According to Zippia’s leadership statistics, leadership development is something that US businesses take quite seriously — judging by the $166 billion they spend on it every year. Comparatively, businesses in other parts of the world spend around $200 billion collectively.
Having good, reliable, and effective leaders is what makes or breaks a company.
But, have you ever wondered what different types of “good, reliable, and effective” leaders there are?
Or how different approaches to leadership can change the trajectory of a team (and the whole company)?
If you have, then you’ll be happy to hear we have answers for you!
Today, we’re talking about:
- The most common types of leadership styles,
- Their main characteristics,
- The pros and cons of each style, and
- The best ways to pick the right leadership style for you.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
A leadership style includes characteristics, behaviors, and methods leaders display or employ when managing, directing, and inspiring their teams.
A leadership style determines how a certain leader:
- Communicates vision,
- Provides direction,
- Makes decisions,
- Delegates tasks,
- Sets goals,
- Mentors employees, and
- Cultivates a positive work environment.
Adopting the right leadership style is vital because, according to the research The impact of leadership styles on organizational culture and firm effectiveness, the leadership style a leader adopts influences not only the workplace culture but also organizational performance.
The study, which collected data from 2,662 people working in 311 companies, proved that leadership skills are major contributing factors when it comes to the creation and implementation of cultural norms that ultimately determine how effective the organizational performance is.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If you’re interested in finding out more about how impactful workplace culture is and why creating a positive culture is a great hurdle for some leaders, then check out this article:
So, leadership styles are crucial. However, according to the Zippia leadership statistics we mentioned at the beginning, only 10% of people display natural leadership characteristics, while another 20% show managerial qualities that can be honed into leadership skills.
Does that mean only 10–30% of people have the potential to be leaders, while the rest of us are doomed?
Of course not. While some people can hone their natural leadership abilities, others can pick which skills to cultivate, essentially picking their own, preferred leadership style.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at which leadership styles you have at your disposal.
The way we see leaders changed over the years.
What was once an image of a clean-shaven white male in a suit leading the team of a large private-sector company in Big City USA, is now a spectrum of images of people of all genders, races, appearances, and backgrounds.
What’s more, not that long ago, we saw leaders as either autocratic — almost dictator-like — or charismatic. Today, we realize that there are many types of leaders out there.
There are 12 different types of leadership styles in management that we’ll go over today, and they are:
- Strategic leadership,
- Transformational leadership,
- Transactional leadership,
- Visionary leadership,
- Collaborative leadership,
- Pacesetting leadership,
- Servant leadership,
- Coaching leadership,
- Laissez-faire leadership,
- Participative leadership,
- Emergent leadership, and
- Situational leadership.
Each leadership style has its own set of characteristics and pros and cons. What’s more, each style is most effective in certain situations or only applicable in specific organizational structures.
We’ll go over all of these details for each style in the following chapters.
Strategic leadership is the ability to predict future market moves, conceive plans accordingly, and navigate the organizational and operational efforts that will help you see those plans to fruition.
In other words, strategic leaders:
- Can see the big picture,
- Are oriented toward the future, and
- Welcome and embrace change.
The main characteristic of strategic leaders, which sets them apart from all other leaders, is that they can adapt their vision and strategy to the changes they foresee and communicate both properly to their employees — thanks to their superb communication skills.
Other characteristics of strategic leadership are numerous, as testified by Christine Spadafor, a lecturer in the Strategic Leadership core at Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth and a lecturer/presenter at Harvard Medical School.
“There is a long list of key characteristics of a strategic leader. Here are the highlights:
- A strategic leader exhibits adaptability, agility, and resilience in an uncertain business environment.
- They know when and how to pivot as necessary and bring others along.
- They role model the purpose, mission, vision, and core values of the company.
- They foster innovation and are inspirational and motivating, getting the best work from employees.
- Strategic leaders execute on achieving strategic goals while at the same time ‘scanning the horizon’ for new opportunities and threats.
- They create an environment where it’s OK to fail — and guide others on how to learn from the failures without retribution.”
If you’re interested in becoming a strategic leader, you’ll be happy to hear that the biggest pros of this style are that:
- It’s highly adaptable to change — Strategic leaders can easily pivot their strategy when they see changes in the market.
- It cultivates an innovative working environment — Strategic leaders don’t mind being challenged and are always happy to hear other people’s opinions, which helps cultivate innovative thinking that boosts employee morale.
- It helps set clear objectives — By nature, strategic leaders are decisive. They have all the skills of an effective communicator and can clearly convey the goals they expect their employees to reach as well as techniques and methods that will help them get there.
Although strategic leadership is a great style to adopt, it’s not without its downfalls.
The biggest cons of this style are that:
- It’s tough to predict the future — Since the ability to foresee future changes is a vital part of strategic leadership, this is quite a big downfall.
- The focus can be “too much” on the future — Focusing too much on the big picture can make strategic leaders forget about managing and communicating day-to-day expectations, goals, and targets.
- Micromanaging is a real possibility — Seeing their long-term vision come to fruition is the biggest goal every strategic leader has. Sadly, it can lead them to start micromanaging their employees in an effort to reach their goals.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Micromanagement is a behavior where a team leader or manager excessively observes, controls, and meddles in tasks assigned to their team members. Micromanaging is something that can happen to you no matter which style of leadership style you employ but if you want to know how to avoid it, read the following blog:
Having a long-term strategy for your company or team is never a bad idea.
