Leadership styles: the most common and how to find your style

By Elle Holder

12 min read

Leadership styles: the most common and how to find your style
Illustration by Maya Ramadhina

Just like the captain of a sports team, a leader has to adapt their leadership style to motivate and inspire team members to perform at their best, whether it’s during a game or training session. In an organization, different situations will call for different approaches, so understanding various leadership styles is necessary for leaders to adapt and thrive.

When leaders can recognize the strengths and weaknesses of each style, they’re in a better position to cultivate a skill set that will be useful in diverse challenges and environments.

Briefly, here is a list of the 11 common leadership styles:

Want to know more? Keep reading.

Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership is characterized by centralized decision-making under strict control. In this style, a leader holds sole authority and makes decisions without consulting or involving team members.


  • A military commander giving orders to subordinates without input or discussion
  • A coach dictates strategy and tactics to players without seeking their input
  • A manager making decisions unilaterally without considering input from team members


  • Facilitates rapid decision-making in emergency situations: In critical moments, an autocratic leaders’ ability to make swift decisions without needing consensus can ensure an organization can respond effectively to urgent matters
  • Provides clarity of direction and minimizes confusion: With a clear chain of command and decisive leadership, team members know exactly what’s expected of them, reducing ambiguity and streamlining workflow, which ultimately enhances productivity


  • Can lead to resentment and disengagement: When employees feel marginalized or without power thanks to a lack of involvement in decision-making processes, they may become resentful and disengaged, diminishing morale and overall team cohesion
  • Limits and development of employee skills and autonomy: Autocratic leaders often dictate tasks and micromanage processes, depriving employees of opportunities to learn, grow, and take ownership of their work, ultimately hindering their professional development and autonomy

Democratic leadership

Democratic leadership is also known as participative leadership and involves engaging team members in the decision-making process. Rather than a top-down approach, leaders seek input and feedback from their employees, building a collaborative and inclusive environment.


  • A team leader holds regular brainstorming sessions where everyone has the opportunity to contribute ideas and suggestions for project improvements
  • A manager conducts surveys or polls to gather input from team members on important decisions affecting the department


  • Encourages employee engagement and ownership: By involving team members in the decision-making process, Democratic leadership encourages a sense of ownership and commitment to organizational goals
  • Builds trust and collaboration: Open communication and transparency in the decision-making processes builds trust and collaboration among team members, strengthening relationships and cohesion


  • Potential for conflict: Differing opinions and perspectives may lead to conflicts and disagreements within the team, requiring effective conflict resolution skills from the leader
  • Not suitable for all situations: In certain situations where quick decisions are required when dealing with highly specialized tasks, a more directive leadership style may be more appropriate 

Transformational leadership

This leadership style revolves around inspiring and motivating followers to achieve the extraordinary. They’re able to articulate their vision and create an environment of personal growth and development. Their focus is empowering and uplifting team members.


  • A teacher who inspires their students to excel academically and pursue their passions by instilling in them a sense of confidence and belief in their own abilities
  • A team leader who mentors and coaches an individual team member, providing support and guidance to help them develop new skills and advance in their career


  • Inspires motivation and commitment: Transformational leaders ignite passion and enthusiasm among followers by appealing to their ideals and aspirations, resulting in increased motivation and commitment
  • Develops future leaders: This leadership style invests in the growth and development of team members, creating a pipeline of future leaders who are capable of driving organizational success


  • Dependency on the leader’s charisma: Transformational leadership relies heavily on the leader’s charisma and personal qualities to inspire and motivate followers
  • May overlook operational details: Transformational leaders often focus on the big picture and long-term goals, sometimes overlooking the importance of day-to-day operational details and execution

Transactional leadership

This leadership style operates on the basis of a transactional exchange between the leader and followers, where rewards and punishment are used to motivate performance. Transactional leaders set clear expectations, provide feedback, and reward or discipline followers based on their performance.


  • A manager offers bonuses or incentives to employees who meet or exceed their performance targets
  • A team leader provides recognition or praise to team members who demonstrate exceptional performance or go above and beyond their duties


  • Clear expectations and accountability: Transactional leadership provides clarity by establishing expectations and standards of performance, ensuring that everyone understands what’s required of them and what they’ll receive in return
  • Efficient and results-oriented: This leadership style focuses on achieving specific goals and outcomes, making it well-suited for environments where efficiency and productivity are critical


  • Can be impersonal: This leadership style can create an impersonal relationship between leader and followers since it focuses primarily on rewards and punishment rather than building meaningful connections
  • Potential for resentment dissatisfaction: If rewards and punishment are perceived as unfair or arbitrary, followers may become resentful or dissatisfied, leading to decreased morale and motivation

Laissez-faire leadership

That one got you scratching your head? The French word literally means “allow to do.” Imagine a leader who shrugs, holds up their hands, and casually says, “Do whatever you want to do.” 

