Leadership style refers to a leader’s methods, characteristics, and behaviors when directing, motivating, and managing their team.
In 1939, Kurt Lewin identified three basic leadership styles: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-Faire. When we dig into each leadership style, we will see they all have pros and cons.
Autocratic leadership (authoritarian) is when a single leader has complete control over team decisions — rather than consulting team members, they make every decision and are effectively “in charge”. While this leadership style can be beneficial when decisions need to be made quickly, it can also cause resentment as team members’ input is not taken into consideration and does not encourage creativity or growth.
The second leadership style is referred to as a Democratic leader (participative) and is often someone who will ask for and encourage input from their team. This is one of the most effective leadership styles because it encourages everyone to participate in all processes, share their opinions, and can often lead to increased team engagement and productivity. A leader who inspires their team to speak up with ideas and questions is also open to feedback and group discussion. This mindset leaves employees feeling valuable because their opinions are heard, and they are engaged in the decision-making process. Potential negatives of this leadership style can arise if team members do not have a clear role, as it can lead to communication issues and poor decision making.
Lastly, Laissez-Faire leaders (delegative) tend to have a hands-off approach — they expect their team to figure things out on their own and often trust their team to make decisions and manage their workflow. This leadership style can lead to decreased productivity in less determined or less focused teams. They offer little or no guidance and leave decision-making up to the team. The key to using this leadership style is to have a highly skilled, well-trained, and dependable team.
It is extremely important to identify what type of leader you are to determine whether you need to make any adjustments. For example, you may need to modify your leadership style depending on company values and the needs of your team. Your leadership style may also vary depending on the team member and even the task at hand. Remember, leadership styles can vary depending on the situation, goal, and team — you may have people who need more direction and others that work better on their own. Regardless, the goal is to drive your team to success, increase productivity, and draw on individual strengths and weaknesses.
Knowing your leadership style and applying it to your team and the situation given can be very productive if navigated properly. As you develop your team, try and understand their style and leverage it to achieve the goals and mission of the organization.
Written by Tracy Neal