Everyone has a leadership style. Whether you’re in charge of 10 people, 10,000 people, or just yourself, the way you manage is based on your personality and how you communicate with others.

Those traits can be improved over time, once you nail down your personal style. When some leaders fall short, it’s because of a lack of understanding of the relationship between themselves and their team. Familiarizing yourself with the advantages of the different leadership styles and knowing which ones are best suited to you, will make you a better leader.

In this article, we’ll look at the four most common leadership styles, then discuss how to find and develop yours.

Types of leadership styles

Just like personality types, leadership styles don’t have a “one size fits all” category. Instead, they can be categorized based on characteristics, including things like autonomy and flexibility. In the real world, leadership styles will include parts from each of these different categories and will adapt to fit the business place.

Let’s take a look at the four most common leadership styles and how they can influence a business's success.

1. The Authoritarian

In an autocratic environment, the leader makes decisions without input from the rest of the team. It’s a highly authoritarian leadership style that can demoralize employees in the wrong situation. However, autocratic leaders make decisions quickly and confidently, which makes them great assets in a crisis. If you’re an authoritarian leader, focus on finding a balance between making executive decisions and trusting your team to give insights and feedback.

2. Participative leadership 

Leaders with a participative style value their colleagues’ opinions. They open up most decisions for debate, which helps employees feel valued and appreciated. In some cases, participative leaders can seem indecisive, because sometimes they don’t trust their own ability to reach conclusions, and these leaders can improve their effectiveness by learning to make quick decisions in critical circumstances.

3. The Delegator 

Two types of delegator leaders exist. Intentional delegation leaders believe in giving their employees autonomy and creative freedom. They let workers set their own schedules and make decisions. Unintentional delegative leaders, on the other hand, sometimes lack control over their teams.

Leaders who possess the delegating leadership style often work best with employees or team members who can manage and direct themselves, such as those from a satellite/coworking office. However, some employees need more direction than others and might struggle to keep up with the team under a delegation leader.

4. The Transformationist 

Transformational leaders are there to energize teams and sell a company’s vision. Using empathy, enthusiasm, and praise, they encourage individual workers to achieve their objectives, create new ideas, and improve their outcomes. Under a transformational leader, employees feel empowered and loyal, though in larger companies this style of soft leadership can sometimes appear distant or insincere.

Develop your leadership style

To become a great leader, you need to know which qualities to develop as you lead your team. This qualities list includes several personal and professional traits that can help you communicate more effectively, develop and reach goals, and relate to other team members.

Able to Focus

Effective leaders need focus and concentration to keep their teams on the path to success. They’re able to concentrate on one task for long periods of time, and they don’t let themselves get distracted. Visionary leaders can often refine a thought or idea without losing sight of the end goal.

Having Great Communication

Teams need to hear feedback if they’re going to learn and grow. Great leaders know how to communicate with their employees effectively, whether they’re giving tasks, offering constructive criticism, or explaining an idea or goal. Leaders who never or rarely issue praise can foster a competitive and resentful workplace environment. Positive feedback helps employees know when they’re on the right track.

Having Confidence

A great leader possesses enough confidence to make decisions and set boundaries, but also has the patience to walk team members through a process or wait for the team to realize a goal. While extreme confidence can easily lead to mistakes, patience helps temper the confidence without neutralizing it. Additionally, a leader who exhibits patience can help struggling workers push through obstacles and learn new skills.

Is Flexible

In any business, change happens. Revenues rise and drop, brand image improves and falters, and upper management can alter a program’s focus or goal. Leaders prove most effective when they can adapt quickly to new situations and consistently respond to employee needs with flexibility. They’re willing to work toward the organization’s needs instead of just their own.

Is Honest 

While full transparency can have a negative impact on an organization, good leaders know when to share their feelings openly and honestly. They also know when to share critical information with their team members, even if it might negatively impact them. Some leaders demonstrate honesty and transparency naturally, while others have to work hard to achieve it.

Has Passion

A good leader believes in their organization and wants to see it succeed. Without these qualities, leaders can easily grow disconnected from their position as well as from other team members. Passion helps leaders through rough spots, and drive motivates them to complete undesirable tasks. Both passion and drive can prove contagious, spreading to other people in the office and encouraging them to adopt the same enthusiasm.

Is Decisive

While good leaders know how to ask for feedback and ideas from employees, they also know when to make executive decisions. They keep working toward a goal as long as it makes sense to do so, and they give their opinions when asked.

Know your leadership style

You might not think you have a particular leadership style, but you do. Understanding it begins with an honest self-assessment of the way you approach tasks and interact with the people who work with you.

Once you’ve identified your style, you can better understand how to motivate and talk with employees. You can change your leadership style by focusing your energy on the exact leadership skills your business needs.

Tips for choosing your leadership style

Choosing which leadership style is best for you depends on a ton of variables, including everything from furthering your career to the goals and vision of your company. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when choosing.

1. Understand your natural leadership style

Speak to people you’ve worked with or managed in the past for a frank assessment of your strengths and weaknesses to see which style you’re most aligned with.

2. Take small steps toward change

Leadership styles are deeply rooted in our personalities, so any change to the way you interact and lead your team will feel odd at first. Be intentional with your actions and pay attention to what works and what doesn’t. 

3. Be flexible

The leadership styles listed above aren’t set in stone and don’t have to be one or the other. Today’s leaders must adapt to suit the ever-changing workplace, picking and choosing traits from different leadership styles to manage teams better. Be responsive to your employees’ expectations and always be ready and willing to change.

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