Still, you’ll probably find strategic leadership the most helpful in the following scenarios:
- If you’re looking to break through in a specific market — Like Bill Gates, who had a long-term plan for the Microsoft company, you’ll need to make strategic decisions to enter a market and manage to get a piece of it for yourself.
- If your company needs to pivot in its trajectory — Netflix’s Co-Founder and CEO, Reed Hastings, managed to foresee that renting out DVDs will soon be exchanged for streaming on personal devices, and he changed the trajectory of Netflix accordingly.
- If you’re looking to streamline communication and processes in your team to reach specific goals (especially if you’re managing remote teams) — Like Isaac Perlmutter, the CEO of Marvel, who changed the way the company operates and saved it from bankruptcy (and later on sold it to Disney for $6 billion).
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If strategic leadership sounds like a style that would suit you best, then you should find out more about it — read our full guide on strategic leadership, where we go over the vital skills, characteristics, and principles of strategic leadership here:
Transformational leadership is a style that uses motivation to change the way employees behave, thus changing the way organizations work.
Transformational leaders try to do that by getting employees personally invested in the company’s goals through:
- Inspiration, and
The objective of transformational leadership is to lead by example, which is why involvement is one of the crucial elements. Transformational leaders present themselves as role models for their employees.
So, it’s not enough to just have a vision (although it’s important) — a transformational leader will also inspire and motivate employees to engage to achieve that vision.
Aside from being role models, transformational leaders tend to inspire by:
- Sparking creative thinking via transparent communication,
- Considering each employee on an individual level,
- Providing intellectual stimulation, and
- Ensuring employee recognition.
Because of this, transformational leaders are often not only trusted by their teams but also seen as honest and fair. That’s one of the reasons transformational leadership is so popular.
However, according to Jerome Myers, a Leadership Coach and Chief Inspiration Officer of The Myers Development Group, there’s another side to that coin.
“Transformational leadership is often championed as one of the most beneficial styles. Leaders who adopt this approach inspire and motivate team members to transcend their own limitations, fostering an environment of creativity, innovation, and personal growth. However, there’s a flip side. Over-reliance on this style can sometimes lead to unrealistic expectations. If leaders continuously push for transformation without providing the necessary resources or support, it can result in team burnout, disillusionment, and decreased morale. It’s essential for transformational leaders to balance inspiration with realism and ensure they’re providing tangible support to their teams.”
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the pros and cons of transformational leadership.
As testified by Myers, transformational leadership, while beneficial, can become a double-edged sword. But, before we take a look at why that is, let’s see which benefits of transformational leadership you can expect:
- It’s great for enticing change — Transformational leaders have a knack for envisioning new ideas, coming up with plans on how to implement them, and effectively communicating those ideas to employees, which makes them a great asset during times of change.
- It fosters independence and empowerment in employees — Because they inspire employees to be personally invested in the success of their team, transformational leaders also make their employees feel valued, capable, and empowered.
- It improves performance — Ultimately, transformational leaders inspire creative and innovative thinking, which makes employees more engaged (and engaged employees are 17% more productive than their non-engaged peers).
Now, let’s take a deeper look at the cons of transformational leadership:
- There’s a thin line between vision and delusion — A visionary can quickly turn into a deluded leader, especially if said leader isn’t prepared to set S.M.A.R.T. goals or even be realistic about whether the vision can be achieved or not.
- It relies heavily on the leader’s presence and inspiration — Transformational leaders motivate their followers and influence their actions. However, their influence can fade when they aren’t around, which can lead to a drop in productivity.
- Change isn’t always welcome — Although it’s one of the transformational leader’s main objectives, a complete makeover of a company and its processes won’t always be welcomed with open arms. Transformational leaders can run into more resistance than others.
Transformative leadership is an excellent leadership style for all, according to Paul Bramson, a Keynote Speaker and Leadership, Sales & Communication Expert. However, he states that emerging leaders could particularly benefit from it.
“Emerging leaders benefit from incorporating transformational leadership elements into their style because it allows them to be a little more hands-off as they inspire and motivate their team members. This style helps create a sense of purpose and commitment among team members, which can be particularly valuable for emerging leaders who may not have a long history of leadership experience.”
Aside from emerging leaders, transformational leadership is also a great pick:
- For teams and companies that need to be restructured — Jeff Bezos, one of the most famous transformational leaders, completely restructured the Amazon company and spread to other markets, while keeping the core of the business intact.
- For organizations where employee morale is down — Nelson Mandela pushed for racial reconciliation in South Africa and is globally recognized as one of the best transformational leaders in history. He advocated for kindness in the face of violence and repression and managed to rally millions of people to fight for that shared cause.
- When there’s a need for a culture change — Although some might not see her as such, Princess Diana was a transformational leader who single-handedly changed the way the public viewed the Royal family. By becoming an advocate for the poor and treating them as equals, she quickly became an inspiration and a role model to many.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
To find out more about transformational leadership as well as look into whether that’s the right style of leadership for you, head on to this article:
Transactional leadership or bureaucratic leadership is quite structural in nature. It is a managerial style that relies on order and chain of command to reach specific goals.
Transactional leaders focus on results and are more set on maintaining structure than they are on nurturing out-of-the-box team collaboration.
Transactional leadership is often cited to be the complete opposite of transformational leadership — where transformational leadership is proactive, transactional is reactive.
