Chris J Powell

What is Your Style? A look at Leadership Styles

Leaders and Leadership comes in many forms and functions.  We have all at one time or another followed a Leader that was either far too forceful or “knew too much” but on the other hand have likely experienced the wishy washy style of an indecisive leader who doesn’t rock the boat.  Regardless of your position or pecking order…at some point you will be a Leader, by choice or by promotion.  Knowing your style and living to the reality of who you can be…that is key.

I went digging for definitions of Leadership Styles and they ranged from three brief and simple bulk groups to the more complex and diverged different arch types.  I am neither a Psychology Major nor a Simple Susie who needs everything broken out into the biggest swath so that I can plug everyone I meet neatly into one of 3 little boxes so I am thinking that among the best layouts of Leadership Styles out there comes from one of my favorite tool websites

Looking at the 10 broad stroke definitions of Leadership Style, I will now attempt to Krispify them for you:

1. Transactional Leadership

As leadership styles these are bonds that typically form in a short term environment as the relationship is very one sided with the Leader exerting control over the followers in an agreement or transaction.  The real benefit to this type of leadership style is that all roles within the group are well defined at the outset but the transactional leader is challenged by the fact that decisions on those role definitions are based on their ability to quickly assess and assign the roles based on experience, performance and is very externally focused.

Personally…the Transactional Leader is one of my least favorite types of leaders as they are very demanding and looking for how the group can benefit them.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Ah the Autocrat.  Standing before the group drunk on the power that was either assigned or taken.  It is all about the Leader and the followers have very little input into any decisions.  While there is great efficiency gains by having all the power and decisions centrally located…it is not conducive to long term success.

So in business, is it good to have a person take charge and run with an idea.  Sure…but when that idea is entirely self serving and there is little or no room for the group or organization to grow beyond the thoughts of a single person…again not my favorite type of leader.

3. Bureaucratic Leadership

The paper pushing, bean counting by the book and by the numbers type of leader.  At times I consider this to be the type of leader I am but in reading through all the options…it is at times that I function in this capacity.  Because of being very rule based and structure driven, bureaucratic leaders tend to be far less flexible than others.

The Bureaucratic Leader as learned that conforming to the consistent set of rules is a good way to either keep off the radar of others…or just to get through the day.  Structure reigns supreme.

4. Charismatic Leadership

If you have not had a chance in the past to listen to the rallying speeches of Winston Churchill, John F. Kennedy Jr or other very charismatic leaders I strongly recommend doing a quick Google Search.  The Charismatic Leader is about the personality, the charm and the inspiration.  They function in a similar manner to the Transformation Leader but differ in one very specific way…the Charismatic Leader tends to place themselves ahead of the group or team.

For the followers…they see their own success directly related to the success of the leader and ride the coat tails.

5. Democratic/Participative Leadership

The democratic process is an important part of our society but there is a time and a place for democracy and the Democratic Leader is very encouraging and team building in their focus.  All ideas are considered valuable, there is a connection that working as a group towards a common goal is the end game and the Democratic Leader takes all input to come up with a path.  Because of this inclusion…efficiency does suffer greatly.

6. Laissez-Faire Leadership

From the French term “leave it be” the Laissez-Faire Leader takes a hands off approach to leading.  This type of leader is best suited to groups that already are in place and the leader  is there to support and guide as needed but tends to let the group function independently.  There is a challenge of focus and getting the most out of the group with this hands off approach though.

7. Task-Oriented Leadership

Every action begets a reaction and every step leads to the natural path to completion.  Beyond being a bureaucrat…I am very task oriented.  It is the Analytical side of me.  I look at every step and motion and look for the moves that may counter this.  When leading a group I think of it very much like a chess game…positioning the resources to achieve the successful completion of the task.

Because of a focus on completing the task…interaction with the team tends to suffer somewhat as the end result is all that matters.

8. People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership

The perpetual “Yes Man”.  Always looking to keep every one happy, never rocking the boat and looking to find balance at every opportunity.  This type of leader does have advantages though as the teams that are created…tend to have people who actually want to be on them.  Putting people first is important…but I tend to disagree that people are the most important part (see the Task Oriented Leader in me is coming out).

9. Servant Leadership

This type of leader is not a leader who is in it for the glory and tends to shy away from the lime light.  They lead by their actions and work for the common good of the team that they are with.  It is a form of Democratic Leadership but is very value oriented.  Recognition comes from the people around them and their focus is on both personal and team success being very connected.  This type of leader, while very effective is often overshadowed by other leadership styles.

10. Transformational Leadership

Seeing the big picture is important for any leader but the Transformational Leader is focused almost entirely on that end result.  The details and tasks needed to achieve and succeed come from others.  The Transformational Leader tends to work well with the Transactional Leader because together both the day to day focus and the long term goals are achieved.

So in looking at these ten broad types of Leaders…which one are you?  Or are you a leader at all?


Chris J Powell


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