The 5 Leadership Styles and Which one is the Most Effective
The 5 Leadership Styles and Which one is the Most Effective
In this article we delve into different organisational leadership styles, their traits, strengths, and weaknesses, and explore why leadership is important and which leadership style is the most effective.
I’m going to cover the following:
– What is leadership
– Leadership vs management
– Why leadership matters
– Leadership styles:
- Transformational leadership
- Transactional leadership
- Autocratic leadership
- Laissez-faire leadership
- Situational leadership
– Which leadership style is the most effective?
Let’s dive in!
What is Leadership
Leadership is an individual’s ability to influence, guide and support people around them.
Organisational leaders are the ones thinking ahead and creating organisational vision, which they communicate in a way that inspires and motivates other members of the organisation. They do so with the goal of innovating, by asking what needs to change, and why.
The best organisational leaders drive change in a way that is beneficial to a business in the long-term.
Leadership vs Management
While leadership and management are often considered as overlapping functions, both imply a unique set of characteristics, skills and functions which share similarities, but there are crucial differences between the two. Some managers don’t exercise leadership. Many lead despite not being in a managerial position.
Leadership is about vision and inspiring individuals. A manager’s role is to execute. Both functions are extremely important and needed within organisations of all sizes. If you find qualities of both a leader and a manager in one person, never let them go. You’ve hit the jackpot! If you’re wondering which one you should be, you can stop. You can, and should, be both.
We have a separate post on Leadership vs Management here.
Why Leadership matters
Leadership matters at all levels of the organisation, from team leaders to CEOs.
The ability to influence, inspire and engage people has been linked to creating high performance workplaces (the MacLeod Report by David MacLeod and Nita Clarke).
Leadership is fundamental for driving business innovation and growth:
- It is critical for providing members of the organisation with clear picture of what the business stands for.
- It promotes employee trust and confidence in the business.
- Leadership is responsible for creating an environment where everyone feels safe, supported and empowered to achieve their personal and organisational goals.
The beats leaders strive to shape organisational culture. Considering the impact that good leadership can have on a team and business overall, it is important to understand the how. Ultimately, it’s the leadership style that shapes the culture of an organisation.
So, what are the different leadership styles and which leadership style is the most effective?
As we will explore, some leadership styles are better fit for some teams, depending on the makeup of said teams.
Transformational leaders use charisma to inspire followers to ‘buy in’ to their vision and ethos. They empower their followers to strive for excellence and perform to their best abilities.
Leaders practicing transformational leadership tend to be trusted and respected by their followers. They have the ability to convince those around them to be a part of their journey. Their followers are less motivated by extrinsic incentives and focus on the team’s and organisation’s overall mission instead.
This type of leadership can typically be found within creative environments, where a distinct goal is clear to those invested.
Examples of some of the most successful transformational leaders include Steve Jobs (Apple), Reed Hastings (Netflix), and Henry Ford (Ford Motors).
- Keen employees. Employees want to be part of the leader’s mission – they enjoy being part of the team.
- Encouraging change. Those practicing transformational leadership can make change happen, provided that they can motivate people to join their cause.
- Big-picture focus. Transformational leaders can become carried away with the end goal and forget to focus on the here and now.
- Employee burnout. In this work environment, followers can often put undue pressure on themselves to meet high standards set by them or the people around them. Transformational leaders focused on the ‘big-picture’ can overlook their employees wellbeing, leading to burnout.
Loosely termed as ‘managerial leadership’, transactional leadership is task orientated, using reward and punishment to motivate followers.
It’s considered to be an opposing approach to transformational leadership, instead of bringing followers ‘on board’ with the mission they are motivated extrinsically rather than intrinsically.
When thinking of this leadership style consider the carrot and the stick analogy: the better the performance the bigger the reward, if the performance is bad, expect a punishment.
One of the most notable transactional leaders are Bill Gates, Norman Schwarzkopf, and Howard Schultz.
- Reward – when an individual performs well, they should be rewarded personally. It will encourage them to repeat this behaviour in the future.
- Practical – there are a lot of environments where transformational leadership simply wouldn’t work, this isn’t the case with transactional leadership because reward and punishment can be attributed to many performance measures.
- Validity of motivation – transactional leadership will work if the followers are motivated by the rewards offered or they fear the consequences of not performing. Otherwise, there will see no value in achieving the goals.
- Short term approach – employers who embody transactional leadership often find that they’ll have higher turnover because there is no ethos for their followers to buy in to.
