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Which Leadership Styles Are Most Effective?

By: Dean Vella



The ability to take a team from “getting the job done” to “surpassing every goal and expectation with flying colors” requires an understanding of the difference between what it means to manage a group of people and lead a group of people. For as many individuals that are leaders, there are almost as many ways to lead. Different leadership styles can be effective given the particular challenges being faced and particular needs of the people involved. Instead of selecting one leadership style, effective leaders are able to move among styles, selecting the one that is required in the moment.

Transactional Leadership

One of the most common leadership styles, transactional leadership, outlines a situation where there is an understood “transaction,” namely, team members agree to obey their leader in exchange for financial gain. Leaders reward for compliance and “punish” for work that is subpar.

Click here to read more about common leadership styles

This style of leadership may sound a bit harsh, but there are benefits, specifically the fact that transactional leadership clarifies everyone’s roles from the onset so there is absolutely no confusion once a project begins.

One negative to this particular style is that team members often feel little job satisfaction and no room for real growth, and this can lead to a high employee turnover. In general, this type of leadership style is appropriate when a manager needs to oversee short-term tasks.

Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leaders are those with the ability to inspire, energize and motivate their team members. Having the ability to create excitement and enthusiasm within team members is obviously an enormous benefit for any leader.

As with any leadership style there are positives and negatives associated. Although inspiring team members to do their very best and achieve stellar results is a very good thing, charismatic leaders tend to believe in themselves more than the team, and this can create the risk that a project might collapse should that leader leave it. Also, charismatic leaders often believe they can do no wrong and may not listen when others warn of problems.

Democratic/Participative Leadership

This type of leadership style takes a more balanced approach to completing tasks. Democratic leaders include team members in the decision-making process and encourage creativity and problem solving, however, in the end, they make the final decisions.

The main benefit to this style of leadership is that team members tend to have high job satisfaction because their opinions are valued, and they tend to work hard and stay put. Although the decision-making process in this scenario can be slower, the results are often great.

On the downside, on those projects where speed and efficiency is critical, as it is during a crisis, time can sometimes be wasted on making sure all team member voices are heard.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-Faire is French for “leave it be,” and this style of leadership describes a situation where team members are allowed to work on their own. Leaders give their team total freedom to do their work and to set their own milestones and deadlines. They will, when necessary, lend advice and resources, but otherwise remain uninvolved.

Although this style, compared to the others, may seem a bit loosey-goosey, it can be a very effective leadership style provided leaders give feedback and monitor performances on a regular basis. This style works well with team members who are experienced, highly-skilled and self-starters and often leads to a very high level of job satisfaction and increased productivity. On the flipside, should team members not be very good at managing their own time or if they lack a particular skill set the project requires, the work will be negatively affected.

People-Oriented/Relations-Oriented Leadership

People-oriented leaders are focused on the people: organizing, supporting and developing team members. This style of leadership breeds good teamwork and creative collaboration. Team members are treated equally by leaders and this causes members to be happier and more productive. One negative of this leadership style is that leaders often risk putting the personal development of team members before the project at hand.

Managers can allow true leaders to emerge on their team.

Leaders can often start out as team members who develop particular talents and strengths which can be recognized as necessary in the moment. The best and brightest managers are those who always allow various leaders to emerge and encourage their team members to succeed.

Change leadership styles

Of the leadership styles listed, no one is better than the others; all have a specific time and situation in which they will be the most effective form of leadership. Great leaders are those who select their leadership styles like chefs do knives—based on what is needed at the time, and what is the best tool for the job.

Published: August 12, 2013

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