10 Types of Leadership & How to Discover Your Style


Being a leader requires finding the right style of leadership that works for you. Growing into your leadership style requires time, practice, and effort. We are constantly growing and improving how we interact with our direct reports. The more we lead, the more likely we are to change how we think about leadership theories.

In order to be a better type of leader, we need to understand the common leadership styles used today. There are many leadership styles and frameworks that exist today. It's important to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each leadership style.

To help you in your leadership development, I have created a guide to help you understand the impact each type of leadership style has in an organization. I'll break down twelve of the most common types of leaderships and their efficacy. We will dive into the most effective styles and some of the not-so-effective styles.

12 Types of Leadership Styles

  1. Laissez-faire Leadership
  2. Autocratic Leadership
  3. Transactional Leadership
  4. Bureaucratic Leadership
  5. Strategic Leadership
  6. Transformational Leadership
  7. Charismatic Leadership
  8. Servant Leadership
  9. Situational Leadership
  10. Participative Leadership
  11. Democratic Leadership

1. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Verdict: May Be Effective

The French term "laissez-faire" means "let them do". It's an unintrusive form of leadership where the leaders give the authority to their employees. This may also be referred to as delegative leadership.

In a company, a laissez-faire leader might not make office policies around deadlines or work hours. They will put their trust in their employees to make these kinds of decisions themselves.

Laissez-faire leadership can be empowering to employees and good for job satisfaction. After all, you are trusting them to work however they like. However, it can limit their development and overlook certain opportunities. You should be careful when implementing this type of leadership style.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Verdict: Not Effective

Autocratic leadership is when the leader makes decisions without considering the feedback from their direct reports. It may be referred to as authoritarian leadership. Employees are not consulted or considered in this type of leadership. They are simply expected to adhere to the chain of command.

For example, a manager might change the dress code for all employees without asking anyone.

This is a bad form of leadership. Most organizations cannot sustain autocratic leaders without hemorrhaging employees. It's important to keep the leadership open to the perspective of the team.

3. Transactional Leadership

Verdict: May Be Effective

Transactional leadership styles are fairly common in today's workplace. Transactional managers reward their direct reports for the work they do.

For example, a sales team gets their scheduled bonus for generating their sales at the end of a quarter is transactional leadership.

Transactional leadership is based on incentives. A transactional leader uses incentives to help motivate you to master your job.

Transactional leadership helps establish roles and responsibilities for each role. It also encourages employees to slack off if they know what their efforts lead to. This leadership style should be consistent with the company's business goals. It should be used in addition to unplanned gestures of appreciation.

4. Bureaucratic Leadership

Verdict: May Be Effective

Bureaucratic Leadership is a style of management postulated by Max Weber in 1947. It's a system of management where the employees follow rules set by their superiors.

Bureaucratic leadership focuses on administrative needs an organization has. It's used heavily in the public sector where they need to adhere to rules and regulations.

This form of leadership is rigid and inflexible. It's highly structured and is used for religion, business, and politics throughout the world.

5. Strategic Leadership

Verdict: Effective

Strategic leadership sits between its current operations and where it can grow to. Strategic leaders keep the current working environment stable for employees while expressing a vision for the organization and persuading their employees to adopt that vision as well.

A strategic leadership style is nice because it allows for many types of employees. Strategic leaders work in ambiguous environments on difficult issues that are influenced by organizations external to their own. They often encourage employees to follow their own ideas.

6. Transformational Leadership

Verdict: May Be Effective

Transformational leadership is when you constantly improve upon your company's processes and conventions. A transformational leader pushes their direct reports outside of their comfort zone.

When an employee works with a transformational leader, they will get a list of goals to reach deadlines. While the goals may be simple, the manager will keep giving you challenging goals as the company scales.

This is a recommended form for growth companies. It helps motivate employees to be greater than what they're capable of. But a transformational leader can push too hard and not provide the right coaching to get through their job assignment.