Autocratic Leadership/Authoritarian Leadership
The clue is in the name – autocratic leaders have absolute power over decision making, culture and organisational goals. Generally, when making decisions, these leaders rely on their own knowledge and opinion or a close circle of their trusted peers.
Examples of autocratic leaders include “the Mean Queen”, Leona Helmsley (Hamsley Hotels), Elon Musk (Tesla), and Howell Raines (The New York Times).
- Quick decision making – removing collaboration and communication from the decision-making process means that decisions can be made quicker, making autocratic leadership a good style for individuals that make regular urgent decisions.
- Task focused – as employees and team members are not required to make critical decisions, they can focus on the tasks they are required to do.
- High turnover – human nature dictates that people want to feel as though they are part of a community, and that community’s culture is shaped by their actions. Organisations with an authoritarian culture see a higher employee turnover rates because they don’t get the opportunity to express themselves.
- Micromanagement – authoritarian leaders often want to make all the decisions and can be guilty of micromanaging their employees. This creates a lack of trust between organisational leadership and their subordinates. If a leader doesn’t trust the employee and the employee doesn’t trust the leader or even themselves, a culture of compliance is created. This discourages creativity and initiative.
Laissez-faire leaders have complete trust in their employees to complete their tasks and projects without too much supervision. This is often understood as the ‘hands off’ approach and is commonly found within creative settings where individuals are tasked with solving problems.
Examples of modern-day leaders practicing this type of leadership are Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Queen Victoria, and Warren Buffett (Berkshire Hathaway).
- Empowering – this leadership style challenges employees to come up with solutions on their own, rather than relying on their leaders for direction. This reduces the effects of ‘learned helplessness’, i.e. asking for help before bothering to find the answer yourself.
- Personal Growth – this links to the point above. As employees are looking for solutions on their own, they are learning new skills and gaining understanding on what they need to do to develop and progress.
- Accountability – there is a difference between a Laissez-Faire approach and attempting to avoid responsibility. Whilst avoiding responsibility for the team could be seen as working to its detrimental, it is the ‘leader’ who will suffer the consequences (the quotations representing the fact that people with that kind of an attitude aren’t demonstrating leadership qualities). Leaders are responsible for their teams regardless the leadership style they choose to implement. Neglecting responsibilities leads to consequences sooner or later.
- Vagueness – as laissez-faire leaders often step back and rely on their employees managing their own workload. This can lead to ill-defined roles and neglected tasks.
This style is founded on the belief that leaders should be adaptable and change their approach with the changing work environment. For best results, situational leaders adapt their leadership style depending on circumstantial requirements.
Situational leadership also considers the need to approach various teams in different ways. – One group of people may respond well to a motivational leader while others may not.
A situational leader needs to be able to understand individual members of their team so that everyone can excel. It is important to remember that a leader’s focus should be to get the best out of their team. In theory, situational leadership should be the best practise to do so.
Modern-day situational leaders include Phil Jackson (NBA), Jack Stahl (Coca-Cola), Adobe and BT.
- Flexibility – unlike other leadership styles, situational leadership appreciates the need for flexibility in the workplace. Good situational leaders notice when their leadership style isn’t working and adapt quickly.
- Comfortable work environment – when a leader can assess the needs of their staff well, they are able to create an environment where their staff’s output is optimised.
- Harder than it sounds – One of the biggest issues with situational leadership is that it relies on the leader’s ability to assess the situation well. If the leader misreads a situation or their employees’ maturity level, they can cause more harm than good. Situational leadership is best put to practice by those with years of experience under their belt to guide them.
- Lack of identity and organisational confusion – situational leadership style, the leader will often have different ‘faces’ depending on who it is the are dealing with. It’s very important that different approached don’t stray too far from one another. Otherwise, situational leaders risk mistrust from their teams and, ultimately, disregard for their vision. Consider the fictional characters David Brent or Michael Scott – because neither act as themselves, their staff are not on board with the direction they want the team to take.
Which leadership style is the most effective?
Unfortunately, there is no definitive answer as to which leadership style is the most effective. It’s a highly subjective matter. The answer depends on the team being led and the situation they are navigating.
It is plausible that any good leader is simply benefiting from the quality of the team that they are leading, rather than any unique skills they’re possessing themselves.
The most successful leaders are those that understand their own strengths and shortcomings, and who have an ability to motivate their team members to achieve their personal and team goals.
This wraps up our post on leadership styles. I hope you found it of interest and use.
With that, it’s time to hear what you have to say.
What do you think of these individual leadership styles, and which leadership style if the most effective for you?
Let us know your thoughts!