How to Identify and Grow Your Leadership Style

Are you using the right leadership style that works best for you and your company? Get a breakdown of the top five style, and when they work best.

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Gallup’s State of the American Manager report, found that only 10% of working people possess the talent to be a good manager. As it turns out, being a natural-born leader doesn’t come naturally to most people. If you aren’t one of the lucky few, it’s important to cultivate the leadership skills needed to be a good manager early on.  
The first step in developing yourself as a manager, is to determine your starting point: what leadership style do you already naturally tend toward? Next is to look at yourself and your team and evaluate whether that style works for both. Ask yourself where you can grow and how your leadership development can parallel your team’s.
First things first, we’ve outlined the top 5 leadership styles as well as the situations where they flourish or flounder:

1. Autocratic

Autocratic leaders have a high-level of control over all aspects of the company and make decisions entirely by themselves. Coming from Greek roots, the word means ‘self-power’ and in this case the leader is the only source of power and possesses total authority.
Autocratic leadership works well for:

  • Employees who require close and constant supervision
  • Smaller companies with few employees
  • Situations when quick decisions are needed

But, doesn’t always work well for:

  • Creative types
  • Growing employees’ skills or responsibilities
  • Companies with a large number of employees
  • Highly-experienced and competent employees

2. Laissez-Faire

With French origins, laissez-faire means ‘allow to do’ and, generally, as the phrase suggests, managers allow employees to do what they want. In this style of leadership, managers have low-levels of control and employees are given freedom to make decisions. The major role of the leader is to provide resources and tools for their employees to succeed.
Laissez-faire leadership works well for:

  • Highly-experienced and trained employees who require little supervision
  • Remote employees
  • Employees who are already passionate and motivated

But, doesn’t always work well for:

  • Growing employees
  • Employees who require direction
  • Employees who lack knowledge or experience

3. Participative (or Democratic)

The idea of a democracy goes back to our Ancient Greek comrades, and generally involves the idea of ‘people ruler,’ from its root words. In a participative or democratic leadership style, the leader values the input of team members.
Democratic leadership works well for:

  • Making employees’ opinions feel valued
  • Getting a number of ideas on the table
  • Utilizing your employees’ expertise

But, doesn’t always work well for:

  • Quick decisions
  • Data-driven decisions
  • Inexperienced teams

4. Servant

As the name implies, servant leaders are primarily servants to their employees, and then leaders. This means that the primary focus is on team members’ growth and well-being. Servant leaders share their power by empowering employees and putting their needs first.
Servant leadership works well for:

  • Empowering employees
  • Helping employees grow
  • Creating solid teams and future leaders

But, doesn’t always work well for:

  • Situations when an authority figure is needed
  • Times when bigger picture thinking that steps back from employee needs is needed
  • Business structures that require leadership to maintain a customer-centric focus

5. Transformational or Charismatic

Leaders that are inspirational, energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate are known as transformational leaders. Transformational leaders often take a bigger picture approach, developing a vision for the company and selling that vision to employees.
Transformational leadership works well for:

  • Employees who need motivation
  • Getting a big picture and getting everyone on board
  • Inspiring and changing people

But, doesn’t always work well for:

  • An organization that doesn’t need transforming
  • An organization that needs to focus on the details, rather than the big picture
  • Employees overwhelmed with relentless enthusiasm

Finding the Style That’s Best for You

So, now that you’ve got a better handle on the major styles of leadership, including when and where they work best, how do you figure out which ones you can incorporate into your skillset? Begin by asking yourself the following two questions:

  1. What are my strengths and weaknesses?
  2. What does my company need the most?

Being a good leader can mean a variety of things depending on your own strengths. For instance, if you’re naturally better at leading from behind, it might be difficult for you to pretend to be autocratic. Such a move might come off as disingenuous and backfire. Rather, it’s important to evaluate what you do best and use that as your leadership starting point.
If your company needs to work on motivation or improve innovation, these needs can help determine what kind of leadership style you should adopt. You don’t want to be leading from behind when your company needs to be transformed.
It’s also important to consider when changes might be necessary to your leadership style. Perhaps, when your startup only had six employees, the autocratic style worked. However, now that you’ve grown to 600, you might need to move away from micromanaging and toward a different leadership style.

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