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Leadership Styles in Management

Arjun Kulkarni Mar 11, 2020
Here are some of the styles of leadership in management that have proven to be successful over the past few years. Choose one depending on the structure of your organization and type of work.
''Leaders don't create followers, they create more leaders.'' ~ Tom Peters
Management and leadership are very dynamic fields. Old styles and ideologies become archaic and new ones replace them. What worked then, may not work now. Today's business demands a different approach to management. All leaders do not have the same way of looking at things.
Some prefer the carrot approach, while others prefer the stick approach. Some see freedom as a way to let creativity and independent thought blossom, while others believe that a modicum of control is necessary to achieve targets and get the work done.
It is essential for a leader to incorporate a particular style of leadership or a combination of two or more styles so as to lead an organization to success. Leadership styles in management also vary depending on the type of people to be led, the organization structure, the type of work, and situations that have to be dealt with.
The leadership style chosen, should help the subordinates perform better and achieve the organizational goals faster. Here are the four prime leadership styles.

Laissez-Faire/Delegative Leadership

☛ Leader's Attitude: You are free to take decisions.

In laissez-faire, the leader gives a free rein to the followers. He allows the subordinates to take decisions for the organization. Almost zero or little guidance is provided by the leader to undertake the decision-making.
In general, the followers are expected to solve problems on their own and shoulder their work responsibilities independently. Though this style is adopted by many organizations, it can also lead to low productivity among the followers if they are inexperienced or not motivated enough to set and chase their own deadlines.


Scope for personal and professional development of followers
High level of satisfaction among the employees
Subordinates enjoy complete freedom in decision-making, creativity, and approach.


Quality of work may get hampered if employees do not take their work seriously.
Too much control in the hands of the employees can be time-consuming and risky.
Employees may not complete their tasks in the absence of a controlling authority.

Applicable for

It suits an organization where the employees are highly skilled, motivated, loyal, capable, intellectual, experienced, and creative.

Autocratic/Authoritarian Leadership

Leader's Attitude: I have the power to decide, you HAVE to follow my orders.
It is one of the oldest forms of leadership. In this type of leadership, the leader exercises consistent control and absolute power on the followers. His decision is deemed to be final and his authority cannot be challenged.
An autocratic leader prefers overpowering rather than empowering his subordinates. He believes in his own competency and does not give any value to the ideas and opinions of his subordinates. He may even resort to threatening and influencing them to prove his point.


Decisions can be taken immediately and implemented effectively.
It is highly recommended for emergency situations.
As one person is in charge of the absolute management, it leads to error-free smooth operations.


Lack of a cordial working environment discourages and demotivates the employees.
Unilateral communication from top to bottom renders the employees ignorant and unaware of the matters of the organization.
An autocratic leader can misuse his powers by taking harsh actions against people who do not follow his dictum.

Applicable for

It works well for setups like military, manufacturing sector, traffic control, construction sector, crisis management, organizations with unskilled staff, etc.

Participative/Democratic Leadership

☛ Leader's Attitude: Your ideas are welcome but I will take the final decision.

In this type of leadership, the leader encourages the followers to contribute to the decision-making process of the organization. Though the ideas of subordinates are welcome, it is the leader who takes the final decision.
This can have a positive impact on the productivity and motivation quotient of the followers. The leader provides guidance to the followers regarding the operations and management. The followers execute his suggestions for successful completion of tasks.


Many valuable suggestions and ideas are given by the subordinates.
Followers are committed and often feel that they have contributed towards the company's success.
This helps in curtailing attrition and encouraging employee retention.


Classified information may leak out and benefit the competitors.
The basic assumption that all followers are genuinely interested in the growth of the organization may not hold true.
Owing to many points of view, the decision-making can be time-consuming.

Applicable for

Ideal for organizations where the followers are skilled, intellectual, creative, ready to exchange knowledge, and have time to deliberate over many ideas to reach the best decision.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Leader's Attitude: This is the company policy, you MUST follow it at all times.

A bureaucratic leader likes to follow all rules, policies, and processes of the organization, and expects followers to do the same. In many cases, bureaucratic leaders get their position because they have the ability to conform to rules and not because of their qualifications.
This type of leadership does not have scope for innovation and creativity. However, it can prove beneficial for organizations where the same type of work needs to be done. It can end up demotivating the employees as the leader may act as a strict ''policy police''.


Subordinates follow the rules and processes stringently.
If rules regarding a certain thing do not exist, new ones can be made.
Quality of work is maintained by following the correct processes.


No scope for development of the skills of the subordinates as they have to "go by the book"
Subordinates may get bored of the routine and decide to leave.
The decision-making is not flexible.

Applicable for

It is best for organizations which require stringent safety norms (industries involving machinery, toxic substances, etc.), where a large amount of cash is handled on a regular basis and industries that involve routine tasks like those in the manufacturing and construction sectors.