The main characteristics of transactional leadership are that it:
- Prioritizes protocol — Transactional leaders don’t change existing protocols. What’s more, they rely on them to monitor employee efficiency and will only step in in case an employee steers away from protocol or misses targets.
- Focuses on short-term goals — Rather than focusing on the long-term vision, a transactional leader will put measurable, short-term goals in focus.
- Works thanks to a strict reward and punishment system — Instead of inspiring employees to work for the good of the company (to follow the vision), transactional leaders appeal to employees’ self-serving goals and offer their fulfillment as a reward. Similarly, they also use them as a punishment, in case goals and targets aren’t met.
- Upholds organizational culture — The hierarchical organizational structure suits transactional leaders as it allows them to achieve specific outcomes. They measure team productivity by how accurately the team members obey the instructions.
Transactional leadership is a style that allows leaders to clearly track and present measurable results.
Aside from that, other major benefits of transactional leadership are that:
- It’s fair — The reward and punishment system seems fair, as employees know that they’ll get rewarded if they reach clearly set goals.
- It’s easy to understand — Transactional leaders stick to assigning predefined roles, which means that all employees know their duties.
- The impact is clearly visible (and measurable) — Since roles, responsibilities, and tasks are clearly defined, employees are aware of personal as well as team collaboration metrics, which means they can see the impact their performance has on the business.
However, just like the two previous styles, transactional leadership also has some downsides:
- Building relationships isn’t in focus — Transactional leadership tends to have an impersonal approach, which means the individual employee isn’t in the leader’s focus. Transactional leaders don’t build relationships with their employees and rarely use two-way communication.
- There are no universally motivating rewards — Transactional leaders use external rewards like monetary compensation or days off. However, not all employees will be equally motivated by the same things – some might prefer recognition or professional praise.
- It discourages creativity — Clearly defined roles promote understanding but they stifle creativity. Some employees might find themselves doing repetitive tasks with no room for creative expression, which doesn’t reflect well on employee retention.
Compared to transformational, transactional leadership might sound like a less-than-perfect choice. However, like any other style, this one is applicable in specific situations.
For example, in situations where straying away from protocol can lead to severe outcomes — for example, in military or first responder teams — a transactional leader who trained their employees to follow orders to the very last letter will thrive.
But there’s room for transactional leadership in other circumstances as well. For example, Seymour Adler, a Partner and Head of Leadership Assessment & Development at Kincentric, states that leaders who are just starting out might find this approach beneficial.
“If I had to choose one style with respect to emerging leaders, I would choose transactional leadership. Emerging leaders need to establish a track record of effectively delivering on commitments. They need to leverage the talents of their team in order to achieve results that gain them visibility and recognition. They have to solve problems quickly and effectively as those problems arise.”
Showing measurable results as a newly appointed leader is definitely something you want to achieve, so transactional leadership might be worth your consideration.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
One of the downsides of transactional leadership is that it can have a negative effect on employee retention. Employee turnover is a massive problem in today’s job market and one of the ways to battle it is to create a psychologically safe work environment. Read up on it on the link below:
Unlike transactional leadership, collaborative leadership completely dismisses the hierarchical organization in favor of bringing all team members — managers and leaders included — to work on achieving common goals.
Collaborative leaders share both work and control of how that work will be organized by freely sharing information — thus preventing team silos from ever seeing the light of day.
The main characteristics of collaborative leadership are that:
- It allows free flow of information — Aside from employing lateral communication, collaborative leaders also encourage diagonal communication that crosses hierarchical levels and allows every member of the staff to be aware of all important information.
- Both problem-solving and decision-making are done collaboratively — Collaborative leaders make decisions with their teams. They encourage all members to contribute solutions and make collective decisions.
- Responsibilities and accountability are shared — Since decision-making is done by the team, all members also share responsibilities and accountability in the workplace. Leaders don’t point fingers when something goes wrong, but they do recognize each member’s achievements.
The benefits of collaboration are numerous, which is why collaborative leadership is so popular. Collaborative leaders spark creativity and innovation in their employees and encourage them to communicate and collaborate by any means available (such as by using team collaboration software).
Other benefits of collaborative leadership include:
- Fair division of labor — Collaborative leaders understand the difference between teamwork and collaboration and encourage their employees to collaborate on tasks so each employee can play to their strengths. What’s more, this approach ensures shared responsibility, which leads to everyone feeling responsible for the task and thus more motivated to complete it.
- Increased employee morale — Collaborating on a project makes employees more engaged, which leads to higher morale and productivity.
- Improved quality of work — Since all employees can do what they’re best at or get a team member to help them and collaborate on the task, the quality of work is much higher.
However, although it allows employees to thrive, collaborative leadership also has some cons:
- Roles can become ambiguous — When everyone is working on everything, an employee might find themselves confused about what their exact role is.
- It can spur conflict — Free communication can backfire and lead to team conflict if team members aren’t effective communicators.
- Ego can get in the way — Collaborative leaders need to nurture the “we” mentality in the team. However, sometimes their ego can get the best of them, and they can feel threatened and refuse to relinquish control.
Unlike top-down leadership which uses downward communication, collaborative leadership allows a free flow of information. However, that’s not always ideal, which is why collaborative leadership isn’t always applicable.
For example, while teams in industries like technology, education, and healthcare could thrive under collaborative leadership, military teams would quickly find themselves in chaos, should they get a collaborative leader.
