3 Types of Leadership in the Workplace

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Lewin identified three styles of leadership: Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire.

Leadership Styles Autocratic Democratic Laissez-Faire

How to tell which type of leader you are

To determine what kind of leader you are, follow these steps:

1. Reflect on your values

The kind of leadership style you have can depend on what your values look like. For example, if you prefer to make decisions on your own, you may be an authoritarian leader. If you value teamwork and communication, you might be a participative leader. Finally, if you think people should have a lot of freedom and independence at work, you may be a delegative leader. When reflecting on your values, you may even realize that your leadership style of a hybrid of these three types of leadership.

2. Think about your management style

The way you manage others can determine your leadership style. Hands-on leaders tend to fall under the authoritarian or democratic leadership types. If you are someone who prefers hands-off management, its likely that you are a more delegative leader. The way you manage your team may also depend on each individual you are overseeing. For instance, if you trust that an employee can get their work done on time, you may be a more delegative leader to them. Likewise, another employee may need more guidance and structure, requiring you to use a more authoritarian leadership style.

3. Decide if you need to make changes

Once figuring out what kind of leader you are, decide if you need to make any changes to your leadership style. The kind of leader you need to be can depend on your companys objectives and the needs of your team. Keep in mind that employees may appreciate a leader who values what they have to say. By valuing the well-being of your team, you may be able to build a more effective workforce and increase your employee retention.

What are the three types of leadership?

Here are three types of leadership you commonly see in the workplace:

Authoritarian leadership

Authoritarian leadership, also called “autocratic leadership,” is when you have full control over team decisions. Rather than consulting your team members, you make every decision on your own. An authoritarian leader carefully manages their teams work and pays close attention to whether each person is meeting their expectations.

While this kind of leadership is beneficial for roles where you need to make quick decisions, it also limits how involved your team members can be. When you are making decisions based on your own ideas and beliefs, you may have a more narrow point of view. These kinds of leaders rarely learn from others perspectives and opinions.

Participative leadership

Participative leadership, also called “democratic leadership,” is when you are a leader who encourages your team members to speak up if they have an idea or question. When you are a participative leader, you understand that you can learn a lot from others. Before making an important decision, these kinds of leaders tend to consult their team first. A participative leader is open to feedback and group discussion in order to make a decision that pleases everyone.

Employees who are managed by a participative leader tend to feel valued at work. By listening to what your team members have to say, you are showing that you respect and support what they have to share. One thing participative leaders need to be mindful of is choosing what is best for the company rather than solely their team. You need to keep in mind that each of your team members has a different area of expertise and credentials.

Delegative leadership

Delegative leadership, also called “laissez-faire leadership,” is when you give your team members a lot of independence and freedom. With this kind of leadership, the hierarchy of your team is less defined. While your team members can go to you for help, you also expect them to figure out a lot of things on their own. Since this is a hands-off management approach, delegative leaders allow their team members to make their own decisions and trust that everyone can manage their own workflow.

While some employees thrive off having a less structured work environment, others may feel like they need more guidance. As a delegative leader, you still need to be mindful of what support and resources your team members need. Unless you find a team of determined and focused individuals, laissez-faire leadership can lead to less productivity and personal responsibility.

Comparing other types of leaderships

Get to know the differences and similarities between other kinds of leadership you may encounter at work:

Transformational leadership vs. transactional leadership

Transformational leaders strive to support and motivate their team while transactional leaders are more focused on the work each person is doing. Transformational leadership tends to be more effective since these kinds of leaders want to help their team members grow in their roles and meet their career goals. A transformational leader inspires positive change in the workplace and provides their team with the tools they need for success. These kinds of leaders tend to be empathetic, focused and effective communicators. Along with meeting the companys objectives, they truly care about their teams progress.

Transactional leadership has more of a defined hierarchy than transformational leadership. These kinds of leaders expect their team members to carefully follow their orders. Rather than trying to help their team members grow, transactional leaders are solely focused on making sure everyone is meeting their quotas or expectations. These leaders clearly define what employees need to do to succeed. If you are a transactional leader, you tend to create clear salary schedules or protocols for earning a bonus.

Those who are extrinsically motivated tend to do well under transactional leadership while those who are looking for more personal fulfillment may prefer a transformational leader.

Expressive leadership vs. instrumental leadership

Expressive leadership is when you try to establish effective relationships among your team members. Instrumental leaders are more focused on setting goals for their team members. If you are an expressive leader, you may use team-building activities to help your team members get to know one another. You may also establish open communication where everyone feels comfortable bringing any questions or concerns to your attention. With expressive leadership, your mission is to make sure everyone feels happy and comfortable in the workplace.

Instrumental leaderships help their team members find ways to achieve their goals. If you are this kind of leader, you might regularly meet with employees to give them performance reports. Providing feedback and constructive criticism are ways you might ensure team members are building the skills they need to meet the companys goals and expectations.

A leader who can be both expressive and instrumental tends to do quite well. By maintaining a balance of relationship building and goal setting, you can ensure your team is happy and productive.


What are the main types of leadership?

Different Types of Leadership
  • Democratic Leadership. This is as clear as its name. …
  • Autocratic Leadership. …
  • Laissez-faire Leadership. …
  • Strategic Leadership. …
  • Transformational Leadership. …
  • Transactional Leadership. …
  • Coach-Style Leadership. …
  • Bureaucratic Leadership.

What are the three 3 leadership attributes?

The three traits that are discussed here are character, vision, and relationship effectiveness. It needs to be mentioned that these three are not the only traits but more like these traits are essential to leadership. In other words, these traits are necessary but not exhaustive.

What are the 4 types of leadership?

4 Different Types of Leadership Styles
  • Autocratic or Authoritarian leadership. An autocratic leader centralizes power and decision-making in himself. …
  • Democratic or Participative leadership. Participative or democratic leaders decentralise authority. …
  • The Laissez-faire or Free-rein leadership. …
  • Paternalistic leadership.

What are the three 3 leadership styles that a good leader should apply?

Throughout history, great leaders have emerged with particular leadership styles in providing direction, implementing plans and motivating people.

Each of the leadership styles will also be differentiated.
  • Authoritarian Leadership. …
  • Participative Leadership. …
  • Delegative leadership.

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