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9 Leadership Styles With Their Characteristics, Pros & Cons

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Last Updated on 04 March, 2021
9 Leadership Styles With Their Characteristics, Pros & Cons

A great leader can mentor, lead, inspire, and keep the team spirit alive, even in the toughest situations with the various leadership styles that currently exists in the corporate world. Proper leadership is a vital component of success in the business world.

However, it is essential to understand certain implications of these different types of leadership. Whether you want to lead as a friend or boss, act as a democrat or autocrat, etc. will play a significant role in how your employees view you as a leader.

These attributes play a significant role in a team's success. They help ascertain how to communicate better, motivate your team, handle challenges, pick a management approach, etc.

Thus, it is essential to know which leadership style suits you and your team the best. Here are a few of them to consider and their characteristics, along with pros, and cons.

But first, let’s start with the absolute basic.

What is Leadership Style?

"The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things." – Ronald Reagan

Leaderships Styles are how a leader guides a team through different stages. These styles dictate how a leader implements plans, provides guidance, overlooks work, etc. Based on different personalities and methods, there are many different styles.

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9 Types of Leadership Styles with its Characteristics, Pros and Cons

  1. Transactional Leadership
  2. Transformational Leadership
  3. Servant Leadership
  4. Democratic Leadership
  5. Autocratic Leadership
  6. Laissez-Faire (Delegative) Leadership
  7. Bureaucratic Leadership
  8. Charismatic Leadership
  9. Coaching Leadership


Now, let’s go ahead in understanding in detail about the characteristics, pros and cons.

1. Transactional Leadership


"The task of leadership is not to put greatness into people, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already."
– John Buchan

As the name suggests, this is strictly a give and take mechanism on leadership. It is through dishing out tasks with rewards and penalties attached to them.

Transactional leadership is a superb source of motivation to get things done and keep the workforce happy at the same time. It is also an excellent way for the fair rewards and recognition program of a company and is highly directive.

Characteristics of Transactional Leadership Style

  • This type of leadership thrives on performance based on different sources of motivation. This group's leaders get the best out of a team through intrinsic and extrinsic sources of employee motivation. It can be rewards, incentives, employee promotion considerations, etc.
  • Transactional leadership is prone to micromanagement. It is because the management is straightforward in its tasks and processes. It brings scrutiny, which can result in working under micromanagers.
  • The leaders who follow this genre are practical in their approach. They know how to get things done, drive people, and solve problems with a pragmatic approach.
  • A transactional approach can hinder creativity at work because it is very straightforward in its system. It eliminates the creative inputs of the workers.

Transactional leadership diminishes confusion and guesswork, as the leader cites everything. It is also very motivating from the employees’ point of view.

Because this style is traditional in its set guidelines, it may halt innovation and creativity.

2. Transformational Leadership


"If you want something new, you have to stop doing something old."
– Peter Drucker

This leadership style rides on the concept of transforming existing processes into something better. Individuals following this style are always on the lookout for innovations to bring into the business processes.

Transformational leaders inspire and empower employees to better themselves and the company. Unlike transactional style, this promotes and gives total autonomy to let the employees’ creative juices flow.

Characteristics of Transformational Leadership Style

  • The leaders of this style are great visionaries in their field. Due to their desire to seek innovations, they are often the pioneers of the different industries.
  • This style relies on better workplace communication. In this form of leadership, there occurs an impeccable example of communication. It is because this type depends on finding better options through brainstorming and giving equal importance to all.
  • Transformational leadership is also an excellent way of engaging workers. It has positive effects on employee input, career development, employee satisfaction, etc.
  • There is also a certain appetite for risk in this leadership style type. This is because leaders are always on the lookout for better ways. It means going out of one's comfort zone.

This style encourages a high level of trust in the workforce’s' abilities and helps them come up with new ideas towards a common goal. Creativity is let loose in transformational leadership.

Since this style is always on the lookout for better ways, things may get unstable. It can result in confusion in the processes and among employees.