So, not all leaders can afford to embrace the collaborative style — as testified by Joshua Berry, Managing Director and Co-Founder of Econic and Author.
“Different seasons in business and various teams require different approaches. The most successful leaders are adept at adapting to what is needed at any given time. During a crisis or when dealing with an inexperienced team that needs to accomplish tasks quickly, a more directive leadership style may be necessary. Conversely, when less urgency is present, a more collaborative and empowering leadership style might be the most effective choice.”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
There’s more to collaborative leadership than meets the eye. Although it may seem simple, being able to fully implement all that collaborative leadership has to offer is quite a difficult task. To find out more about that, read our full guide:
Visionary leadership is a style of leadership that relies on the leader creating a specific vision and then inspiring their employees to follow and progress toward it.
It’s similar to strategic leadership and is considered to be one of the 4 major strategic leadership types.
The main characteristic of visionary leadership is that it fosters team communication and puts team collaboration (especially cross-functional collaboration) into focus. A visionary leader is:
- Enthusiastic and always ready to engage employees — Visionary leaders tend to have an open-door policy and are often really enthusiastic about sharing their vision with others. That’s how they manage to inspire others to be equally invested in seeing the vision through.
- Emotionally intelligent and resilient — Emotional intelligence is one of the most significant characteristics of a visionary leader. They successfully recognize their own and other people’s emotions, which is how they are able to influence them.
- Strong communicator — Communication skills are also a necessary tool in a visionary leader’s arsenal because only through communication will leaders be able to engage their followers and make them more committed to the goal.
Visionary leaders understand the direction in which a company is supposed to be headed. What’s more, they are ready to do whatever is necessary to change the company’s trajectory so it’s aligned with that desired direction.
Other benefits of visionary leaders are:
- They cultivate innovation — A visionary leader has a clear idea of where the company is going and they are capable of focusing their team’s energy on achieving their vision. Fulfilling the vision is the ultimate goal, which is why visionary leaders nurture innovation and creativity in their teams.
- They aren’t afraid of setbacks — Temporary setbacks aren’t a problem for visionary leaders, as they are committed to their long-term vision. What’s more, they most probably have a plan or a strategy on how to overcome all obstacles.
- They are good in a crisis — Because they plan ahead, visionary leaders are great in a time of crisis, when they have to make decisions quickly.
Of course, visionary leaders aren’t without faults.
Let’s take a look at some of the downsides of visionary leadership:
- Short-term focus is a problem — Because visionary leaders tend to blindly follow their vision, they often lose sight of short-term tasks and objectives.
- There isn’t much room for differing opinions — Visionary leaders tend to be less open to other people’s opinions (if they stray from the vision), which isn’t that great in teams of experts or other types of teams that include opinionated individuals.
- High levels of risk — Ready to do whatever it takes to achieve their vision, visionary leaders can sometimes sacrifice a lot for the “greater good” (or the vision). This is particularly problematic if the vision is unclear or the team isn’t close to achieving it.
Similarly to the transformational style, visionary leadership comes in handy when there’s change on the horizon.
It’s a great pick for:
- Companies that are facing restructuring, mergers, a shift in protocols, or other big changes, and
- Teams with members who are willing to follow someone even in uncertain times.
We checked in with Julie Jungalwala, Ed.M., a Leadership Instructor at Harvard, Leadership Coach, Author, and Keynote Speaker. She confirmed that, in specific cases, visionary leadership is the way to go.
“If an organization is adrift and lacking focus, a visionary style of leadership would be beneficial, as the leader using that style would set a clear direction and goals and start mobilizing people to achieve them.”
However, Jungalwala also cautioned leaders that no style is perfect.
“It is important for leaders to know that some styles can have a negative impact on organizational culture while others have a more positive impact on culture (like the visionary or coaching styles).”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
If you want to find out more details about the visionary leadership style, then check out our full guide:
Another leadership style where the leader leads by example is pacesetting. However, unlike visionary leadership, the pacesetting style is more hands-on, as the leader needs to set the pace for the entire team or organization.
Pacesetting leadership is possibly the most controversial style because it can bring amazing results but also leave teams in disarray.
The main characteristics of pacesetting leaders are:
- Setting high standards for their employees — Pacesetting leaders expect not only high performance from each employee but also high quality and speed.
- Clearly communicating expectations — Pacesetting leaders leave no room for ambiguity, which is why they always manage and communicate expectations clearly.
- Showing initiative and leading by example — Leaders who follow this style are always present and visible. They tend to make themselves available to all employees.
- Minimal management — Although available, pacesetting leaders expect people to work with minimal or no intervention from them.
Pacesetting leadership shows the best results for teams that are working on a time crunch. Why? Because the pacesetting style has major benefits that make it the most effective in those cases.
Those benefits are:
- Improved performance — Because pacesetting leaders expect their employees to work effectively and perform well, they continually motivate them to do just that. Hence, teams under pacesetting leadership usually perform great and hit their targets (at least for a while).
- Quickly reaching goals — One of the expectations of a pacesetting leader is that all deadlines will be met, so teams tend to get their tasks done on time.
- Allows high-skilled employees to shine — Highly competent employees have no trouble meeting the high expectations pacesetting leaders have, which is why they often shine in these conditions.
However, although beneficial, the pacesetting style has some downsides as well:
- It can breed resentment — Pacesetting leaders expect their employees to perform and, if they feel like the employee isn’t up to the task, they are quick to reassign it. That can lead to a lot of resentment.
