There are great leaders and then there are great leadership styles that define these leaders. While some leaders have set certain trends or styles, others have worked hard to incorporate the best and create a style that matches their personality best. God has made every individual unique. It therefore stands to reason that every leadership style will be different. The best way to identify which style would suit you best and help you lead effectively, is to assess your abilities and match your innate characteristic against the established styles and patterns.

A common misconception is that one can have or cultivate only one of the leadership styles. Creativity and progress cannot flourish in rigidity. A true leader is one who is flexible, has many layers of talent and sports many styles – all of which combine to create a personality one can respect and follow. If you want to enhance and improve the way you lead, take a look at the various theories on leadership styles. You will find that there are many traits you already exhibit, some traits that you can work upon and some you can discard and open yourself up to change.

There have been many studies and inferences on leadership styles. One of the earliest and most notable is the one conducted and defined by psychologist Kurt Lewin and his fellow researchers in 1939. Three distinct leadership styles were identified by them –

  • Autocratic – Also known as authoritarian leadership, autocratic leadership is a black and white style that clearly differentiates between a leader and a follower. Actions, reactions, expectations are all decided and pre-determined by the leader without any input from the team. It is a leadership that demands complete loyalty and obedience. While there is a distinct presence of order and discipline, this kind of leadership also shows a distinct absence of creativity.
  • Democratic – Also known as the participative leadership, this is the most effective of all leadership styles. Democratic leadership is a combination of guidance and support from the leader as well as an example of open participation and interaction of the team members. The flowering of creativity and quality of input are results of open and engaging participation, motivation and bonding with the leader.
  • Laissez-faire – The Laissez-Faire style is also called delegative leadership. This is based on the theory that each team member is capable of decision-making and action regardless of guidance and rules. While it gives maximum freedom of thought, expression and action, it is also counter-productive. Without focused guidance, roles are ill-defined and there is not enough motivation to steer the whole team towards a single unified goal.

Since then, there have been other leadership styles that have been discovered and defined. Some of these are –

  • Transactional Leadership
  • Ideological Leadership
  • Bureaucratic Leadership
  • Situational Leadership
  • Charismatic Leadership
  • Change-Oriented Leadership
  • People-Oriented Leadership
  • Action-Oriented Leadership
  • Goal-Oriented Leadership
  • Servant Leadership
  • Executive Leadership
  • Transformational Leadership
  • Visionary Leadership

The style of leadership – whether one or a combination of many – reflects the leaders’ intrinsic characteristics. It is the sum total of values and beliefs, of preferences and choices, or organizational culture and individual character that define leadership styles. It is what a leader believes, how he thinks, his goals and expectations from the team and his ultimate vision that define his style.

Gary C. Takacs is the founder of The CEO University, an executive training organization for Chief Executives through CEO Peer Groups and Executive Peer Groups.  Gary is also a speaker for business organizations on business growth, business profitability and business culture.