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Every group, regardless of size and nature, requires a leader in order to move forward and accomplish objectives. A true leader needs to be effective in their style of leadership. Our article teaches you about the most effective leadership styles that will ensure a productive team under your leadership.
Whether it’s as small as a group for a class project, as big as a global corporation, or even an informal group where individuals are gathered together with a common interest, an effective leader (or group of leaders) is necessary to inspire and direct everyone towards achieving common goals with a united force.
- Visionary leaders inspire action through compelling visions and innovative strategies.
- Servant leaders prioritize the needs and growth of their followers.
- Adaptive leaders embrace change and guide teams through uncertainty.
- Inspirational leaders empower others to achieve greatness and foster collaboration.
However, the effectiveness of leaders often lies in the leadership style they employ in the group. Thus, understanding these various styles can help anyone who manages a team to determine the most effective leadership techniques to use in any given situation.
What are Leadership Styles?
Leadership styles refer to the different techniques and approaches employed by leaders in order to influence and guide their organizations or teams. There are various distinct styles to consider, with each feature, like the ones below, varying in degrees.
- Leader’s personality, attitude, and behavior
- Nature of decision-making
- Structure of the communication line
- Team Involvement
- Focus or motivation factors
If you want to become an effective leader, especially in business and professional settings, obtaining a formal education in Leadership is the way to go. A traditional or online Master’s Degree in Leadership offers a mastery of various leadership styles, along with principles, applications, and pros and cons.
Pursue even higher leadership or teaching careers with an online Ph.D. in Leadership degree. Doctorate programs feature case studies of leadership styles in real-life companies and situations. While in grad school, pursue internships that expose you to real-world leadership challenges.
To learn or unlearn valuable lessons in organizational success, a good leader also keeps strong networks with those who know leadership best.
What Factors Influence an Effective Leadership?
There are several considerations to determine the best leadership style to implement in an organization:
- Organizational culture, where an organization with a hierarchical structure may necessitate autocratic leadership while a supportive environment encourages a participatory style
- Team dynamics, especially in the members’ relationships and trust in one another
- Team members’ experience, skills, and personality
- Company’s values, mission, and vision, and whether or not these are clearly defined
- Resource allocation, or whether resources are centralized or fairly allocated
- Cultural environment
- Nature of tasks, whether or not they should be completed perfectly the first time
There is no one-size-fits-all leadership style! Assess your team and the tasks at hand in order to find the best set of leadership techniques to suit your unique position.
Characteristics of the 5 Most Effective Leadership Styles
1. Transformational/Visionary Leadership
By establishing a shared vision, transformational or visionary leaders can inspire and motivate the team. Under this leadership style, each member has the opportunity to grow, which ultimately leads to a culture of innovation and creativity.
Some of the distinct characteristics of the transformational leadership are the following:
- High team involvement
- Leaders have a charismatic and inspiring personality
- Positive and collaborative work environment
- Emphasis on team and individual growth
- Clearly defined organizational values and vision
- Team members are included in decision-making
The situations where transformational leadership shines the most are the following:
- Organizations undergoing major changes
- Organizations with a bold mission seeking visionary leaders for inspiration
- Startups where leaders need to foster enthusiasm and commitment from employees
2. Delegative/Laissez-Faire Leadership
Team members under delegative leadership have a high degree of freedom and autonomy when making decisions, as the leader provides them with minimal intervention and guidance. This type of leadership is also referred to as “laissez-faire” which literally translates into “let them do it.”
The laissez-faire style of leadership has the following characteristics:
- High team and individual involvement
- Decision-making is delegated to team members with minimal intervention
- Team members are empowered and enjoy freedom and autonomy
- Resources are allocated to members to complete their tasks
- Leaders remain responsible for the team’s successes and failures
Situations where the delegative leadership style is most effective include the following:
- Advertising, design, and other creative industries
- Organizations or teams with capable, highly skilled, and/or experienced members
3. Participative/Democratic Leadership
Team leaders with a participative or democratic style of leadership allow their team members to collaborate and contribute to the decision-making process.
Democratic leadership style is generally characterized by the following:
- High team involvement
- Team members have a say in making decisions
- Leads to overall team satisfaction
- Promotes trust within the team through shared decision processes
- Encourages cooperation among members
- Open communication
- Team members are motivated by the freedom to participate in decision-making
Democratic leadership is most effective in the following situations:
- Brainstorming and idea-generation sessions for a new project
- Team projects requiring different perspectives
- Organizations fostering a culture of engagement and inclusivity
4. Transactional/Managerial Leadership
Transactional leadership essentially focuses on the exchange between the team members and the leaders in achieving a common goal. The members of this type of leadership are generally motivated by the rewards and punishment system put in place.
Teams with transactional leadership style typically have the following features:
- A more directive approach to dealing with members
- There are clear instructions and expectations
- Performance-based rewards and consequences
- Prioritizes organizational efficiency
Scenarios where transactional leadership is most effective:
- Manufacturing operations that value efficiency and efficiency
- Business and departmental operations where standard operating procedures are documented
- Multinational organizations
- Industrial or business operations with strict regulations
5. Authoritarian/Autocratic Leadership
Leaders with authoritarian or autocratic styles do not seek input from their team members when making decisions. They manage the team with full authority and control. Although this may sound like an unfair arrangement for the team members, there are various situations when authoritarian leadership is the most effective style to implement.
Features of an authoritarian style of leadership include the following:
- Limited team involvement
- Leaders have a straightforward approach to communicating with members
- Leaders have the authority to define instructions and expectations
- Leaders may base their decisions on their own opinions and perspectives
- Decision-making and implementation are quick and decisive
- Well-defined hierarchical structures
- Clear and strict top-down chain of command for effective execution and coordination of tasks
- A rewards-and-punishments system to motivate members
Ideal scenarios where autocratic leadership is most effective:
- Military settings
- Emergency and crisis management situations
- Situations where individuals’ well-being and safety are vital
- Projects where there’s no or limited room for errors
- Business operations where immediate and efficient decisions are essential
How to Improve Your Leadership Style
If you have led a group or managed a team before, you may have advertently employed a specific leadership style. Often, your style may have been influenced by your personality traits and cultural background.
There are many other ways to improve your leadership, such as the following:
- Self-awareness of your values, strengths, weaknesses
- Seeking feedback from mentors and subordinates regarding your leadership style
- Investing in personality development
- Being adaptable to changes based on the needs of the organization
- Staying on top of the latest leadership best practices and trends
- Developing and improving your empathy and embracing inclusion and diversity
- Improving your skills in delegation, motivation, crisis management, and other relevant techniques
To help students develop skills applicable to educational settings, doctorate programs offer in-depth knowledge of various leadership styles while developing managerial skills necessary to become an effective administrative faculty leader or demonstrate leadership in private organizations and public offices.
Below are some of the country’s leading graduate Leadership programs:
- Grand Canyon College (online or on-campus)
- Boston College (online or on-campus)
- Arizona State University (online)
- University of Miami (on-campus)
- Liberty University (online)
Matching different leadership and decision-making roles, all leadership styles aim to drive the team and its members to achieve a common goal. In choosing the best leadership style to implement, consider the unique organizational context and goals to ensure effective management of the team.
Depending on the circumstances, adaptive leaders may combine elements of the different styles for more successful team management.