Leadership Styles

Leadership styles may differ, but the goal is the same: to inspire people to achieve and maintain forward progress – both for themselves personally and for your organization at large. True leadership is not about prestige or self-image. It’s the challenge of preparing your team to reach its full potential. There are many different methods of doing this, and these methods are called leadership styles.

Leaders use different leadership styles to fit their personalities, purpose and goals for their team. But how do you know which leadership style is right for you? When adopting a leadership style, there are three things you should consider: personality, flexibility, and the end goal.

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Adopting A Leadership Style

No leadership style is one size fits all. Instead, you should take from different styles and adapt them to create one that fits you. Still, there are best practices to keep in mind as you go about developing your own personal leadership style.

  1. Personality

How do you naturally deal with people? Are you an encourager? An out-front, pep-talk giving, hands-on individual? Or is your style more quiet? Do you build trust with people 1:1 and rely on them to come to you when they have an issue? The truth is that you already have a way you deal with people. While your approach is probably not perfect, this should be a large consideration when adopting a leadership style. If you prefer to pick people up individually instead of giving a 20-minute speech in front of the team, then do that. The biggest key to remember: people follow authentic leaders. Stay true to who you are, while recognizing that there will be times you must step out of your comfort zone.

  1. Flexibility

You already know this, but bear with us for one second. Different teams – and different team members – require different leadership styles. The better job you’ve done hiring and training your people, the less hands-on approach they should need. You’ll lead a more senior cross-functional team differently than a junior analyst team. People are different, and situations can be fluid. The more you yourself are willing to adjust, the more effective a leader you’ll be.

  1. Leading With The End In Mind

Why are you moving in the direction that you are? Why does your team exist? Often, a leader’s biggest job is keeping the team focused on the main thing – whether it be revenue, profitability, customer satisfaction, or something else. Expect your team to get distracted; you must be the true north refocusing them on what matters most. We’ve found that it’s often the best prioritizers that become the most effective leaders.

Types of Leadership Styles

  1. Laissez-Faire Leadership

This type of leadership implies a hands-off approach, and is more effective with senior teams or those with well-established streams of communication. This leadership style requires a clear definition of duties and responsibilities up-front, along with expected check-in and delivery times. The lack of micromanagement in this approach is popular with teams, but this can go awry if individuals aren’t self-disciplined. However, employing a laissez-faire leadership style does allow you to spend more time focused on the big picture, as opposed to everyday issues.

  1. Participative Leadership

Participative leadership is democratic in nature, and requires equal buy-in from each member of a team. Leaders who display this style empower their teams to speak up, and receive much more feedback as a result. This creates a culture of ownership, where everyone is as invested in the process and outcome as the leader. This style can backfire when it comes time to make a final decision. When push comes to shove, can you bring factions together to unite around a course of action they may have disagreed with?

  1. Transformational Leadership

The third style of leadership that we’ll cover here is transformational leadership, which is first and foremost about change. The focus is on making systemic or cultural changes to set a new course for an organization. Leaders who exhibit this trait tend to be inspirational, encouraging their teams to pursue greatness. To transformational leaders, culture reflects leadership, and affects every other facet of an organization. Transformational leaders are most respected in difficult times, for that is when they are most needed. For example, Steve Jobs came back to a failing Apple in 1996 and brought it back from the brink. Transformational leaders need something to transform, which is why when a turnaround has been accomplished, these same leaders aren’t always the best leaders to help a company take the next step in its evolution.


Regardless of the leadership style you adopt, focus on becoming an individual who actively looks for ways to improve systems and serve people. We’ll leave you with this encouraging quote from Winston Churchill – “… [It is] the glory of mankind that they are easy to lead and hard to drive.” Remember this the next time you try and (unsuccessfully) force change – either in yourself or others – overnight.

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Filed Under: business consulting, Consulting skills, Leadership