Do You Know Your Leadership Style? The 5 Types of Leadership and Characteristics

Broadly speaking, the work of numerous authors from differing fields can be summarised in 5 leadership styles that have developed over the last 200 years.

Leader draught piece black and red

These 5 styles are as follows:

1. Autocratic leadership

Autocratic leadership is a classical leadership style with the following characteristics:

  • Leader or Manager seeks to make as many decisions as possible
  • Leader or Manager seeks to have the most authority and control in decision making
  • Leader or Manager seeks to retain responsibility rather than utilise complete delegation
  • Consultation with other colleagues in minimal and decision making becomes a solitary process
  • Leaders or Managers are less concerned with investing their own leadership development, and prefer to simply work on the task at hand

2. Bureaucratic leadership

The bureaucratic leadership style is concerned with ensuring workers follow rules and procedures accurately and consistently.

Bureaucratic leadership normally has the following characteristics: 

  • Leaders or Managers expect employees to display a formal, business-like attitude in the workplace and between each other.
  • Leaders or Managers gain instant authority with their position, because rules demand that employees pay them certain privileges, such as being able to sign off on all major decisions. As a result, leaders suffer from ‘position power’. Leadership development becomes pointless, because only titles and roles provide any real control or power.
  • Employees are rewarded for their ability to adhere to the rules and follow procedure perfectly.
  • Bureaucratic systems usually gradually develop over a long period of time, and hence are more commonly found in large & old businesses

3. Distributed leadership

Distributed leadership is the leadership style that promotes the sharing of responsibility, the exercise of delegation and continual consultation.

The style has the following characteristics: 

  • Leader or Manager seeks consultation on all major issues and decisions.
  • Leader or Manager effectively delegate tasks to subordinates and give them full control and responsibility for those tasks.
  • Leader or Manager welcomes feedback on the results of initiatives and the work environment.
  • Leader or Manager encourages others to become leaders and be involved in leadership development.

4. Laissez-faire leadership

Laissez-faire leadership or management is less common these days in business and usually exists in less formal or more social groups.

Laissez Faire management is characterised by the following:

  • The group, rather than the leader or manager, decides on direction.
  • The leader or manager is often a nominal figure to whom the group looks for approval.
  • Individuals are left to get on with their tasks. No one takes accountability for making things happen.

5. Paternalistic leadership

Paternalistic leadership is also less common in modern organisations and business.

Paternalistic leadership is characterised by:

  • An older or senior figure sets direction based on their age or length of service, rather than their ability to lead or manage.
  • The leader or manager is very supportive of the group as a whole and each individual within the group. They are quite literally a father figure.
  • Skills and knowledge are passed on from the leader or manager to certain individuals within the group who may be regarded as being groomed for the next leadership role, based on their time with the group.

You may recognise some or all of these styles in yourself or other leaders that you have worked with. In practice good leaders and managers display some of these qualities all of the time.

This is referred to as situational or flexible leadership and is dependent upon using the right style at the right time. Leaders and managers who only have one style are often perceived as inflexible.

To find out more about the different leadership and management styles, why not sign up for our Leadership and Management Course for Doctors, Nurses and other Healthcare Professionals?

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