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Leadership Styles

Author: Kenaz Training
by Kenaz Training
Posted: Aug 31, 2015

There is much talk today about leadership styles and how they can impact the success of the organisation and the performance of its employees. This holds true regardless of whether you are a large corporation or a SME. The leadership style can create the corporate culture and it is important that this is understood because it can have a direct effect on how well the organisation completes its business.

Professor John Adair’s Action Centred Leadership (ACL) model shows us that an organisation exists to perform tasks, you usually need a team to complete the task, and teams are made up of individuals. These three elements (Task, Team and Individual) interact, and importantly all have needs.

For example, if the needs of the team are neglected then this can negatively both impact the task and the individual. If too much focus is put on the just the task, then the team, and subsequently the individual, can be negatively affected leading to poorer performance to complete the task, even though that is where the leadership focus is. You can read more about ACL here, but for this article it is important to note that an effective leader will balance the needs of the task, team and individual for optimum results.

When discussing leadership styles, we are mainly talking about how authority is displayed and how much the team and individual are empowered. The Tannenbaum and Schmidt Decision Making Continuum is a good model to show this.

Professor John Adair, in his book Effective Leadership states, "the more that people share in the decisions which effect their working life the more they are motivated to carry them out". Another key point he mentions is that your leadership style is personal to you, an "expression of yourself from situation to situation", adding that your style should not be something you arrive at consciously. In other words; master the functions of leadership and your style will emerge.

The common leadership styles are:


Autocratic leaders are characterised by their habit of making decisions without including team members in discussions. While there are occasions when a quick, positive decision is needed, an autocratic leader will often exclude team members from their decision making process, even when their input would be useful or necessary.

In cases where a successful outcome will not be influenced by the consultation of the team, becoming an autocratic leader can be a positive action. Decisions are made, and everyone can carry on as normal. However, in cases where this style is adopted more widely, for the team it can feel highly demoralising. Long term effects can include higher staff turnover and increased absenteeism.


As pretty much the polar opposite of the autocratic leader, a democratic leader will open the floor to their team for the decision making process. They hold the final vote themselves, and will always make the ultimate decision, but will strive to make their team feel included and to let everyone have their say.

The positives of this type of leadership are that the team will feel more motivated, have higher job satisfaction and will generally be more productive, because they feel more connected to their working environment. However, this style is not always effective, particularly if a quick, efficient decision needs to be made.


The laissez-faire leader typically adopts a very hands off approach to management. They allow their team the freedom to organise their workload as they wish, and to manage their deadlines in an autonomous fashion. The team know they are there with support and resources, should they need it, but in general face time with a laissez-faire leader is a fairly rare occurrence.

The level of autonomy that this type of leader affords their team means they are often enjoyable people to work with. Team members will feel happy in their work, and will tend to put in extra effort because they know they are in control of their success. However, if people within the team are less motivated, less competent or less organised, it comes with a danger of deadlines getting out of hand and problems going undetected.

A leader who chooses to act in a laissez-faire manner for the health of their team is a very different kettle of fish to one who behaves like this because they are out of control. Beware of a leader who is laissez-faire and who doesn’t deliver the results.


As you might assume, a paternalistic leader is somewhat of a father figure to the people he leads. These leaders have an uncanny knack of appearing very caring and protective of their staff, but at the same time manage to use their position of authority to control subordinate staff. Paternalistic leaders are often also autocratic, failing to involve their team in decisions and discussions about the business.

In a business where there is a formal, hierarchical structure and where creative thinking is not required of the staff, this style of leadership can be effective. However, when it incorporates an over inflated ego, it can evolve into a leadership style that is too dictatorial and self-absorbed.


Charismatic leaders assume that all that is required to create followers is charm and grace. They typically have a high level of self-belief, and are respected and admired for their own personal qualities rather than because of any form of power or authority.

Politicians, celebrities and cult leaders all typically lean on their charisma to gain followers, but in the business world, it is rare that this style of leadership is actually beneficial. The main positive of a charismatic leader is their ability to empathise and really seek to understand the people with whom they work, something that many other leadership styles fail to do.


Many studies cite transformational leadership as being the most useful style for any business leader. Transformational leaders typically display a high level of integrity, of emotional intelligence and of communication skills. They are often authentic and empathetic, inspiring their teams through a collective vision of the future.

As business people, transformational leaders can be textbook. Their ability to set goals, resolve conflicts and motivate a team are second to none. A transformational leader will often have a highly productive and satisfied team, who are engaged with the good of the business overall.


Transactional leadership is present in many organisations today. The transaction begins when the business pays a salary to an employee to do a job, and continues with the leader being in a positon where they can ‘punish’ the team member if the job is not up to standard. This leadership style is all about obedience among the team members in return for compensation, and can be observed, to some extent, in the majority of workplaces.

In some ways, transactional leadership can be motivating. Roles and responsibilities are well defined, and clear reward systems are in place for compliant, performing members of the team. Individuals who are motivated by ambition or competition often thrive in this environment, but for many it can be overly limiting, particularly to creative types.


Most leaders would not be able to classify themselves in one single ‘box’ of leadership style. Indeed, the majority of leaders and those who they lead will no doubt be able to see facets of their style in many of these descriptions. A truly great leader will be able to adapt to the demands of the situation, and apply the best leadership style for any given circumstance.

Leadership is a truly challenging subject, but also endlessly fascinating and unbelievably complex. The issue of leadership styles and the psychology behind them has to take into consideration human nature, logic, reasoning and social interaction. Modern leaders not only need to grasp their own style with both hands, but also need to be flexible and adaptable enough to keep pace in the fast changing environment of contemporary business.

The best business leaders draw resources, support and brain power from everywhere they can in order to become good, and to stay good.

About the Author

We are a dynamic training company which specialises in leadership, motivation, team building, and personal development. We have exciting packages built upon many years of practical and often demanding experience, backed up by academic knowledge.

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Author: Kenaz Training

Kenaz Training

Member since: Jul 15, 2015
Published articles: 2

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