There are countless books, articles, and even entire organizations dedicated to delivering leadership advice, each painting a different picture of the ideal leader. There is no single “best” approach, and even if there was, you can’t force yourself to fit a certain mold even if you’ve seen it work well for others. Leadership styles are inherently personal, and it all comes down to two factors: your unique personality and what your team responds best to.
Given dozens of leadership styles, each based on a different set of skills, philosophies, and personality traits, which one is the best fit for you? Use our infographic decision tree below to discover your ideal approach, then scroll down to learn more about your preferred leadership style.
Learn More About Your Leadership Styles Result
Leadership Styles: Affiliative
You emphasize teamwork, encourage collaboration, and help resolve conflicts. You're the perfect leader when it's time to improve morale, communication, and trust, and you help your team see the importance of their contributions to the larger organization. Just be careful not to place so much emphasis on praising the group that any poor performance goes uncorrected.
You are a strong leader who gets things done quickly and efficiently, taking it upon yourself to make decisions and assuming responsibility for project outcomes. Your team can focus on their individual tasks without shouldering the responsibility of larger decisions, which can be particularly effective during high-stress projects. Just make sure you're not missing out on valuable input from members of your team by making unilateral decisions.
Leadership Styles: Bureaucratic
You are a stickler for following rules and processes to a T, which makes your leadership style particularly well suited for risky or dangerous work where team members could be injured, or for projects involving a lot of money. You work well in within a hierarchy, with clearly defined rules, roles, and responsibilities, but you may struggle with creative projects where flexibility and change are the norm.
Leadership Styles: Charismatic
You're ambitious and charming, and find that others willingly follow your lead. As a charismatic leader, you care deeply about working towards the greater good and use your powers of persuasion to both improve the status quo and guide your team through problems or periods of crisis. You may have a tendency to gloss over your mistakes, but they're valuable opportunities for improvement!
Leadership Styles: Coaching
You provide encouragement, inspiration, and guidance to each individual on your team, clearly defining everyone’s roles and taking charge, while still seeking the input of your colleagues. Your team knows exactly what you expect of them, and you’re very effective when it comes to improving the performance and results of the teams you lead. But beware: unless an employee shows initiative and wants your help with professional development, this approach can start to feel like micromanaging.
Leadership Styles: Commanding
You're a no-nonsense, take-charge leader who drives results and instils a sense of urgency in your team, and you're especially effective during times of crisis. You expect your team to fall in line — you don’t mind if they disagree with your instructions, as long as they follow them. Be careful not to neglect your soft skills! Don’t alienate your team or stakeholders or disregard interpersonal relationships. A few words of encouragement or praise can work wonders for team morale, engagement, and productivity.
Leadership Styles: Democratic
You may be the team lead, but every project is a collective effort. You seek out ideas and opinions from your team and consider them all before coming to a decision. Your ability to adapt to new and improved modes of working can also bring out the best in your team and make the most of their skills. While taking multiple points of view into consideration boosts team engagement and productivity, be aware that it also slows you down when timely decisions or actions are needed.
Leadership Styles: Laissez-Faire
You're a laid-back, hands-off leader, letting your team make its own decisions while providing support and resources when necessary. Because of their autonomy and your trust in them, your team tends to have high employee satisfaction, and this leadership style is well-suited for teams of highly-skilled, motivated workers. Just be careful that your team doesn't mistake your casual leadership style with apathy, or they may not stay engaged, manage their time well, or lack sufficient direction or knowledge to do the job right.
Leadership Styles: Pacesetting
You’re driven to excel, demanding more from yourself and those around you. You lead by example and would never ask a member of your team to do something you’re not willing to do yourself. You’re also quick to jump in and provide assistance if you think it’s needed. While you’re committed to achieving results and constant improvement, your high standards can overwhelm your team. Don’t forget to give plenty of positive feedback, be patient, and help your team learn new skills.
Leadership Styles: Servant
You lead by example, with integrity and generosity. Your top priority is to identify and meet your team's needs, and make sure each member has what they need to excel at their job. Regular check-ins with your team ensure their opinions and needs are recognized, although you're not afraid to correct mistakes or make an unpopular decision when necessary. You may struggle in hierarchical organizations, where leaders are expected to be particularly authoritative.
Leadership Styles: Transactional
Your team knows exactly what’s expected of them. After all, by taking the job, they’ve agreed to follow your directions, and you’re crystal clear about each team member’s roles and responsibilities. You are not a micromanager; in fact, when you delegate, the other person is fully responsible for completing the task successfully. You have clear systems in place for both rewards and discipline, and your team is confident that they’re evaluated based solely on their abilities and contributions, not office politics.
Leadership Styles: Transformational
Like Visionary leaders, you motivate your team by creating a shared vision or aspirational goal. But you see projects as opportunities to both accomplish short-term project goals, and on a larger scale, to create positive change in how the organization gets work done. You have high emotional intelligence and value integrity, and expect the best of your team while also holding yourself to a high standard of accountability.
Leadership Styles: Visionary
You create a vivid picture of your organization or project's end goal in order to motivate and inspire your team. Because you understand that new insights and innovations can come from anywhere, even unlikely sources, you’re always searching for new information or perspectives and bucking convention. As long as you achieve your goals, how you get there is secondary — so your team is free to experiment, take a few risks, and be creative.
Build Your Perfect Team
Now that you've identified your ideal leadership style, assemble your dream team by following the advice of award-winning author and business coach Nancy Butler.