- It lowers trust — Employees might feel that asking questions about tasks will lead to them getting reassigned, which might cause them to lose confidence in their abilities or trust in their leader.
- It can stress out employees — Working under the pressure of constantly having to be at their very best can have negative consequences for the employees’ mental health. This is why pacesetting leadership is best used in short bursts rather than as the only leadership style.
Pacesetting leadership is result-focused, which is why it will work wonders in:
- Teams that need to finish a task or a project quickly,
- Teams that are full of highly skilled professionals, and
- Teams that don’t require a lot of oversight.
However, this style can also damage team dynamics, especially if used for too long. It can lead to a breakdown in team collaboration because no team can work under the pressure of pacesetting for too long.
Our expert, Julie Jungalwala, mentioned that the pacesetting style particularly affects organizational dynamics — which isn’t always a good thing.
“If I am leading a high-performing team and have a tight deadline, the pacesetting style will be most helpful in that particular context. The pacesetting leadership style is very effective at driving a high-performing team to achieve results amidst time constraints. Still, it is important for leaders to know that some styles (like the pacesetting one) can have a negative impact on organizational culture.”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Every leader, no matter which leadership style they employ, needs to adjust their communication to be as efficient in their role as possible — and that’s especially true for a pacesetting leader. To find out everything about different styles of leadership communication, read our full guide here:
A servant leader might be a contradictory term, but servant leadership is very much a leadership style that exists (and is often successful). Servant leaders focus on the well-being of their employees as well as the growth and success of the entire community rather than “being on top of the food chain.”
As such, servant leaders:
Servant leadership is a term first coined in 1970 by Robert K. Greenleaf in his essay The Servant as Leader and might seem outdated to some. However, according to Paul Falcone, HR Advisory Consultant, Executive Coach, and Author of First Time Manager: Leading Through Crisis, it’s more popular (and needed) today than it ever was.
“Millennials and Gen Z want to work for an ethical organization and perform meaningful work for a management team that cares about them personally. Servant leadership is a prism that brings all those elements together on a practical basis, without unnecessary drama. It’s a culture builder that encourages employees’ discretionary effort, creativity/innovation, agility, accountability, and most important, collaboration. In short, it’s just what’s needed in today’s crisis-driven and disruptive world. Dr. Greenleaf’s ‘Servant Leader’ paper was published over a half-century ago. Yet, its message is more relevant today than at almost any time in the previous 50 years.”
A servant leader is an empathetic leader who puts his employees’ needs first. That’s the leader who will help you with your task, listen about your issues, and even reply to your after-work-hour messages on a team communication app like Pumble.
Due to that, this style is often seen as less productive than some others. However, it’s not without its benefits:
- It creates a supportive environment — Servant leaders encourage the personal growth of individual team members, which creates a supportive environment.
- It boosts psychological safety — When the leader is supportive and always ready to help, employees feel safer and more comfortable, which builds trust in the team.
- It encourages proactiveness — Servant leaders lead by example and create an image of an ethical leader that their employees are eager to follow.
At the same time, an empathetic leader isn’t always what an organization needs. What’s more, servant leadership also comes with some other downfalls:
- It undermines authority — A servant leader may go too far in putting their employees first and undermine their own authority.
- It makes it difficult to balance individual and organizational needs — Putting your employees first can only work as long as you’re still meeting the organizational needs.
- It can be demotivational — Constantly helping employees finish tasks or taking over for them can be demotivational, which can make entire teams perform poorly.
Some of the most famous servant leaders in history were Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, and Mother Theresa.
But, you don’t have to be a servant to the people in order to be a servant leader. Unlike our previous experts who praised transactional and transformational leadership as the go-to styles for emerging leaders, Rhonda Y. Williams, CEO and Chief Vision Officer at Dream Life Leadership Academy, thinks servant leadership is ideal for leaders who are just starting out — as long as they don’t adhere to it too rigidly.
“For emerging leaders who are still finding their style, I recommend a blend of servant and participative as a starting point. The blend of the two allows the emerging leader to establish trust by valuing other voices on the team while showing employees they are interested and invested in their growth and development. For emerging leaders, this can be a highly effective combination.”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Servant leadership is gaining in popularity so if you want to jump on that bandwagon, you better read up on it. Find out everything about servant leadership in greater detail here:
Coaching leaders rely on effective communication, personalized guidance, and continuous feedback to help their teams achieve success. They mainly focus on:
- Making their employees feel individually valued and guided,
- Empowering every member of the team,
- Fostering communication and team collaboration, and
- Providing clear and constructive feedback.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Feedback is a vital part of every employee-manager relationship, no matter which leadership style the manager or leader in question employs. If you struggle with giving or asking for feedback, you’ll find the best tips and tricks in the business by reading these Pumble articles:
Coaching leadership has plenty of benefits, such as:
- Employees feel valued and empowered — A coaching leader tends to empower their employees to be creative and trust their expertise, which is why they include them in the decision-making process.
- Leaders encourage employees to continually learn and grow — Employees under a coaching leader are encouraged to grow, work on themselves, and pursue all opportunities.
- Enhanced engagement and productivity — The aforementioned leads to more confident and engaged employees who perform better and are more productive.
However, at the same time, coaching leadership can sometimes backfire or even take a significant toll on the leader.
The cons of coaching leadership are:
- It’s time-consuming — A coaching leader needs to take the time to individually coach each employee.
