We often think that style makes up for substance. But when it comes to effective leadership and management, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

The way you lead your team can make or break your professional goals. Like a jockey leading a race horse, you can lead your team to victory, get bucked off in the process, or anything in between. How the race ends, no one can say for sure, but understanding leadership styles and learning the skills of great management is an important start. 

Here are the seven leadership styles in management, with their pros and cons. Which one is right for your personality and your team? Read on to find out.

The essence of leadership styles in management

Leadership styles in management are made up of techniques and behaviors that you can utilize to guide, inspire, and influence your teams toward achieving organizational goals. 

An important quality that you can develop to make your leadership qualities truly stand out is emotional intelligence (EI). This is the ability to recognize, understand, and manage your emotions, while making space for the emotions of others around you.

Here’s how EI contributes in the context of leadership and management:

Self-awareness: Awareness of your own strengths, weaknesses, and emotions allows you to understand how these factors influence your behavior and decision-making. This can help you regulate your emotions more effectively and better notice their impact on others.

Self-regulation: Managing your emotions, particularly in stressful situations, will give you the composure, adaptability, and resilience to facilitate rational decision-making and sustained focus on organizational goals.

Social awareness: The higher your EI, the more sensitive you will be to the emotions and needs of others, demonstrating empathy and understanding toward your team members’ perspectives and feelings. This fosters trust, collaboration, and healthy interactions.

Relationship management: To be an exceptional leader, you need to manage relationships, navigate conflicts, inspire others, and foster team cohesion. Try to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts constructively, and cultivate a positive work environment where individuals feel valued and motivated.

Decision-making: Emotional intelligence informs decision-making quality; when you integrate rational analysis with emotional insights, you can make better decisions that consider both individual and organizational impacts holistically.

Employee engagement and retention: Try to show empathy, authenticity, and understanding to cultivate a supportive work culture, leading to heightened engagement, satisfaction, and retention levels among employees.

Change management: Guide organizational change by addressing employees’ emotions and concerns, facilitating smoother transitions and greater acceptance of these changes.

Exploring different types of leadership styles

There are six basic styles of management for leading teams.

1. Autocratic: Authority and speed

Characteristics: Makes decisions independently without consulting the team; often provides clear instructions to their subordinates.

Benefits: Effective in situations requiring quick decisions or in environments where strict control is necessary; can ensure consistency in decision-making.

Limitations: Lowers morale and motivation among team members, who may feel disempowered and undervalued; can also stifle creativity and innovation within the team.

2. Democratic: Collaboration and decision-making

Characteristics: Involves team members in the decision-making process, seeking their input and feedback, encouraging open communication and collaboration.

Benefits: Fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among team members, leading to higher morale and motivation, and promoting creativity and innovation, as diverse perspectives are considered.

Limitations: Slower decision-making, as consensus may need to be reached among team members. In certain situations, such as emergencies, this style may not be suitable.

3. Laissez-Faire: Autonomy and trust

Characteristics: Adopts a hands-off approach, providing minimal guidance and direction, allowing team members to make decisions and take ownership of tasks.

Benefits: Effective when working with skilled and motivated team members; fosters innovation.

Limitations: May lead to confusion or lack of direction among team members, especially if they require more guidance or support; can result in inconsistent outcomes if team members have varying levels of competence.

4. Transformational: Inspiring change and growth

Characteristics: Inspires and motivates team members by articulating a compelling vision and setting high standards, leading by example and empowering followers to achieve excellence.

Benefits: Fosters a positive and empowering work environment, where team members feel motivated and engaged. Transformational leaders can drive significant organizational change and innovation.

Limitations: May be less effective in environments where quick decisions and clear directives are needed; relies heavily on the charisma and influence of the leader, which may not be sustainable in the long term.

5. Transactional: Clear and restrained

Characteristics: Focuses on managing tasks and rewarding or disciplining team members based on performance, establishing clear expectations using a system of rewards and punishments to motivate.

Benefits: Provides structure and clarity, as team members know what is expected of them and the consequences of their actions. It can be effective in achieving short-term goals.

Limitations: May create a transactional relationship between the leader and followers, based solely on rewards and punishments. It may not foster creativity or long-term commitment among team members.

6. Servant: Utilitarian 

Characteristics: Prioritizes the needs of their team members above their own, focusing on serving others, empowering them to reach their full potential and achieve collective goals.

Benefits: Fosters a culture of collaboration, empathy, and personal growth within the team, building strong relationships with their followers and creating a supportive work environment.

Limitations: May be perceived as passive or overly accommodating by some, and it may be challenging to implement in hierarchical or competitive environments.

