As you grow in your career, you’ll likely find yourself with more opportunities to showcase your leadership skills. This comes easier to some than others, but demonstrating leadership is an excellent way to advance your career.
There isn’t just one way to be a good leader. Even if you learned from a mentor, their style might not be the same as yours. There are a plethora of leadership styles, and to be a good leader, you need to find the one that best fits your skills and personality. Inspired by this breakdown from Bruna Martinuzzi, we’ll look at some of these common styles and their pros and cons.
This is a type of leadership many are familiar with, but often not in a good way. Frequently a “my way or the highway” type of leadership, autocratic leadership doesn’t always mean being a tyrant. At their best, autocratic leaders are decisive leaders with clear vision and specific expectations.
According to Bruna, the best autocratic leaders are results-focused and can make quick decisions that lead to tangible results. When a process absolutely needs to succeed, autocratic leadership is effective. But this type of leadership needs to show team members respect and build trust to avoid building resentment. If this is your best style, learn how to utilize your strengths while making sure your team still feels valued and has some agency.
“Leaders who adapt this type of leadership style are not necessarily “know-it-alls” who see themselves above their peers. They’re often deeply focused on achieving efficient results through established actions they believe are in the business’s best interest.” – Bruna Martinuzzi
The opposite of the autocratic style, a democratic leader looks for input from their team members often before making major decisions. These types of leaders like to make sure everyone is included and that decision-making is a team effort, even if they themselves are the ultimate leader or decision maker.
“You might also hear this leadership style referred to as “participative leadership.” Leaders in this category run groups and projects like…well, a democracy.” –Kat Boogaard, The Muse
Bruna says a democratic process is ideal when an organization needs fresh ideas, and it makes team members feel respected and valued. Conversely, it can lead to a slow decision-making process. It’s good to get everyone’s thoughts, but it can take a while to gather or properly interpret those opinions. And if you end up ignoring those opinions at the end, the team will question why you spent so much time listening to them only to ignore their advice.
Our former athlete audience should be familiar with this style, but likely everyone has met someone great at coaching in their lives. Leaders with a coaching style view their teams as valuable resources to nurture. By analyzing their teams’ strengths and weaknesses and extrapolating their best skills, coaches turn their team members into their best selves.
While actual sports coaches can have any of these styles, often the most successful of them are always coaching and teaching. Green Bay Packers head coach Matt LaFleur is a great example, as in his press appearances, he always gives detailed breakdowns to explain his decision-making process.
While the coaching style has many benefits, including empowering teams, preparing them for bigger roles, and encouraging innovation, Vantage Circle does show that this style has as many cons as other styles. If the leader isn’t skilled in their own ways, it’s hard for the team to want to take their advice. It can also take some time to see results. Some employees don’t react well to mentoring at all, and this style can lead to micromanaging.
“As a team leader, you can also adopt this style when you need to pass on knowledge or train their people. A good example is when a sales manager mentors their team members to achieve a company’s sales targets.” JobStreet
The last style we’ll cover is delegative. This style, often referred to as laissez-faire, takes a hands-off approach to leadership. A delegative team trusts that their team members have the knowledge and resources to accomplish their tasks and can handle themselves.
This is a very empowering style as it shows belief in your team. Autonomy is one of today’s most valuable skills, and this style is great for promoting it without your organization. However, Bruna says that this style can lead to confusion or tasks taking extra time if you aren’t clear with your expectations. A lack of clear leadership can also lead to conflict when disagreements occur, and less experienced members may feel unable to contribute.
“The laissez-faire approach also frees leaders to devote their attention to higher-level goals rather than staff monitoring.” –teambuilding.com
Of course, there are even more leadership styles than these four, but the chosen ones represent a wide area of schools of thought. Every style has its strengths and weaknesses, and a good style for one project might not work for another. Take your own skills and values into consideration to see what works best for you.