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What is the best leadership style?

What makes a good leader?

This can be a hard question to answer, especially seeing as there is no clear-cut solution. How leaders manage a team will depend on their strengths and weaknesses, their goals, the context of their organisation and a whole range of other factors. 

Today, we’re exploring some of the most popular leadership styles in the modern workplace, which ones are the most effective (and when), and how leaders can hone their personal leadership style for the best possible outcome. 

What types of leadership are there?

Democratic Leadership

Also known as ‘participative leadership’, this style is characterised by its consideration of employee voices and perspectives in decision-making processes. While a democratic leader is responsible for the final decision, they will consult members of their team and prioritise collaboration. 

Autocratic Leadership

This is the direct opposite of democratic leadership. Rather than taking everyone’s opinions on board, an autocratic leader will unanimously make decisions without consultation. While great in circumstances where immediate action is needed, this is generally considered an inflexible and ineffective style for day-to-day operations. 

Laissez-Faire Leadership

This is a more ‘hands-off’ style of leadership, more suited to experienced teams and creative workplaces. Literally translating to ‘let them do’, laissez-faire leaders will allow their employees to work with little interference and oversight. 

While this can be great to encourage self-motivated teams who are free to engage with their interests and passions, it may not be suitable for certain workplaces or less experienced employees. 

Transformational Leadership

For organisations focused on innovation and being at the forefront of their industry, transformational leadership can be quite useful. Transformative leaders empower their employees to explore new ways of thinking and doing, encouraging their personal and professional growth. This style of leadership emphasises communication and collaboration, requiring leaders to have a high level of emotional intelligence for the greatest effect.  

Transactional Leadership

This form of leadership essentially boils down to ‘carrot and stick’. Transactional leaders will reward employees for meeting performance benchmarks and penalise them if standards are not met. This helps to establish clear expectations for employees and works best where employees are motivated by incentives and tasks are goal-orientated. 

Servant Leadership

This style is all about meeting the needs of employees. By ensuring they know their role and are equipped with everything they need to succeed, servant leaders help their teams thrive. 

This style of leadership is also focused on wellbeing, viewing workers as a whole with the belief that meeting their personal and professional needs is the best way to ensure productivity. In order to be an effective servant leader, leaders must be able to understand the emotions of their employees, as well as how to motivate and relate to individuals. 

Coaching Leadership

Coaching leaders operate like sports coaches: they identify and nurture the strengths of each player (or employee, in this case). While this can help create high-performing teams, this style of leadership does require a significant amount of time, energy and emotional intelligence from leaders – not to mention a willingness to learn from employees. 

Bureaucratic Leadership

If you’ve ever worked for a large corporation, you’ve likely come across bureaucratic leaders. This style of leadership is defined by strict rules, policies and regulations – good for organisations that must follow specific procedures, such as manufacturing companies or government departments. 

So what style of leadership is best?

In general, democratic leadership, transformational leadership and servant leadership are considered to be the most effective for the modern workplace. 

At the end of the day, different contexts will require different types of leadership. Each can be useful in their own right: autocratic leadership can be handy in situations where a decision is needed urgently, bureaucratic leadership is useful for highly regulated environments and transactional leadership can be used to achieve specific milestones. 

You’ll also need to consider the people – what style of leadership does this group of employees respond to? As each style of leadership has a different effect on employees’ emotions, leaders must be able to ‘read’ their team and the situation at hand. This is why emotional intelligence is so vital, allowing leaders to determine which style will best motivate employees to achieve the desired results. 
Want to help your leaders refine their leadership style? Our People Management course is designed to help them identify their leadership style and adapt to bring out the best in their teams. Utilising the power of emotional intelligence, your leaders will be able to employ the right leadership style every time.



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