Effective leaders are often able to adapt their style based on the needs of their team and the demands of the situation, leveraging the strengths of each approach to achieve organizational goals.

5 Different Types of Leadership Styles Tutorial | Brian Tracy

“Leadership is the ability to get extraordinary achievement from ordinary people.”  BrianTracy

Leadership styles quiz: Identifying your style

Not sure what leadership style suits you best? Take this short quiz, track your scoring, and compare your results with the following guide to find out.

  1. Which of the following best describes your approach to decision-making?
  1. a) I prefer to make decisions on my own, without consulting others.
  2. b) I involve my team members in the decision-making process and value their input.
  3. c) I trust my team members to make decisions independently.
  4. How do you typically handle conflicts within your team?
  1. a) I take charge and make decisions to resolve conflicts quickly.
  2. b) I encourage open dialogue and seek to find a consensus among team members.
  3. c) I allow team members to resolve conflicts on their own, stepping in only if necessary.
  4. What is your communication style when interacting with your team?
  1. a) I provide clear instructions and expect immediate compliance from my team.
  2. b) I communicate openly and encourage feedback from team members.
  3. c) I give my team members freedom to communicate in their preferred style.
  4. How do you motivate your team members to achieve their goals?
  1. a) I use rewards and punishments to incentivize performance.
  2. b) I inspire and motivate my team members by setting a compelling vision and leading by example.
  3. c) I trust my team members to be self-motivated and provide support as needed.
  4. How do you lead your team through change?
  1. a) I provide clear direction and guidelines to navigate the change.
  2. b) I involve my team members in the change process and address their concerns.
  3. c) I trust my team members to adapt to change independently.
  4. Which leadership quality do you believe is most important for effective leadership?
  1. a) Authority and control
  2. b) Empathy and understanding
  3. c) Trust and empowerment

Scoring: For each question, assign 1 point for each (a), 2 points for each (b), and 3 points for each. Add up the numbers to find your total score.


6-9 points: You exhibit mostly autocratic leadership tendencies. You prefer to take charge and make decisions independently.

10-15 points: You demonstrate characteristics of democratic leadership. You value collaboration and seek input from your team members.

16-18 points: You lean towards laissez-faire leadership. You trust your team members to take ownership of their tasks and make decisions autonomously.

Reflecting on personal leadership qualities

Reflecting on your style of leadership is an important step in personal and professional development. Here are some steps to help you along:

  1. Self-awareness: Take time to understand your own strengths, weaknesses, values, and beliefs as they relate to leadership. Reflect on your past experiences and interactions with others to identify patterns in your behavior.
  2. Seek feedback: Ask for feedback from colleagues, team members, mentors, or supervisors about your leadership style. This outside perspective can provide valuable insights and help you identify areas for improvement.
  3. Assess your impact: Reflect on the impact of your leadership style on your team and organization. Consider the outcomes of your decisions and actions, as well as the morale and motivation of your team members.
  4. Compare with leadership models: Familiarize yourself with various leadership models and theories, such as transformational, situational, or servant leadership. Compare your own behaviors and practices with these models to gain a deeper understanding of your style.
  5. Consider different situations: Reflect on how your leadership style may vary depending on the situation, context, or individuals involved. Think about how you adapt your approach to different challenges, projects, or team dynamics.
  6. Identify strengths and areas for improvement: Acknowledge your strengths as a leader and how they contribute to your effectiveness. Also, identify areas where you can grow and develop as a leader, whether it’s improving communication skills, delegating more effectively, or building stronger relationships with team members.
  7. Set goals for development: Based on your reflections, set specific, achievable goals for developing your leadership skills. These goals could include attending leadership training programs, seeking mentorship, practicing new behaviors, or taking on new leadership responsibilities.
  8. Continuously review and adjust: Leadership development is an ongoing process. Regularly review your progress, solicit feedback, and adjust your approach as needed to continue growing and evolving as a leader.

Adapting leadership style to situational needs

You might have a leadership style that naturally suits you. But if you’re a more authoritarian leader facing a company rebranding, for example, you’ll need to adjust and take in everyone’s input. Same goes in the other direction. Here are a few more reasons why adaptability is important as a leader:

  • Diverse team dynamics
  • Changing project requirements 
  • Shifting organizational culture
  • Conflict resolution and relationship building
  • Continuous improvement and learning

Adaptability in leadership style enables managers to be responsive, agile, and effective in navigating the complexities of the organizational landscape. By recognizing the need to tailor their approach to different situations, projects, and relationships, managers can build stronger teams, drive better outcomes, and foster a culture of innovation and growth within their organizations.