- It’s not always effective — Not everyone is receptive to coaching, especially people who are difficult to communicate with, which is why coaching leadership can sometimes backfire.
- It can lead to burnout — Because it takes a lot of time and effort, coaching leaders can often experience burnout due to their approach.
One of our experts, Falcone, states that coaching is the closest style to “selfless leadership.”
“Coaching strives to bring out the best in others, to help them grow and develop professionally, and to build their self-confidence — i.e., akin to selfless leadership.”
As such, coaching leadership is ideal:
- In teams where members lack self-confidence and motivation, or aren’t engaged,
- In companies that need to embrace the growth mindset, and
- In teams that rely on knowledge transfer for success (e.g. teams where junior members need to learn from seniors).
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Although coaching leadership requires a lot of time and effort, it might be worth it. Read more about the ins and outs of this type of leadership style here:
Laissez-faire leadership tends to have a more hands-off approach to management. It’s delegative in nature (which is why it’s often called delegative leadership) and it relies on the leader’s ability to not intervene in employees’ daily tasks.
Instead, a laissez-faire leader:
- Provides the tools, knowledge, and resources employees need to complete their tasks,
- Gives constructive feedback (but not in a regular, overbearing manner), and
- Takes responsibility for the outcome of the efforts of their team.
Laissez-faire leadership includes being flexible, letting employees make their own decisions, and encouraging creativity and out-of-the-box thinking.
Although it sounds as if laissez-faire leaders are aloof and uninterested, they are still involved. However, they choose to take advantage of the benefits of this leadership style, such as that it:
- Allows for better prioritization — When a leader doesn’t have to spend ages on employee development or helping other people with their tasks, they have more time to lead the organization and focus on their own tasks.
- Encourages accountability — Because employees are autonomous, they also feel ownership of their work, which leads to higher accountability.
- Gives employees freedom — When employees feel as if they have ownership of their work, they tend to be more creative.
Even though laissez-faire leadership sounds great on paper, in reality, it can prove detrimental to your team.
Therefore, you should consider some of its downsides as well:
- There’s a lack of direction — A hands-off leader sounds great until you realize there’s no one there to provide direction. That can be especially difficult for new employees.
- Communication can be compromised — Having no one to provide direction is a major communication barrier that not everyone knows how to overcome.
- It can lead to hierarchical confusion — A hands-off leader might leave plenty of employees not knowing who to turn to for help, which muddles the hierarchical structure.
A laissez-faire leader won’t be successful just anywhere. In fact, most teams might find themselves resenting a laissez-faire leader.
Still, laissez-faire leaders tend to successfully lead teams that:
- Work in creative industries,
- Have highly independent and skilled team members, and
- Don’t have time-sensitive tasks.
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Although it might sound like a laissez-faire leadership style won’t make for a productive team, it can still lend a hand from time to time. What’s more, some principles of laissez-faire leadership can probably help young, emerging leaders. To find out what they are, read the article below.
Unlike the laissez-faire style, participative leadership relies on the leader being actively involved in day-to-day operations. Participative leadership, also known as democratic leadership, fosters teamwork and collaboration and encourages a fair division of labor.
Participative leadership relies on:
- Effective communication that ensures every team member is on the same page,
- Team collaboration or overcoming the obstacles to collaboration by ensuring everyone works both individually and collectively on a specific problem,
- Active listening, which ensures every team member has a voice and feels heard,
- Continuous learning that ensures all team members have the necessary knowledge, and
- Welcoming change by being flexible and agile.
Participative leadership can do wonders for teamwork and collaboration. It has plenty of benefits that ensure team members are satisfied and productive, such as:
- It enables unity — Because everyone participates in problem-solving and decision-making, all members of the team feel as if they belong.
- It increases retention — When there’s unity in the team, people are less likely to leave it.
- It improves engagement — People who feel as if their opinions are valued and necessary are more likely to engage.
Still, participative leadership isn’t always the best option, due to its downsides:
- It’s time-consuming — To make everyone feel involved, leaders need to check in with all employees as well as provide feedback, which is time-consuming.
- It’s not a good fit for large teams — If the team is large, having everyone participate can quickly lead to chaos.
- Equal participation isn’t always possible — In larger teams, there’s not enough time for everyone to participate. What’s more, not everyone has equal knowledge and expertise, so participating equally is a tall order.
Participative leadership is a great style to pick if you’re leading a team that:
- Has highly skilled people as members,
- Needs to be more engaged, or
- Has trust issues.
According to Joseph Braithwaite Ph.D., Author and Business Design Advisor, participative leadership (or at least some of its elements) might be your best tool when it comes to building trust.
“Implementing participative leadership with a foundation of transparency fosters trust more effectively than many other styles, and trust serves as a pivotal motivational factor propelling the team forward together.”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
There’s more to participative leadership than just making sure all team members participate in the discussion. To find out all the details, read the following blog post:
Emergent leaders are sometimes called natural leaders because they step up to the challenge of leadership when a situation calls for it. We’ve all probably witnessed (or maybe even been in) a situation where a team member or a peer stepped up in a time of crisis and took over without any formal authority.
Those people were able to “step up” due to the organizational fostering of emergent leadership — where individuals are recognized and encouraged to hone their capabilities and are allowed to showcase them when appropriate.
As Keca Ward, an HR Executive put it, emergent leadership is the best type of leadership new leaders can adopt.