7. Charismatic Leadership

Verdict: May Be Effective

Charismatic leaders are skilled communicators. They are able to be eloquent. They are able to communicate on a deep and emotional level. They are able to stir up feelings of deep emotions in their organizations. A charismatic leader inspires. They can drive up employee motivation for a period of time.

Charisma is a learned process. It's an interaction between the leader and the followers. The charismatic leader uses their ability to communicate to gain their followers' trust and influence them to follow.

Charismatic leaders have the ability to be positive role models for their followers. They can walk the talk and be on the frontlines. Sometimes charismatic leaders serve as the face of the company.

8. Servant Leadership

Verdict: May Be Effective

Servant leadership is a philosophy where the leader serves their constituents. It is different from traditional leadership where the leader focuses on the success of the company.

A servant leader shares power. They put the needs of the employees first. They help people grow and perform as highly as possible.

Instead of the people serving the leader, the leader serves the people. They put the needs of the many before their own needs. They help foster and grow future leaders. They are guiding people towards personal development.

9. Situational Leadership

Verdict: Effective

Situational leadership is adaptive. In this strategy, the leader tends to take stock of their team members. They choose the best leadership style that fits their goals and circumstances.

Situational leadership is great for developing people and workgroups. It can be used to establish rapport and bring out the best in people. It's flexible to adapt to the needs of the organization.

Leaders must be willing to move from one leadership style to another to meet the needs of a changing organization. They must have insight into business trends to change their management style. Leadership is about solving problems together.

10. Democratic Leadership

Verdict: Effective

Democratic leadership, also known as participative leadership, is a leadership style where the leader goes through the decision-making process based on the inputs of each employee. The democratic leadership style empowers the employees to have a say in a business direction.

Democratic leadership is extremely effective because it gives lower-level employees the opportunity to make decisions. Employees get the opportunity to practice for their future management positions.

A democratic leader listens to the team. They open a dialog to discuss the issues the business has. They listen to solutions proposed by the team. Then they take all the feedback into consideration, or they open it up for a vote.

What are Action Logics

Leaders can be a blend of different approaches to leadership depending on their industry. Leadership experts Bill Tobert and David Rooke define how leaders "interpret their surroundings and react when their power or safety is challenged" as "action logics".

Below is a list of action logics:


An alchemist is charismatic and the most effective at managing organizational change. They understand the bigger picture. They also understand the details they need very well. Under an alchemist leader, no detail is overlooked.


A strategist is aware of the business environment they operate in. They have a good understanding of the processes and structures that make the business work. They are able to evaluate effectively to see what can be better.


An individualist is self-aware and focuses primarily on their own development and actions rather than the organization. An individualist is driven by the desire to exceed their own goals and skills.


Opportunists have an inherent mistrust of others. They put a facade of control to keep their direct reports in line. They take opportunities to put a knife in someone's back for the sake of their own win.


Diplomats are not concerned with the competition or being in control. This action logic seeks to conform to existing norms and complete tasks without friction.


The expert is highly skilled in their field. They are constantly striving to perfect their subject matter. They are a great individual contributor. However, experts may lack a central quality of good leaders: Emotional intelligence.

Finding Your Leadership Style

Your leadership style depends on which action logic you agree with the most. Remember, action logics are not static. They can be changed over time. Most leaderships will progress through leadership styles throughout their lifetime.

You can also try a mix and blend of the common leadership models listed above. This will help you find identify which works best for you. It's a trial and error process. You can try different methods to drive the best result for your specific organization.

Final Words

Learning effective leadership is not easy. Every organizational leadership role holds a lot of pressure and hard work. There are different approaches to management that work for different seasons and environments. Be adaptive and nimble for the changing needs of your business and your employees. Apply the best leadership techniques you've learned to create a culture that strives for excellence. It's going to take time to find the right strategies. But as long as you have the right heart and attitude, there is no reason why you will fail. Come from a place of love for your employees, and realize that they are human beings looking for a greater purpose as well. Effective leaders are born through leadership training through the fire of experience. But once you find the right leadership approach for your moment, use it to empower your organization to its maximum potential.