5 Types of Leadership Styles That Work

In a rapidly changing business landscape, organizations need to be ready to adapt their management style at a moment’s notice. Successful managers know how to combine two or more types of leadership styles to effectively navigate shifting market conditions and workplace challenges.

Deciding which leadership style makes the most sense for you and your organization depends on the sector in which you are competing, the team you are leading, and the kinds of employees you are mentoring. Managers who are familiar with multiple approaches to leading teams have a much easier time transitioning from one that isn’t working to one that will as circumstances change.

There are countless categories of leadership. We’ve outlined some of the most common below.

What to Consider as You Select a Leadership Style

Effective leaders create efficiency and growth by making their team members feel supported and respected. There’s more than one way to accomplish this, and no one leadership style is better than any other. Instead, the types of leadership styles you employ should be implemented according to your unique working conditions.

As you decide which style makes the most sense for your workforce, consider:

  • Your own strengths and values
  • Your preferred way of working with others
  • Your team and workforce and their core competencies
  • Your project, product, or most pressing organizational challenge
  • Your organization’s place in relation to your competitors (or “situational awareness”)

All of these factors will help determine which style of leadership you choose to employ.

1. Transactional

Sometimes referred to as direct or even authoritative, transactional leaders are highly focused and results-driven. They are often described as having a commanding presence and can be highly effective, especially over the short term. Using numerical benchmarks to measure performance, these leaders motivate employees by implementing incentives for strong performance and penalties for poor performance (for example, up-or-out policies).

Pros: Transactional leaders are often good at crisis management, as they tend to implement changes quickly and efficiently without waiting for companywide buy-in or gradually testing process or policy changes on an incremental level to see what works. They’re a good fit for workers who like a lot of structure, clear expectations, and ambitious goals.

Cons: They are sometimes seen as micro managers who lack flexibility and fail to encourage collaboration.

2. Transformational

Of the various types of leadership styles, this one is considered the most “visionary” or even “disruptive.” These leaders like to focus on the big picture and take a fresh approach to the problems facing their industries. Their approach is often cutting edge, but also high risk. These leaders are often brought in to transform organizations, sometimes after periods of slow growth. They’re often charismatic, employing their personal charm and communication skills to inspire those around them and drive growth.

Pros: These leader are often very effective at modeling business communication best practices and leadership storytelling as a means of securing resources and motivating employees. Their personal connection to employees means that they can be reassuring in times of crisis. They’re often found at startups and nonprofits, where they are able to leverage company values to raise donations or venture capital.

Cons: They may take too many risks to helm an organization for the long term. They are often too focused on the big picture and future potential and lose sight of mundane details that could derail profitability and stability.

3. Bureaucratic

This one is the most deliberate, detail-driven, and methodical types of leadership styles. Bureaucratic leaders are focused on fact gathering and the careful analysis of longitudinal data. These are by-the-book managers who are policy driven and tend to want to do things the way they have always been done. If you’re looking for steady growth, stability, and staying power within your industry, this is leadership style may be the right choice.

Pros: These are often a perfect match for highly regulated industries where penalties for breaking the rules are steep and making drastic changes to policies or procedures can endanger profitability. Because they give those working for them very clear and dependable expectations to meet and procedures to follow, their employees always know where they stand with these managers.

Cons: These leaders tend to stifle creativity and innovation. They can also make it harder to recognize talent that may be hidden under layers of hierarchy and a culture where upper-level leadership can seem remote and unapproachable.

4. Collaborative

There are many labels for this type of leadership style: “democratic,” “participative,” “team-focused,” “power sharing,” “laissez faire,” and “hands off.” Whatever name you use, collaborative leaders make those around them feel like they have a say in decisions by getting buy-in from their teams before making any bold changes. This makes them a good fit for organizations that are overly siloed and need a unifying force in leadership.

Pros: This leadership style empowers innovation and achievement from teams and managers. These flexible thinkers tend to operate in a transparent fashion, mentoring and empowering their employees. This tends to increase job satisfaction and employee investment in the organizational mission, inspire loyalty, and improve employee morale and retention.

Cons: Often seen as indecisive and likely to postpone needed change while they gather data or weigh options, some employees may not clearly understand what their goals and performance expectations are under these leaders.

5. Supportive

Sometimes called servant leaders, these managers tend to listen more than they speak. They are compassionate and approachable. They help others reach their potential by ceding large projects and day-to-day supervision of processes to more junior employees without micromanaging. Rather than claiming credit for success, they allow others to shine. These managers see employees as a company’s most valuable asset and believe that happy employees are more productive and innovative.

Pros: They are adept at mentoring talent for future leadership roles. In times of crisis, these leaders can be very effective at staving off employee panic. Their strong interpersonal skills allow them to forge productive relationships with vendors, customers, and leaders within their sector and community.

Cons: This leadership style won’t work in all environments. For example, an inexperienced staff or team may crave more direction and structure than this approach provides.

One Size Does Not Fit All

It’s important to become familiar with several types of leadership styles as you may need to pivot from one to another. For example, a more transactional leadership style can motivate a sales team, whereas a more supportive style may work better with research and development.

Any of these styles can result in highly successful projects, teams, and organizations. The best leaders know how to adapt to meet the moment.

Now That You know the Types of Leadership Styles, Learn How to Implement Them

Whatever your leadership style, you can learn more about how effectively manage your team, grow profits, and attract and retain top talent with the latest hiring news from Monster.