Leadership Styles

People have asked in the past, what the best style of leadership is and how they should lead their business. What leadership style promotes better employee engagement? Well, we have some bad news. There is not a cut and dry answer to that question. We do however have a better question.

What kind of leader are you?

Leadership style does affect employees; that is not arguable. It is more important though to find the leadership style that works best for you, meshes well with the personality of employees, and is able to continue towards the organizational goal of the company.

There is also the question of leadership style fitting into the culture of the company. If your leadership style tends to lean laissez-faire, meaning you remain hands-off and let employees make decisions, it will be hard to mesh with autocratic companies.

Making all of this even more difficult, there may be several different leadership styles present in a company. This could depend on the tasks of each department or the manager of each of those departments even. However difficult, it will be useful to look at how each leadership style differs, what kind of employees would benefit from those styles, and how each style will affect your business.

Autocratic/Authoritarian Leadership

The authoritative often called autocratic, leadership style places lines in the sand of businesses and enforces those lines with little to no room for flexibility. An autocratic leader is one who asserts their authority to make all the decisions of any significance. This leadership approach may be effective with employees who prefer direct guidance and supervision. This leadership style can be found successfully working for companies that have to hit quotas or specific goals for company profitability. 

Creative individuals or individuals in creative fields may become disengaged with autocratic leaders. The negative of this is the perception of employees not having a voice. It can also lead to employees fearing that failure will lead to being fired from the company. This can lead to other issues such as distrust of upper management, or a toxic work environment.

Authoritative leaders should, generally speaking, try to incorporate aspects from other types of leadership styles. These include things such as coaching to help employees define goals, set standards for timelines, and continue to lead from the front. This leadership style is comparatively low in corporate settings.

Democratic Leadership 

The democratic leadership style is verging on the opposite of authoritarian. Democratic leaders value everyone’s opinions, delegate authority more willingly, and still maintain ultimate responsibility. Employees generally like this style because they feel valued, empowered, and engaged with the company’s success. 

Employees who value taking on an active role in the decisions that directly affect their work will flourish within a democratic leadership environment. Greater two-way dialogue may be the most common feature of this leadership style which helps to bounce ideas back and forth off management back to employees. Despite the consensus liking this style and seeming to be positive all around, there can be negative points. 

When one group of employees outvotes another group, the losing group can harbor resentment because of the lack of feeling involved. Sometimes the democratic leadership style creates confusion about the company’s direction because no one person is sitting at the front giving that direction. Productivity can be negatively affected if there is a lack of clear direction and leadership. 

Laissez-Faire Leadership 

A manager with a laissez-faire leadership style tends to not provide guidance, supervision, or motivation to their employees. They allow the employees to work as they see fit. This leadership is great for employees who are highly trained and self-motivated. 

However, be careful when using this leadership style. While it can be great for trained and motivated employees, it will hinder employees that need supervision. It will also not be beneficial to newer employees.  Feedback on performance tends to be not as frequent or consistent as well with the laissez-faire leadership style.  

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership focuses on change and improvement. Leaders achieve this by collaborating with their employees to identify the changes that are needed. Transformational leaders often can usually inspire teams to follow the change through and achieve the vision that was collaborated on. 

This leadership style can be seen as a very valuable commodity within an organization to help it grow, adapt, and improve. This collaboration effort is useful specifically for start-ups and younger businesses looking to grow. Transformational leaders can be seen as mentors, or role models to inspire subordinates. Employees that need a little push to have greater ownership of their projects will benefit from this leadership style. However, if you have employees resistant to change, they will not be engaged under a transformational leader. 

Transactional Leadership

Under transactional leaders, team members have specific tasks and goals to achieve. These team members are rewarded as they complete these tasks and goals. This leadership style is entirely focused on performance results.

Employees who need frequent feedback do well with a transactional style of leader. Clear expectations and opportunities for correction are also advantages of this style. Status quo is often favored by this leadership style so it may not be the best for younger companies or businesses trying to grow.  Employees who are motivated by rewards are most likely to benefit from this leadership style.  


Clearly, there is not a single style that works for every type of employee but if you understand the different approaches and styles of leadership, you can adjust your leadership style and engage with your employees better.