Leadership comes in many shapes, forms and people. So, let’s put a face to the name of these top seven leadership styles.
Leadership Style #1 Transformational Leader
Often called “blue sky thinkers”, transformational types of leaders are growth minded. They inspire followers through effective communication and create environments of intellectual stimulation and innovation.
Transformational leadership styles focus on using the strength of vision and responding to followers’ needs in order to motivate them towards common objectives. Interestingly, transformational leadership types focus on developing followers into leaders by unlocking personal potential.
Co-founder and editor in chief of the Huffington Post, Huffington cultivates a leadership style and workplace culture that encourages creativity and innovation. She has formed a workplace environment to create satisfied employees including sustainable creativity, introducing mindful practice at work for the wellbeing of all employees.
She believes that great work and creativity doesn’t come from a place of exhaustion and burn out. So, she installed sleep pods in the workplace to make sure employees can rest when they are tired so they can do their best work while awake.
Leadership Style #2 Charismatic Leader
Safe to assume, most of us are familiar with this leadership style. Charismatic leaders create a powerful self-image, so the logic goes that some of the most renowned leaders in the world have at least an element of charismatic leadership.
Charismatic leadership styles rely on motivating followers through sheer force of personality. They rely heavily on positive charm, personality, (eloquent) communication, persuasion and power of conviction.
These types of leaders have the distinct ability to dissect and decipher any inefficiency within an organisation, and then create a vision for problem-solving.
A figurehead of his diverse group of companies under the Virgin Group umbrella, Branson’s personality (along with some mighty-fine business skills) put Virgin on the map.
Branson’s charismatic and entrepreneurial spirit has inspired generations of entrepreneurs to take the necessary risks to realise their dreams. It’s also worth noting Branson has crossovers of transformational leadership when it comes to the inner workings of his company.
Leadership Style #3 Transactional Leader
Transactional leadership styles are relatively “old school” in their approach. In basics, these types of leaders focus on group organisation, a clear chain of command, and use rewards and punishments (i.e. transactions) to motivate followers.
Transactional leaders maintain formal positions of authority, monitoring performance and offering tangible rewards for the work and loyalty of employees.
“If you think your teacher is tough, wait until you get a boss. He doesn’t have tenure.” This pretty much sums up Bill Gates' leadership style.
The business magnate, and co-founder of tech giant Microsoft focuses on strict control of his organisation’s production process (so that its products are well accepted by consumers).
Throughout the growth stages of Microsoft, Gates selected dedicated, hard-working employees, to match his task-oriented, transactional leadership style.
Leadership Style #4 Servant Leader
Servant leadership is an innately altruistic style of leadership. Servant leaders operate in the service of their followers.
This style of leadership focuses on power-sharing models of authority by prioritising the needs of followers and encouraging collective decision-making. They focus on diversity in strategic direction, boosting morale and enriching the lives of their followers.
Mandela hardly needs any introduction. The activist later turned the president of South Africa, drove apartheid into the dust by supporting his community’s vision for the future.
Mandela played an important role in providing leadership to his people before and after independence. His vision focused on the moral commitment to serve, lead change, and aid his fellow community members to reach their full potential.
Mandela was prepared to share his leadership with others, focusing his activism, and later political role, on community building and empowering others to lead social change.
Leadership Style #5 Participative Leader
This leadership style is exactly what it sounds like. The leader makes decisions based on input from their followers and/or team members. Participative leadership styles afford followers the opportunity to participate, exchange ideas freely, and create discussion.
While the leader makes the final call, each employee still has an equal say in strategic direction. And so, lower-level employees are able to exercise a certain level of authority, leaving more room for creative solutions to flourish.
The former Westpac bank CEO, Kelly has claimed that the “old world of autocratic, top-down, leadership styles are gone.” Kelly favours participative forms of leadership, where leaders are prepared to listen to employees and consider new ideas and solutions.
Kelly is most proud of the culture at Westpac under her leadership, with high levels of employee engagement and a focus on employee health, well-being and safety.
Leadership Style #6 Autocratic Leader
The autocratic leadership style is basically the inverse of participative leadership. Autocratic leaders have significant control over followers and rarely (if ever) consider worker suggestions or power sharing.
This hegemonic organisational culture is the definition of old school in its approach to leadership. The leader possesses total authority, with a clear separation between leaders and followers, work is highly structured and regimented, and strategic direction is controlled by the leader. So you may find distinguishing a tyrant from a leader difficult when it comes to autocratic leadership.
The business magnate, author, and magazine publisher owes her success to her autocratic leadership style. Stewart built her empire with meticulous attention to every detail.
She is renowned for being a perfectionist and demands the same of those who work for her. Stewart is also convinced of doing things “the right way” and this translates into her business management style which focuses on highly regimented work structures (determined by Stewart almost exclusively).
Leadership Style #7 Laissez-Faire Leader
Arguably the least intrusive of leadership types. “Laissez-Faire” literally translates to “let them do”. And that’s exactly what Laissez-Faire leaders do with their employees. These leaders afford a great deal of autonomy in decision making and work processes.
They tend to hire experts in their field who they trust to do their work in the best way that way they see fit. Laissez-Faire leaders operate on trust and only enter into the scene to provide guidance and furnish their employees with resources when the need arises.
CEO of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the most successful investors of all time, Buffett employs a “hands-off” leadership style when it comes to his employees.
Buffet chooses highly motivated, capable managers whom he allows full autonomy. Buffet has created a working atmosphere where his employees feel confident and motivated by their extreme latitude.
There’s no set formula for leadership. Leadership styles are as varied as the people leading their organisation (or cause) to victory. So the question is - how to define leadership that suits you and those you lead?
It all comes down to what style works for you and invokes the motivation and innovation of your people. Although, a moment of disclosure, we’d choose Richard Branson over Martha Stewart’s iron fist any day of the week!