3. Servant Leadership


"The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between, the leader is a servant."
– Max De Pree

The servant leadership model runs on the motto of serving others. Rather than leading a workforce, individuals think of ways on how to make things better for their workforce. The servant leaders operate on the idea of service first, lead later.

This style is a favorite among the workers, and works wonders for employee morale and employee experience.

Characteristics of Servant Leadership Style

  • Servant leadership always has a high degree of empathy. Their leaders can relate to the hardships of a team and work out ways to solve it. For this matter alone, it is one of the most favorites of all workers.
  • This style has a high degree of awareness toward a team. Leaders of this category are great listeners, which gives them a better understanding of their team. It helps to lead the group towards greater success.
  • Leaders of this genre can also be very persuasive at times. It is because these leaders almost always have the approval of the team and the followers.
  • This type of leadership facilitates community building within the team. Here, leaders can bring people together towards a common goal.

This leadership style type creates a fair increase in employee loyalty and engagement. It also helps in strengthening the employer-employee relationship and trust among the parties.

A servant leadership model can be tough at times. This is because it always requires thinking about others rather than oneself. This selfless trait of always putting others' needs ahead of one’s own is not easy at all times.

4. Democratic Leadership


"A functioning, robust democracy requires a healthy educated, participatory followership, and an educated, morally grounded leadership."
– Chinua Achebe

Just like the name suggests, this style focuses on giving a voice to everyone concerned. An individual following this style takes into account the opinions of all those matters. This process is put into effect regardless of the status and ranks of individuals.

Democratic leaders emphasize the inputs and ideology of workers. Because of its employee empowerment nature, the business world also calls it as "participative leadership." In this style, leaders don't give orders but instead work together collaboratively.

Characteristics of Democratic Leadership Style

  • This leadership style emphasizes the aspect of equality in the workplace. Followers of this style take all inputs into account, irrespective of ranks.
  • There is a free flow of opinions in this management style. It acknowledges and discusses views on all critical issues of the business.
  • There is a high degree of creativity in a democratic style of management. It leads to a healthy exchange of ideas that paves the way for new ideas and innovation.
  • These traits above mean that there is a scope of better engagement in the democratic leadership style.

Democratic leadership style promotes empowerment, creativity, participation, and innovation in the workplace. This helps with the job satisfaction level of the employees.

This leadership style can be lengthy at times since the decision-making process includes the opinions of all concerned. The processes involved in getting these inputs can also be costly at times.

5. Autocratic Leadership


"Nobody is going to delegate a lot of power to a secretary that they can’t control."
– Micheal Bloomberg

In simple terms, this style is the complete opposite of the democratic leadership model. Leaders following this regime seem to be rigid in their ways with no space for change. Here, the individuals assume all the power to themselves and make the decisions as they see fit.

An autocratic leader gives out instructions on the tasks a team needs to do and how. This style limits the creativity of the working staff to try new things.

Characteristics of Autocratic Leadership Style

  • The window for creativity in this style of management is very minimal. It is because all the decisions are made by one person in power only. This harms engagement, as well.
  • It provides leaders with a greater power to operate in ways they see fit. This can be helpful in some critical situations, but this can also give rise to micromanagement.
  • There occurs a colossal lack of trust in this leadership style on the subordinates. It is why the power to make all the decisions lie in the hands of the leader. This harms employee loyalty to a vast extent.
  • Due to its lack of inputs from the team, this type also suffers from a lack of creativity.

The decisions in this style take less time since it is just one person's opinion. Also, because this model comes with clear instructions, it cuts out the chances of confusion.

In autocratic leadership, employees feel ignored and unheard of their opinions. This lessens their employee engagement level.

6. Laissez-Faire (Delegative) Leadership


"If you pick the right people and give them the opportunity to spread their wings, and put compensation as a carrier behind it, you almost don’t have to manage them."
– Jack Welch

"Laissez-Faire" is a French term meaning leave it be. This syle of leadership rejects micromanagement and gives employees the freedom to work by themselves. Followers of this style don't bother with scrutinizing the team members but instead trusts them to do the job well.

