A leadership style refers to a leader’s characteristic behaviours when directing, motivating, guiding, and managing groups of people. Great leaders can inspire political movements and social change. They can also motivate others to perform, create, and innovate.
As you start to consider some of the people who you think of as great leaders, you can immediately see that there are often vast differences in how each person leads. Fortunately, researchers have developed different theories and frameworks that allow us to better identify and understand these different leadership styles.
Here are just a few of the most prominent leadership frameworks and styles that have been identified.
1. Authoritarian Leadership (Autocratic)
Authoritarian leaders, also known as autocratic leaders, provide clear expectations for what needs to be done when it should be done, and how it should be done. This style of leadership is strongly focused on both command by the leader and control of the followers. There is also a clear division between the leader and the members. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group.
Researchers found that decision-making was less creative under authoritarian leadership.
Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group. The autocratic approach can be a good one when the situation calls for rapid decisions and decisive actions. However, it tends to create dysfunctional and even hostile environments, often pitting followers against the domineering leader.
2. Participative Leadership (Democratic)
Democratic leadership, is typically the most effective leadership style. Democratic leaders offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other group members. In Lewin’s study, children in this group were less productive than the members of the authoritarian group, but their contributions were of a higher quality.
Participative leaders encourage group members to participate but retain the final say in the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative. Democratic leaders tend to make followers feel like they are an important part of the team, which helps foster commitment to the goals of the group.
3. Delegative Leadership (Laissez-Faire)
Researchers found that children under delegative leadership, also known as laissez-faire leadership, were the least productive of all three groups.1 The children in this group also made more demands on the leader, showed little cooperation, and were unable to work independently.
Delegative leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be useful in situations involving highly qualified experts, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.
And you, what Leader are you?