The Different Leadership Styles and When to Use Them

Leading a team to success means understanding when and how to use various leadership strategies. Some situations call for a positive motivator while others require more of a tough-love approach. Increasing your knowledge of these different styles can help you avoid common pitfalls and learn to adjust your strategy based on the particular situation. Successful leaders learn how to mix and match various styles in order to engage their team and achieve their goals. Here are some of the most common leadership styles and why you should use them. 

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is centered around the leader and all decisions are made by the leader without consulting subordinates. An autocratic leader will make decisions based on their own opinions and then communicate these decisions to their team members. They expect their team to then execute without questioning the decision at all. With autocratic leadership, all of the authority resides in the hands of one person, the leader. 

When to Use Autocratic Leadership

This type of leadership is beneficial when decisions need to be made quickly. It can be effective in dire situations that require immediate attention, such as when a business is failing. It can also be useful when existing management is too lenient and team members are not pulling their own weight. It is ideal in situations where things need to be done quickly with little regard to long-term outcomes. 

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership focuses on the team as a whole, rather than one single leader. Unlike autocratic leadership where the leader makes decisions, democratic leadership is characterized by shared decision-making among team members. With this style of leadership, ideas and opinions are freely shared and discussed openly and communication is encouraged. Although communication is encouraged among team members, the leader still guides and directs the discussions and ultimately decides how to proceed based on the suggestions of the group. 


When to Use Democratic Leadership

This type of leadership works well when working with professional subordinates who have the knowledge to help make decisions. For example, it can be effective when talking with experts in the field such as technology experts or medical experts. It can also be highly effective when managing a professional team, where leaders are looking to empower their employees by bringing out their strengths. By involving the team in the decision-making process, it makes the team members much more committed to the plan and helps them learn how to collaborate to achieve common goals. 

Delegative Leadership

Also known as ‘laissez-faire leadership,” a delegative leadership style focuses on delegating tasks to team members. Rather than the leader guiding the group directly, they allow the team to self-direct. It is more of a hands-off approach in which all of the authority is given to subordinates including goal setting, decision making, and problem solving. 

When to Use Delegative Leadership

This can be an effective leadership strategy when you are working with creative experts who are highly skilled and have a great deal of experience in their jobs. If you have a team that is highly driven to succeed on its own and is comfortable working without supervision, this style can make for a positive working environment. 

Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader models the behaviors they want to see in their team. They inspire their team with a vision and then encourage them to achieve it on their own. They are highly motivating and serve as a positive role model by placing a high value on relationships and morale. 


When to Use Transformational Leadership

This is an effective leadership style when you have a strong vision of the future and you are focused on long-term goals. It is most effective when a leader has been in their position for a while and has built a trusting relationship with their team.