Laissez-faire leadership is also known as hands-off leadership, and it’s characterized by minimal interference or direction. Instead of closely supervising or micromanaging, this style of leader delegates tasks and grants autonomy to team members, allowing them to make their own decisions and manage their own work.


  • A manager gives their employees complete freedom to choose their own projects, set their own deadlines, and determine their own work methods
  • A team leader gives members full authority to solve problems and make decisions without seeking approval for guidance


  • Promotes ownership and accountability: By granting autonomy and responsibility, this type of leadership creates a sense of ownership and accountability among team members
  • Allows for flexibility and adaptability: Laissez-faire leadership allows teams to adapt quickly to changing circumstances or unexpected challenges, as team members are empowered to make decisions and take action without waiting for approval


  • Lack of direction and guidance: Without clear direction and guidance from their leader, team members may feel uncertain or directionless, which can lead to confusion and inefficiency
  • Potential for disorganization: This type of leadership can result in disorganization or a lack of coordination, especially when team members work independently without communication or collaboration

Bureaucratic leadership

This style of leadership relies on strict adherence to rules, procedures, and hierarchy. This type of leader maintains control through established systems and processes, ensuring consistency and stability within the organization.


  • A manager follows a set protocol for decision-making, consulting with supervisors and adhering to established policies and procedures
  • A team leader emphasizes compliance with rules and regulations, enforcing strict adherence to deadlines and quality standards


  • Ensures consistency and predictability: Bureaucratic leadership provides a stable and predictable environment by standardizing processes and procedures, reducing ambiguity and uncertainty
  • Facilitates compliance and risk management: Since the emphasis is on rules and regulations, this style of leadership helps ensure compliance with legal and regular requirements, reducing the organization’s exposure to risk and liabilities


  • Inflexible and resistant to change: This leadership style can be rigid and resistant to change, making it difficult to adapt to constantly evolving market conditions or technological advancements
  • Limits autonomy and creativity: With an emphasis on adherence to rules and procedures the style of leadership may stifle creativity and innovation, since employees feel constrained by rigid structures and processes

Charismatic leadership

Charismatic leadership centers around the personality of the leader, who inspires and influences followers through their compelling vision, competence, and charm. It often involves emotional appeal and persuasion to rally team members towards a shared goal.


  • A CEO captivates their employees with inspiring speeches and their vision for the company’s future, motivating them to work passionately towards organizational goals


  • Inspires passion and commitment: Charismatic leaders ignite enthusiasm and passion among their followers, inspiring them to believe in the leader’s vision and work towards shared goals with dedication and commitment
  • Enhances organizational culture: This type of leadership can shape organizational culture by embodying values such as optimism, resilience, and a sense of purpose, creating an inspiring and dynamic workplace environment


  • May overlook practical considerations: These leaders may prioritize inspiration and vision over practical considerations and operational details, leading to potential gaps in implementation and execution
  • Vulnerable to charisma fatigue: Over time, employees can become desensitized to the leader’s charisma, leading to a decline in effectiveness if the leader fails to demonstrate substance or deliver on promises

Servant leadership

Servant leadership focuses on serving the needs of others, prioritizing the well-being and development of teams over personal gain or recognition. Leaders in this style act as servants first, empowering and supporting individuals to reach their full potential.


  • A manager regularly checks in with team members to understand their challenges and provide support and resources to help them succeed
  • A CEO actively listens to employee feedback and incorporates their suggestions and decision-making processes, demonstrating a commitment to serving the needs of the workplace


  • Fosters trust and loyalty: Servant leaders earn the trust and loyalty of their teams and followers by prioritizing their needs and well-being, creating a supportive and caring environment
  • Empowers and develops others: This type of leader empowers individuals to take ownership of their work and development, creating a culture of growth and autonomy


  • Potential for exploitation: Servant leaders may be susceptible to exploitation or manipulation by individuals who take advantage of their selfless nature
  • Vulnerable to perceived weakness: Some individuals may perceive servant leaders as weak or ineffective due to their focus on serving others, potentially undermining their authority and influence within the organization

Situational leadership

Situational leadership involves adapting a leadership style to the specific needs and circumstances of the situation or the employee. Leaders assess the readiness and capability of their team members and adjust their approach accordingly to provide the most effective guidance and support.


