6 Types of Leadership

What are the different types of leadership and how to identify what is your type or the types of your coworkers?


Mike A. Fagundes

6/17/20236 min read

A group of friends at a coffee shop
A group of friends at a coffee shop

Leadership can be complicated or even simple if you want it to be. It's all up to you and your perception of what leadership looks like and how there are more than one type. So, I have taken the time to list these most common types and styles of leadership. This way you can see all that there are more than just one way to lead someone or your teams. So here is a short list along with the strengths and weaknesses of each type:

Autocratic leadership:

This style of leadership is characterized by a top-down approach, where the leader makes all decisions and gives orders to their team. This is the type of leadership that we see in dictatorships and company founders that have a God complex. Autocratic leaders are very likely to be controlling and have a "My way or the highway," mentality they are seen as not being very open to feedback or suggestions from anyone that they don't respect and feel respected from.

  • Pro

    • Quick and fast decisions are made

    • There is one vision and direction of focus for the teams

  • Cons

    • nothing gets done if the leader is not available

    • teams don't feel appreciated and often these companies can have a higher turnover in staff

Democratic leadership:

If this is your style you take a more collaborative approach, with you seeking input and feedback from your teams before making decisions. The democratic approach leadership style tends to be more open to asking the team for new ideas, and you are most likely to delegate tasks to your teams.

  • Pros

    • Being more inclusive with your teams can build rapport with them

    • Acknowledging your team members for their contributions helps to build the teams bond

    • Hearing all of these ideas from your team who have a front-of-the-lines point of view

      • a great example is "Undercover Boss". A boss of a company goes undercover to work at their front-line stores to meet face to face with their customers, and staff without the fake personalities and 'be at your best behavior' attitudes. These bosses get the 'real stories' from their employees about how it is to work for their company. My favorite episode was when the CEO of Hooters Fired a manager because he would abuse and embarrass the staff.

      • 'Undercover Billionaire' is another show that would take a successful business person they show and prove that if you have the training you can lead a business that they don't own to succeed even without credentials and networks.

    • The team gets more authority to run with their ideas

  • Cons

    • Things can take more time especially if you go as far as to hold a voting process

    • If you are not careful to acknowledge the team members for their contribution to the ideas and solutions generated it could lead to the team losing rapport with you for "stealing" their ideas to make you look good and advance your career.

Laissez-faire leadership:

This style is characterized by a hands-off approach. This is where You as the leader give your teams a lot of autonomy and freedom. Laissez-faire leaders tend to be more trusting of their followers and are more likely to allow them to make their own decisions.

  • Pros

    • Teams feel even freer to be creative

      • teams can grow a deeper bond by working more together in that creative energy

      • teams take more ownership in their work because of making more decisions throughout the project

    • projects get done faster because of not having to be stalled out by needing to check in for every decision that needs to be done as the project progresses

  • Cons

    • teams could create a rift between them and the Laissez-faire leader

      • with not being more active with the creative process you can get more disconnected from the project's progress and the teams themselves.

      • teams start to believe that you don't care about them and create a division between you as the leader and the team.

    • the teams could have too much authority and think that they need to report to you anymore. They start to look internally for a new leader and follow their direction.

    • there could be a loss of direction and focus without the direction of their leader (you).

Transformational leadership:

Shout out to all 'The Gurus' out there! The transformational style of leadership is focused on inspiring (Simon Sinek) and motivating (Tony Robbins) followers to achieve great things. Transformational leaders are often charismatic (like the names mentioned) and have a strong vision for the future of there. company/department/government/people. These leaders are able to connect with their followers on a personal level and inspire them to do their best.

  • Pros

    • the ability to motivate and inspire your teams to achieve more than they ever thought was possible for themselves.

    • able to create a shared vision for everyone to get on board with the vision.

    • are able to empower your teams granting them more freedom to be creative and innovative.

    • are able to build trust and rapport with your teams, which can create higher levels of loyalty, production, and commitment.

    • are able to create a workplace that your teams will enjoy coming to work.

  • Cons

    • can be very demanding on both the leader and the teams.

    • It can be difficult to find the right person who has all the necessary qualities and skills to keep from burning out the leader and the team.

    • can be risky, as it requires leaders to take risks and try new things. This can also be taxing on your teams emotionally.

    • can be time-consuming, as it requires leaders to build relationships with their teams to create and develop a shared vision.

Transactional leadership:

If you are or have parents/teachers/pets you have seen or performed this style of leadership. This leadership style is characterized by a focus on rewards and punishments. Transactional leaders (like most of the bosses that I have worked with) motivate their followers by offering them rewards for good performance and punishing or threatening to fire their teams for poor performance. Transactional leaders are often effective in the short term, but they may not be as effective in the long term, as teams become less motivated and lose the fear of endless punishments (threats).

  • Pros

    • can be effective in the short term.

    • It can help to improve performance and productivity for a short time.

    • It can be a good way to maintain order and discipline.

    • It can be a good way to motivate people who are motivated by extrinsic rewards.

  • Cons

    • can be demotivating in the long term, even more so if it's the leader's default style.

    • It lacks creativity and innovation, this is why it's the default for most managers.

    • It can create a climate of fear and distrust.

    • It can be difficult to sustain over time. Especially when the teams discover that your threats are more empty than carrying any weight of followthrough.

Servant leadership:

Jesus, Mother Teresa, Gandhi, MLKJ, etc. are great examples of the servant style of leadership. This type is characterized by focusing on serving others and putting their needs first. Servant leaders (this is my default style) are often humble and down-to-earth. I am always willing to help whenever and however I can. Being good at listening to my team's feedback, either of me or on how we can do a better job together. The best part about being open to such feedback is that together we can make changes to the department/project/company/etc. when necessary.

  • Pros

    • are often seen as more trustworthy and ethical than other types of leaders making it easier to develop rapport with your teams.

    • can create a more positive and productive work environment for everyone in your teams.

    • can help to improve employee morale and engagement because they see you as someone who cares.

    • can help to develop and grow your teams with a sense of security that you have their back.

  • Cons

    • can be time-consuming and demanding for the leader when you have or increase the size of your teams.

    • It can be difficult to maintain if you don't have all the necessary skills and qualities.

    • may not be as effective in crisis situations because it can be difficult to make a decision when the leader's focus is always on helping everyone to be happy and everyone in your teams are never happy at the same time.

    • may not be as effective in large organizations because with bigger teams it's harder to serve everyone.

Final Thoughts

The best leadership style for a particular situation will depend on a number of factors, such as the nature of the task, the personality of the leader, and the personality of the followers. This is why we focus on an adaptive blended approach for our Leadership style training under the S. Rogers (aka Captain America) Lead-Your-Ship course under the P2G Found H.E.R.O. Program. It is important for our leaders to be flexible and be able to adapt their leadership style to the situation and personality at hand.

If you liked this article and if you didn't read our blog post on Advice for Future Leaders. Click Here.

6 Types of Leadership