To balance out the lack of participation, leaders in this concept provide its team with the resources and tools needed to work well.

Characteristics of Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

  • This management style works by allowing greater employee autonomy. It subsequently adds to more creativity in the workplace. This also helps build better independent workers.
  • Constructive feedback is a vital component of this leadership style. Leaders of this type offer effective feedback on the work of the employees. Since there is low participation of the leaders in the employees' work, it helps balance things.
  • Because of its attitude of leaving a workforce to work out solutions, there occurs a lack of communication. Though the leaders take full responsibility for the workers' actions, they prefer to remain on the sidelines during a project.
  • By trusting in its team members' ability, there is also a better sense of loyalty in this management style.

The Laissez-Faire leadership style type promotes trust and independence in the workplace.

If a particular team isn't well versed with itself, this model can be chaotic initially.

7. Bureaucratic Leadership


"The bureaucracy is a circle from which no one can escape. Its hierarchy is a hierarchy of knowledge."
– Karl Marx

This leadership style operates with a series of rigid rules. Bureaucratic leaders always follow a specific command chain and stick to those at all times. The government of a nation mostly follows a leadership of such form.

Characteristics of Bureaucratic Leadership Style

  • This management style follows a proper chain of command in its working. It helps ensure structure in the organization.
  • A management approach of this sort is also very well-organized. Leaders here delegate the tasks as per ranks for better results and accountability.
  • Bureaucratic leaders are very strong-minded and courageous in their approach. It is because the organizations in these situations are pretty huge. In this scenario, it requires a strong leader leading from the front.
  • Because of its rigid rules and chain of command, creativity does get lost at times.

Bureaucratic leadership is like a well-oiled machine where it follows the same regime everything. This eliminates confusion and maintains consistency all the way.

A leadership style, as such, can be very rigid at times. This rigidity restricts the level of creativity in the process.

8. Charismatic Leadership


"Charisma is the intangible that makes people want to follow you, to be around you, to be influenced by you."
– Roger Dawson

The leaders of this style are masters of communication, persuasion with a sense of charm. Charismatic leaders are a valuable asset in the growth of a company and facing a crisis. By forming a deep understanding of people around, they can tilt things in their favor easily.

Characteristics of Charismatic Leadership Style

  • The leaders following this type of leadership are very confident in their approach. They rarely have any self-doubt about their decisions and possess a very influential personality.
  • This leadership style also embodies excellent communication. It helps leaders be aware of a team and find solutions to answers. This also allows the leaders of this genre to be very persuasive in their management style.
  • The charismatic style of leadership also builds some of the great visionaries in the industry. These leaders' will to look forward and derive results with their commanding personality often sets them apart.
  • Employees of an organization can feel comfortable in a charismatic approach. It is because leaders of this style are great from a worker's viewpoint. They are great listeners, risk-takers, have an innovative approach, etc.

Charismatic leadership promotes creativity, teamwork, employee motivation, and a great sense of unity.

Sometimes, leaders of this form can be self-centered and get an acknowledgment of being shallow.

9. Coaching Leadership


Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impacts lasts in your absence.
– Sheryl Sandberg

As the name suggests, this leadership style stands its ground by mentoring workers. They are usually experts in their field of interest and are great communicators. This makes them perfect for coaching the workers towards greatness.

Characteristics of Coaching Leadership Style

  • This leadership style is excellent for employee engagement. It is because this improves employee training and development. This is always crucial from a worker's viewpoint to grow a career.
  • Coaching leadership promotes better communication as a result of mentoring. It makes for great communicators in the workplace, which is vital in all cases.
  • The leader of this style also requires excellent interpersonal skills. It is so because a mentor must also be understanding rather than just being knowledgeable.
  • Coaching leadership is vital in situations like new hires. A coaching mentality will help them adjust well and learn the work quickly. Understanding all the points above, it is a crowd-favorite as well.

