brings risks of employees (and managers) burning out through overwork and stress and impacts team harmony through a focus on intra-team competition.
- Autocratic leadership
In many ways autocratic (or authoritarian/commanding) managers fit the stereotype of the old-style, top-down business leader. Autocrats demonstrate strong authority and have total power over the decision-making process – they give orders and their “underlings” defer to them and do what they are told. Autocratic leaders have the final decision on everything. This may work if you have a specific vision and strategy that you need to implement quickly through hard-work or when dealing with a crisis, but doesn’t engage employees or tap into their creativity. It therefore limits innovation, drives away your most creative employees and risks overwhelming your remaining people through constant micromanagement.
As this blog shows, there are good and bad points in every management style. What works will depend on a range of factors, from the personalities involved, company culture, industry, and the situation the business is facing. You should learn how to best lead your teams. It is vital to understand what mix of styles works best for you and then develop the characteristics and behaviours to put it into practice.
Using 360 degree feedback is essential to successful leadership, giving everyone in the wider team the opportunity to help leaders and managers improve their skills and performance. Find out more about how Tivian’s Leadership 360 solution delivers the real data and context leaders require in order to change behaviours, drive improvement and increase engagement here.