  • A manager provides clear instructions and closely monitors a new employee who requires guidance and support to learn their work role effectively
  • A supervisor offers coaching and feedback to a struggling team member who requires additional support and skill development to improve performance


  • Tailored approach: Situational leadership allows leaders to adapt their style to meet the unique needs and abilities of team members or specific situations, maximizing effectiveness
  • Enhances flexibility and agility: Being responsive to changing circumstances and varying levels of readiness among team members, situational leaders promote flexibility and agility within the organization


  • Requires strong assessment skills: Effective situational leadership relies on a leader’s ability to accurately assess the readiness and capabilities of team members and situations, which may require advanced interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence
  • Potential for inconsistency: Constantly adjusting leadership styles based on situational factors can lead to inconsistencies or confusion among team members, requiring clear communication and transparency from leaders

Visionary leadership

Visionary leadership centers on articulating a compelling vision of the future and inspiring others to share in that vision. Leaders in this style are able to paint a vivid picture of what could be — motivating and guiding individuals towards achieving common goals.


  • A CEO communicates a bold and inspiring vision for the company’s future, outlining ambitious goals and strategies to drive growth and innovation
  • A team leader inspires team members with a clear and compelling vision of a project’s objectives and the impact it will have on the organization and its stakeholders


  • Inspires motivation and commitment: Visionary leaders inspire passion and enthusiasm among their followers by articulating an inspiring vision of the future, which creates a sense of purpose and direction
  • Promotes innovation and creativity: By challenging the status quo and encouraging bold ideas, visionary leaders stimulate innovation and creativity, driving change within organizations and communities


  • Risk of unrealistic expectations: Visionary leaders may set ambitious goals and visions that are perceived as unrealistic or unattainable, leading to disappointment or disillusionment if expectations are not met
  • Potential for resistance to change: Individuals may resist or struggle to align with the visionary leaders’ vision, especially if they require significant changes to existing norms, processes, or behaviors

Coaching leadership

This style of leadership focuses on developing individual team members by providing guidance, support, and feedback to help them improve their skills, achieve their goals, and reach their full potential. Leaders in this style act as mentors and coaches, empowering individuals to grow and succeed with personalized attention and encouragement.


  • A manager meets regularly with team members to discuss their career aspirations and development goals, providing constructive feedback and guidance to help them progress in their roles
  • A team leader offers one-on-one coaching sessions to help team members overcome specific challenges or develop new skills that are relevant to their roles


  • Fosters personal growth and development: Coaching leadership empowers individuals to identify their strengths, weaknesses, and development areas, leading to a culture of continuous learning and improvement
  • Enhances performance and productivity: Through targeted guidance and feedback, coaching leaders help individuals maximize their potential and achieve higher levels of performance and productivity


  • Time-intensive: Providing individualized coaching and support to team members can be time-consuming, especially for leaders with large or diverse teams
  • Potential for dependency: Some team members may become overly dependent on their coach for guidance and support, limiting their ability to develop self-reliance and problem-solving skills

How to find your leadership style

It’s not as hard as you might think!

  • To discover your leadership style, begin with self-reflection and self-assessment, identifying your strengths, weaknesses, and values
  • Next, seek feedback from colleagues and subordinates to gain insights into how your leadership is perceived and its impact on others
  • Finally, experiment with different styles, adapting and refining your approach based on feedback and experiences until you find a style that aligns with your personality, values, and organizational context


In conclusion, we’ve explored various leadership styles, from autocratic and democratic to visionary and coaching leadership. Each style offers unique strengths and weaknesses, suited to different contexts and individuals. 

The importance of finding a leadership style that suits you can’t be overstated. It will take self-reflection, feedback, and experimentation before a leader can discover their authentic style, one that resonates with their personality, values, and organizational needs. However, by embracing and refining their unique approach, leaders can inspire, motivate, and empower others to achieve shared goals and drive organizational success.

But keeping your team motivated and engaged can be a daunting task. The key to unlocking your team's potential lies in creating a positive working environment that empowers and motivates them to succeed. 

That's why we've gathered our top 8 ways to help you achieve exactly that. From providing recognition and feedback to fostering open communication and a sense of purpose, these strategies will help you create a culture that motivates employees and transforms your organization. 


Want a tool that powers success across your organization?

Book a demo

Elle Holder

  • Share this:

Add your comments