“It’s organic and arises out of necessity or circumstance rather than hierarchy. For those entering the leadership arena, this type allows them to showcase natural leadership tendencies, adaptability, and the ability to respond to immediate situations, earning respect and credibility among peers.”
Emergent leadership tends to be highly motivational for the entire team. When it happens that a new leader emerges, other team members see that as a sign that their efforts will be recognized, which can increase productivity.
Aside from that, emergent leaders are also:
- Highly effective and motivated — Because they’ve had this new role handed to them, emergent leaders might be more motivated to prove themselves worthy of the title, which makes them highly effective.
- Easily accepted — A natural change in leadership is more easily accepted by other team members, especially when the new leader is someone they’ve worked beside for a while.
However, no matter how natural and organic, emergent leadership can also have some downsides:
- It can lead to conflict — The newly emerged leaders can quickly find themselves in a conflict with competitive coworkers looking to take their spot.
- It can lead to inefficiency — The new leader may not be equipped enough to handle future challenges. They might not have the training or the tools necessary to handle leadership tasks.
Teams that aren’t thriving under assigned leadership (no matter which leadership style that assigned leader has) might benefit from seeing that there’s an opportunity for emergent leadership.
As Laszlo Bock, former SVP of People Operations at Google, put it during his London Business Forum talk, emergent leadership doesn’t always mean letting go of power — nor is that always a bad thing.
“What we realized [at Google] is that giving up power is just as important to leadership as seizing power.”— Laszlo Bock
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
Emergent leadership is a complex subject that has to do with organizations’ willingness to step away from traditional hierarchical organization and step into the future of emerging, natural leaders. To find out more about it, click on the link below:
Finally, the last leadership style on our list is situational leadership. Not a style but rather a framework, situational leadership allows leaders to adapt their style according to the situation.
As R. Karl Hebenstreit Ph.D., Executive Coach, Author, Speaker, and Leadership Development Consultant, put it, situational leadership is kind of a cure-all leadership style.
“The type of leadership style that will be most effective is dictated by the business environment and employee life cycle, so situational leadership is the catch-all to cover all possible options. No one style will be effective in all situations. What’s more, an overused strength in an inappropriate situation becomes a weakness or derailer that is likely to fail. Leaders must choose how to show up, given the situation at hand.”
Situational leadership allows you to adapt to the situation at hand — something many great leaders have done throughout history.
Being agile and flexible and thus allowing yourself to make the most out of any situation are just some of the benefits of this style. Others are:
- It’s great for conflict resolution — Situational leaders adapt their communication along with their overall approach and are therefore able to navigate and manage conflicts very well.
- It improves performance and communication — Because they lead by example, situational leaders inspire employees to be effective communicators and to improve performance.
However, although adaptable, situational leadership isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. In fact, it has some significant downsides:
- It’s quite demanding — It takes a lot for a leader to be able to switch styles and approaches. They need to constantly analyze situations they are in on top of having the knowledge of which leadership style is appropriate for which situation (as well as the knowledge on how to apply it).
- It’s more focused on short-term goals — Since it’s dependent on the situation, this type of leadership style focuses more on short-term goals.
The most famous situational leaders, like Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the United States, and Colin Powell, former US Secretary of State, had great success by adapting their approach to leadership.
But you don’t have to be a high-ranking politician to benefit from situational leadership. Quite the contrary — you might find this style the right one for you if you’re just starting in your leadership role.
Brand new leaders might quickly find themselves feeling overwhelmed once they take over the mantle, which is something situational leadership can help with, according to our expert Dantes Lahens, Global Program Management Consultant and Coach.
“For emerging leaders, I’d recommend situational leadership. It’s the Swiss Army knife of leadership styles. New leaders often face a myriad of scenarios, and this style equips them to adapt and respond effectively. It’s like training wheels for leadership; it prepares you for the unpredictable terrains of the corporate world.”
💡 Pumble Pro Tip
To find out more about situational leadership, when it’s applicable, and what its biggest strengths are, read the blog post below:
The leadership style you pick determines how you’ll act, and it also allows you to:
- Have a foundational framework,
- Be consistent,
- Set boundaries, and
- Build your personal brand.
According to Jerome Myers, your leadership style is a foundational framework that allows you to be consistent.
“Adopting a leadership style offers a foundational framework for leaders, guiding their decision-making, communication, and conflict resolution processes. This consistency can be a beacon for team members, setting clear expectations and fostering trust.”
Inconsistent behavior can lead to mistrust that leads to grapevine communication and, ultimately, underperformance.
Having a leadership style can also help you set boundaries with your employees. As a leader, your role is to:
- Inspire and motivate your team,
- Recognize all team members’ capabilities and contributions,
- Be aware of the business environment, and
- Stay on top of all stakeholders’ expectations.
So, as one of our experts, Hebenstreit, put it, leaders have to be everything to everyone, which takes its toll.
“Being everything to everyone is not easy, and many leaders struggle to juggle all these demands on them. Setting boundaries around what they can and can’t do, who they can be and who they aren’t, and leveraging the intelligence and capabilities of those around them through different situational leadership styles is imperative to their success and effectiveness.”
Finally, Falcone stated that having a defined leadership style is beneficial because it allows leaders to build their brand.
“Your leadership style is a core element of your personal brand. How you treat others, how you make others feel, how you build their self-confidence, and make yourself available to bring out the best in others is what outstanding leadership is all about.”