Other Leadership Styles

Transactional Leadership

Leader's Attitude: You complete the task, you get an incentive. If you don't, you will see.
In transactional leadership, the leader creates a formal structure enlisting expected results from the followers and rewards for completing the tasks. Failure in executing the tasks may attract punishment, however it may not be mentioned explicitly. In this leadership, subordinates are influenced by rewards and punishments, and have to obey the leader.

Transformational Leadership

Leader's Attitude: We can do it together!

A transformational leader motivates subordinates by uplifting their morale and performance by inspiring them. He has a clear vision, and ability to infuse energy and enthusiasm in the entire group. This type of leader has a positive impact on the subordinates and helps them in achieving the organization's goals.

Paternalistic Leadership

Leader's Attitude: You can share your problems, I am listening.

It is a style in which dominant leader acts as a father figure. This is undertaken when there is a need to protect and control the subordinates to make them loyal and committed towards the organization. This leadership works well in an organization that has a definite hierarchy structure.

Task-oriented Leadership

Leader's Attitude: You have to complete this task before the end of day.

A task-oriented leader focuses his attention on completing the series of tasks and all the processes that help achieve the organizational goals.
He does not give employee satisfaction or motivation much importance, and concentrates only on the execution of tasks. This leader is highly analytical and delegates work to complete it within the given time frame.

Servant Leadership

Leader's Attitude: Let us all contribute towards success!

Generally, in a leadership, there is one person who has all the power and authority. However, in a servant leadership there is a decentralized structure.
Also, the training needs of individuals are understood and developed in order to help them perform better. In the absence of competition, this leadership style enhances the productivity and creativity quotient significantly.

People-oriented Leadership/Relation-oriented Leadership

Leader's Attitude: You can do it, I will help you out!

In this leadership style, the leader gives utmost importance to the motivation, development, and well-being of the subordinates.
The leader acts as a mentor to his subordinates. He values their opinions during the decision-making process. This fosters a positive working environment and encourages the subordinates to perform better.

Charismatic Leadership

Leader's Attitude: We are the BEST team ever!

A charismatic leader has a magnetic personality which he uses to exercise leadership rather than exercising authority.
The subordinates are in awe of the charm of the leader and like to emulate him. They are made to believe by the leader that their group is distinct and superior to others. Such leaders often create an unchallengeable position for themselves in the organization.

Neurocratic Leadership

Leader's Attitude: If you don't complete that task today, it will reflect on MY performance!

A neurocratic leader is a highly motivated and task-oriented individual. He tries to get the work done at any cost and does not like to face any kind of failure.
He is an emotionally driven person and is at times eccentric. It is typical of a neurocratic leader to take his own decisions without consulting the subordinates.

Sociocratic Leadership

Leader's Attitude: How about a team-building outing next weekend?

A sociocratic leader creates a social club in the organization. He gives more importance to interpersonal relations among the employees than the tasks at hand. He ensures that all his followers are happy and satisfied by creating a positive social working environment for them.

Narcissistic Leadership

Leader's Attitude: MY word is the last word! I don't care if you have to work on weekends.

This kind of leadership exists when the leader is a narcissist and pushes his own agenda at the expense of the subordinates.
He is only interested in the protection of his own interests. He has an inflated ego and a constant hunger for power. He may even resort to arrogance which can be detrimental to team spirit.

Pacesetting Leadership

Leader's Attitude: I will complete this task in no time. Watch and learn!

A pacesetting leader sets high standards for himself and expects the subordinates to do the same.
A pacesetting leader has a good knack of identifying below par performers and can replace them immediately. If he thinks that work is not going at a desired pace, he may just take over the task to complete it himself.

Coaching Leadership

Leader's Attitude: Don't worry, I will guide you in this project.

A coaching leader helps the followers by coaching and guiding them. There is two-way communication between leader and followers. Though the leader is the final decision maker, he encourages subordinates to give inputs. He motivates them to enhance their knowledge and strengthen their skills.
Apart from these, a few other styles of leadership include:

  • Coercive leadership (where the subordinates are ruled by fear; this style works well in times of crisis)
  • Affiliative leadership (focused on the well-being of subordinates and the leader's popularity among them, earning him their loyalty and fostering open communication)
  • Commanding leadership (aims at prompt abidance with no regard to employee suggestions, and the leader closely monitors the employees, criticizes them, and makes them aware of the consequences of non-compliance)
  • Facilitative leadership (non-authoritative leadership where suggestions from subordinates are invited and valued, thus leading to creation of positive feelings about the organization in their minds).
While these were the various leadership styles that can be adopted, there is one that every leader should stay away from - toxic leadership. A toxic leader has no respect for the leader-follower relationship. Instead of working towards the organization's betterment, he worsens situations.
He is egoistic and often criticizes the staff members openly. He may cause the teams to divide instead of encouraging them to work in harmony. Such a leadership style can be of no good use for any organization.
Be it any style of leading; to be a good leader, it is essential to have excellent communication skills, foresight, planning and delegation skills, commitment to work, and above all, an ability to inspire leadership.