The synergy of leadership and management 

Leadership and management are deeply interconnected concepts within an organization, each playing a distinct but complementary role in achieving organizational objectives and fostering a positive work culture.

  1. Vision and strategy: Leadership typically focuses on setting a vision and defining strategic direction for the organization. Managers, on the other hand, are responsible for implementing this vision through concrete plans and actions.
  2. Inspiration and execution: Leaders inspire and motivate employees to rally behind the vision and embrace change. Managers, meanwhile, ensure that day-to-day operations run smoothly and that tasks are completed efficiently.
  3. People development: Leadership emphasizes the development of people, encouraging growth, empowerment, and engagement. Management oversees the implementation of development initiatives, ensuring that employees receive the necessary training and support.
  4. Adaptability and stability: Leaders drive change and innovation, fostering an environment of adaptability and agility. Managers provide stability by establishing processes, structures, and systems that support efficient operations.

Strategic leadership: Balancing vision and execution

While it’s important to remain focused on the long-term strategic objectives, leaders must also be responsive to immediate challenges and opportunities. This requires the ability to prioritize effectively, allocate resources wisely, and make informed decisions that align with the overarching vision.

Key Components of Strategic Leadership

  1. Strategic thinking: Strategic leaders possess the ability to think critically and analytically about complex issues, anticipate future trends, and identify opportunities for growth and innovation.
  2. Decision-making: Strategic leaders make tough decisions with confidence and clarity, weighing the potential risks and rewards of different courses of action.
  3. Communication: Effective communication is essential for conveying the vision to stakeholders, inspiring commitment, and aligning efforts toward common goals.
  4. Change management: Strategic leaders must be adept at navigating change and leading organizational transformation. They inspire confidence and resilience among employees during times of uncertainty and transition.

Effective leadership in diverse organizational contexts

While there are core qualities that make a good leader, different times call for different measures. A great CEO of a landscape company won’t necessarily have what it takes to successfully run a healthcare organization. Let’s take a look at a few different contexts where unique challenges require a specific set of strengths and competency:

Navigating leadership challenges in different industries

Navigating leadership challenges across different industries requires a nuanced understanding of the unique dynamics, complexities, and demands of each sector. 


  • Talent retention: With high demand for skilled professionals, you can attract and retain top talent through competitive compensation, opportunities for growth, and a dynamic work environment.
  • Market disruption: Anticipate and respond to disruptive technologies and business models, fostering a culture of agility and adaptability within their organizations.


  • Regulatory compliance: Healthcare leaders face stringent regulatory requirements and compliance standards, requiring you to stay abreast of evolving regulations and ensure adherence across all aspects of operations.
  • Patient-centricity: You must prioritize patient-centered care, focusing on improving outcomes, enhancing patient experience, and promoting quality and safety in healthcare delivery.
  • Technological integration: Embrace digital transformation and implement innovative technologies. This will improve efficiency, collaboration, and patient care outcomes.

Finance and Banking

  • Regulatory compliance: As a leader in the finance sector you must navigate complex regulatory frameworks, ensuring compliance with regulations related to risk management, data security, and financial reporting.
  • Risk management: Manage financial risks, such as credit, market, and operational risks, while also fostering a culture of risk awareness and accountability.
  • Customer trust and security: Build and maintain customer trust by prioritizing data security, privacy, and transparency to safeguard customer interests and maintain market confidence.


  • Supply chain management: Optimize supply chain operations, ensuring efficiency, resilience, and sustainability across the entire value chain.
  • Technological advancements: Embrace industry 4.0 technologies such as automation, IoT, and AI to enhance productivity, quality, and agility in manufacturing processes.
  • Talent development: With the rise of automation, you need to invest in upskilling and reskilling employees to adapt to changing job roles and technological advancements.

Hospitality and Tourism

  • Customer experience: Prioritize delivering exceptional customer experiences to differentiate your brand and foster loyalty in a competitive market.
  • Seasonality and demand fluctuations: Manage demand fluctuations and seasonality with effective workforce planning, revenue management strategies, and flexibility in operations.
  • Crisis management: Prepared to respond to crises such as natural disasters, pandemics, or security incidents, prioritizing guest safety and communication.

Enhancing team performance with adaptive leadership

Knowing your natural leadership style is important, but cultivating the skills of adaptive leadership are beneficial in the long run. Let’s face it, nothing works the same way all the time. Except maybe a Swiss watch. And even then, can you imaging leading a Swiss watch company this day and age, in the era of smart watches? 

