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Image Source: Startup Iceland

It’s not easy being a leader. One has to deal with expectations from the organization, team members and ones own self. A good leader tries maintain a good balance between the three by drawing on his skills and experience. This makes leadership a very personal affair and there can be as many leadership styles as there are leaders. However, over time, and based on patterns, leadership styles have been broadly categorized into six distinct styles. There is no right or wrong style when it comes to leadership. Even within an organization, different departments might require different styles of leadership and one may have to change styles based on a particular situation. There is no ‘one size fits all’.

The six leadership styles mentioned below are a guide for any leader to understand the pros and cons of each approach, and formulate his/her own style accordingly.

1. Laissez-Faire

This style of leadership involves giving a lot of freedom to team members in terms of how they do their work and set their deadlines. Feedback and advice is given only when needed. This style provides for a lot of autonomy and also can lead to high levels of job satisfaction among employees. On the flip side, if the team is not able to manage their time well or is not self motivated to get the work done, the overall production will be greatly affected. It works best if the team members are highly trained, well skilled and individually responsible in their approach to work.


2. Autocratic

Autocratic leaders are the ones who make decisions without consulting their teams. This style of leadership gives complete power to the leader to decide and impose decisions on the rest of the team. This unidirectional approach can have a demoralizing effect on the team members. It however works well when decisions need to be made quickly and the team input is not a necessary factor for a successful outcome.


3. Transactional

This style leadership relies on setting tasks by the the management and the team together. The management rewards those who complete the tasks and ‘punishes’ those who fall short. This style provides a lot clarity to team members about what is expected of them and works well for an incentive-driven environment. The downside is that it can seem amoral at times and may not go well where knowledge-based or creative work is required.


4. Democratic

Also known as Participative style of leadership, a leader following this style values inputs from the team members and involves them in the decision making process. Though the final decision is made by the leader, the process of inclusive decision making results in team members feeling that their opinions matter. This style encourages creativity, and people are often highly engaged in projects and decisions. However, this leadership style does not work when quick decisions need to made, usually during times of crisis.


5. Pacesetting

The Pacesetting style sets a high standard of performance, both for the leader and the team. Here, the leader leads by example, is a stickler for doing things faster and better, and expects the same from the team members. It works great when the team is already motivated and skilled. It is better to use this style only when required as it can overwhelm team members and reduce the morale of those who can’t keep up with the pace.


6. Transformational

It is considered to be one of the best leadership styles. A transformational leader has a shared vision of the future and uses effective communication as a tool to reach out to his team. This leader inspires his team and expects the best from everyone while showing accountability. Some of the qualities of such a leader include being self aware, empathetic and humble. The result is high productivity and engagement.