Now that we know which leadership styles you can choose from and why it’s important that you do, it’s time to delve deeper into the topic of how to pick the right leadership style.
The secret to picking the right style lies in being aware of 3 things:
- Your capabilities,
- Your employees’ needs, and
- The situation.
However, that doesn’t mean that picking the right style will be easy — as Bramson put it, there are quite a few other factors that need to play into your decision.
“Choosing the right leadership style is a complex process that requires:
- Situational awareness,
- Continuous learning, and
- Willingness to assess and adjust one’s approach based on the situation and the needs of the team.”
By closely examining these factors, we prepared some tips on how to choose the right leadership style.
Most of us, no matter our current position, dream of being leaders or at least someone who’s in charge. Maybe we daydream about how we’d perfectly lead our team through a time of crisis thanks to our stellar communication skills, or we’re sure that we’d be the perfect choice to spearhead organizational change in our workplace.
But, is that really the case?
The first tip on how to pick the right leadership style for yourself comes from our expert Bramson, who suggests being honest and self-aware.
“Choosing the best leadership style that’s right for someone involves a thoughtful and self-aware approach. Leaders may not always choose the right leadership style for several reasons, including:
- A lack of self-awareness,
- Pressure/stress, and
- Ego or overconfidence.
To determine which style is needed, you need to take a look at yourself, the situation or work at hand, and the team you’re leading. That is the first step, as those moving parts will inform a lot of what style works at the moment.”
So, once we figure out what our capabilities are (and what we can achieve with them), we need to carefully look at the situation at hand.
As mentioned before, not all styles work for every situation. As Jugalwala cautioned, not every style fits every organizational context — for example, the pacesetting style is great when you need to deliver results quickly, but it’s a bad choice if you have an aimless team that needs a visionary leader to motivate them.
That’s why Joshua Berry advises you to assess the situation at hand by asking yourself some hard questions.
“I would suggest that the leader reflects on the following questions:
- Which style feels most authentic to me?
- Who are the leaders I admire, both historically and within this organization? How do they lead?
- What does the team need right now?
- How important is completing the task or work right now?
- How important is building relationships and team dynamics right now?
Reflecting on questions like these can help you gain awareness of the current situation and guide you toward a leadership style that might be a good fit.”
To pick a style, you must first be familiar with what every style has to offer, as well as what the downfalls of each of them are.
That’s the best advice Williams has for new leaders.
“When defining your leadership style, begin with an understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of each style. Then, take time to reflect on your own leadership values.
Consider one of your favorite leaders. What made them special? What’s most important to you? It may be helpful to list your top 5 leadership values.
With this awareness, you can begin to select the style that is most aligned with your values and goals as a leader.”
Williams also had another great piece of advice for new leaders — don’t be afraid to experiment.
Once you’re familiar with the characteristics of each style, she advises you to try to mix and match the strengths of different leadership styles to achieve the best results.
“Don’t be afraid to blend the styles. You can choose a primary and secondary style. You might even choose a third, depending on the types of situations you see most often. For instance, in life-and-death situations, becoming more authoritative may be appropriate.
The greatest gift a leader can offer their team is the gift of empathic flexibility. The ability to understand and pivot helps the team build the resilient muscles needed to navigate today’s challenging times!”
Finding the right leadership style for yourself might take a while, but in the end, it will be worth it.
Another one of our experts, Keca Ward, agrees and thinks that experimenting with leadership styles is the best thing a new leader can do.
“Picking the right leadership style is like selecting the right dance for the right song. First, tune into your own strengths and inclinations. Next, listen to the ‘beat’ of your team or organization — its needs, culture, and dynamics. A leader’s most potent weapon is adaptability; hence, experimenting with a blend of styles might sometimes be more effective than strictly adhering to one.”
Finally, the last piece of advice our experts had for young leaders is this — while picking a style of leadership is important, you shouldn’t let your preferred style hold you back from improving.
Our expert Myers advised that your work shouldn’t stop once you pick a leadership style.
“The selection of an appropriate leadership style is influenced by various factors, including the organization’s culture, task nature, team maturity, and the leader’s personal strengths. While it’s crucial to evaluate these elements, there’s a danger of becoming too entrenched in a single style. Rigid adherence can lead to blind spots and may not cater to evolving challenges or diverse team needs. Leaders should:
- Be introspective,
- Regularly seek feedback, and
- Be willing to adjust their approach when necessary.”
Although we once thought all leaders should either scare or charm us into obedience, we now know that there are many types of leadership styles out there.
What’s more, we also know that it’s vital that each leader is familiar with:
- Different styles,
- Their potential impact on their employees and organizational structure, and,
- Ultimately, themselves and their organization’s success.
That’s why picking the right style (or styles) is essential.
However, it’s also tricky.
In the words of Dantes Lahens, picking the right style is important, but being rigid about adhering to it is quite outdated.
“Choosing a leadership style is akin to selecting a suit. One size doesn’t fit all. It should be tailored to the individual’s personality, the team’s dynamics, and the organization’s culture. Leaders should be fluid and ready to switch styles as situations demand. Relying on a single style is as outdated as using a typewriter in the age of AI.”
✉️ Did you find your preferred leadership style on our list? Or did you find success as a leader by employing a style we didn’t mention? Share your experience and tips at email@example.com and we may include your answers in this or future posts. And, if you found this blog useful, share it with someone you think would also benefit from it.