No simple feat!

But that’s an excellent example of where leaders have had to stay grounded in their strengths, while adapting to generational and market changes.

Do that, and you can bring your team to a point where they look for what’s coming next, and meet changes head on with solutions ready to roll. What could be a greater success for a leader than to see their teams being able to work like that?

Leadership styles and organizational success

Examining case studies and research on leadership styles and organizational outcomes reveals valuable insights into how different leadership approaches impact performance, employee engagement, and overall organizational effectiveness. Daniel Goleman, along with other leadership researchers, has contributed significantly to this body of knowledge.


Case studies have shown that transformational leadership, characterized by vision, inspiration, and empowerment, is associated with positive organizational outcomes. Research by Bass and Avolio found that transformational leaders fostered higher levels of employee satisfaction, motivation, and commitment, leading to improved performance and innovation within organizations.

Goleman’s research on emotional intelligence in leadership highlighted the importance of transformational leadership behaviors, such as empathy, coaching, and inspirational communication, in driving employee engagement and organizational success. Case studies of companies like Southwest Airlines and Google have demonstrated the impact of transformational leaders in creating a culture of innovation, collaboration, and high performance.


Research by Burns and Bass found that transactional leaders could effectively maintain performance standards and manage day-to-day operations through rewards and corrective actions.

However, case studies have shown that transactional leadership alone may not be sufficient to drive long-term organizational success. While transactional leaders can ensure compliance and efficiency in the short term, they may struggle to inspire creativity, innovation, and employee engagement over time.


Servant leadership has gained attention in recent years for its positive impact on organizational outcomes. Case studies of companies like Starbucks and Nordstrom have highlighted the effectiveness of servant leaders in creating a culture of trust, collaboration, and employee well-being.

Research by Greenleaf and Spears found that servant leaders prioritized the development and empowerment of their team members, leading to higher levels of employee satisfaction, commitment, and performance. Servant leadership has been associated with reduced turnover, increased customer satisfaction, and improved financial performance in organizations.


Authentic leadership, characterized by self-awareness, transparency, and moral integrity, has been studied in relation to organizational outcomes. Case studies have shown that authentic leaders who lead with honesty, integrity, and authenticity foster trust and credibility among their followers.

Research by Avolio and Gardner found that authentic leaders were able to create a supportive and inclusive work environment, where employees felt valued, respected, and motivated to perform at their best. Authentic leadership has been linked to higher levels of employee engagement, job satisfaction, and organizational commitment.


Case studies and research on this leadership style have revealed mixed outcomes.

While some studies suggest that laissez-faire leadership can promote autonomy, creativity, and initiative among highly skilled and self-motivated employees, other research indicates potential drawbacks. For instance, without clear direction and oversight, teams may struggle with coordination, accountability, and goal attainment.


Autocratic leadership involves centralized decision-making and strict control by the leader, with little input or participation from team members. Case studies and research on autocratic leadership have highlighted both positive and negative outcomes.

In certain situations, such as crisis management or military operations, decisive leadership may be necessary to achieve objectives.

However, research also suggests that teams led by autocratic leaders may experience lower levels of job satisfaction, motivation, and commitment, leading to higher turnover rates and reduced productivity over time.


Case studies and research on democratic leadership consistently demonstrate positive outcomes.

Teams led by democratic leaders tend to exhibit higher levels of engagement, satisfaction, and commitment. By involving team members in decision-making, democratic leaders foster a sense of ownership, accountability, and empowerment.

Research by Lewin and colleagues found that democratic leadership promotes a supportive and inclusive work environment, where diverse perspectives are valued and contributions are recognized. This leads to higher levels of creativity, innovation, and team cohesion.

Transformational, servant, authentic, and other effective leadership styles have been shown to contribute to positive outcomes, while transactional leadership may have limitations in driving long-term success. 

Leadership styles driving bottom-line results

If bottom-line results are your main driver, consider autocratic and transactional approaches. Adopt these styles to set clear objectives and quantifiable goals for your team to achieve. 

Develop your stylistic vocabulary for optimal leadership

Leadership is more art than science. It is a dynamic fluid, not a static solid. 

From the personalities of your team members to the pace of your industry, your own limitations and authentic voice to the objectives of the current task, you will need to consider many variables when adopting your style of management. 

Familiarize yourself with all leadership styles and experiment with their application. The process will be ongoing, so try to adapt.

A final caveat: when tailoring your style to individual team members, be aware of how this is perceived within the team. Playing favorites, even appearing to, can have its own repercussions.