It is great for employee engagement, training, workplace communication. Because of its mentoring nature, most workers will idolize the leaders as well.

In a situation where the team is big, it can get troublesome at times. Since it is of a coaching nature, deriving results can take time while righting the wrong by oneself.

These were the nine leadership style types commonly practiced in the business world today. Given the differences, they all have situations in which they shine better than others.

Now, it's your turn to weigh the pros and cons and decide on the type of leader you want to be. To help you do so, it is imperative that you also understand about leadership style assessment. It will help you figure out what kind of leader you are.

Let’s have a look at that as well.

Leadership Style Assessment- What Kind Of A Leader Are You?

To understand your style of leadership, the following are the aspects you must reflect upon yourself.

1. Personality Trait and Values

You must know your personality traits and values well enough to grasp what kind of person you are. In this aspect, you should look out for specific traits like appetite for risk, compassionate behavior, how you handle criticism, etc.

For example, if you have compassionate behavior, you may be a servant leader. Similarly, If you have a trusting nature, your leadership style could be of Laissez-Faire, etc.

Related Article: How Understanding Employee Persona Can Help Employers

2. Know your Weakness

Knowing one's weakness is probably the most crucial step towards self-development. It is also vital in determining which type of leader you are. In this regard, you should have a hard look at yourself and find out your negatives.

Here, if you have difficulty trusting people, you may not be a transformational leader. If you don't value others' opinions as much, you may be an autocratic leader, etc.

3. Feedback from Subordinates

One of the best leadership style assessments is good old fashioned feedback. Getting feedback from the ones you lead will tell you precisely what kind of a leader you have been. After all, it is they who will have first-hand knowledge of the way you lead.

Therefore, they will be able to tell you well on what kind of a leader you are. To do this, you can resort to employee surveys to derive feedback.

4. Observe your Choice of Leaders

A person's preference in the choice of leader tells a lot about what kind of a leader one wants to be. If you are more geared towards charismatic leaders like Elon Musk, chances are you might want to be one as well.

This understanding of one's preferences can also help you understand what kind of a leader you are yourself.

5. Test Yourself

Last but not least, you can also test yourself on your leadership style on various assessments online. These are questions about yourself that will help you know yourself better. It will tell you what kind of leader you are.

These tests are Meyers Briggs, USC's Leadership Style Self-Assessment, Emotional Intelligence Assessment, Leadership Blind Spots, CliftonStrengths, etc.

These were some of the ways for the assessment of different style of leadership .

Now, let’s bring this towards an end with the big question.

What is the best leadership style for 2021?

Every leadership style has its positives and negatives in every situation. As a result, there is no clear definitive “best.” It is a matter of understanding what is best in a situation and what works for your team. After evaluating this, you can pick your leadership style that suits you best.

Here, we can suggest that you must not stick to one. You should try as many as you can and see what works better. In this pandemic situation, it would be best if you could be more emphatic in your style. In a world that is so tense, a little empathy will go a long way. It means giving servant leadership a try.


"If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader."
– John Quincy Adams

Developing the proper type of leadership skills is vital for all organizations. Management will be more accessible when the style of leadership approach applied gels well with the team. It is because this will promote harmony and make for a better working environment for employees in the workplace.

To choose the best, you must know yourself, know your staff and their needs, understand and practice the different styles. After this, be open to feedback and make the final decision.

In some cases, it is not uncommon for individuals to use a blend of different styles. It is because different situations demand different approaches. In this scenario, you need to practice agility in your leadership style as well.

These are the things you must do to make the right decision in choosing between different leadership styles. To wrap things up, we hope you choose the best for you and your team.

This article is written by Jyoti Prakash Barman. He is an in-house Content Marketer at Vantage Circle with interests in music and automobiles. For any related queries, contact