According to, there are three main leadership styles.  Knowing how you lead is important because it will have a great impact on how your team reacts.  Most of us will be able to identify some of our traits in all three styles, however, we each have a dominant style.

A great leader is able to utilize all three styles to effectively lead their team because they understand that members of the group each respond differently.  Many unsuccessful leaders have a “my way or the highway” type attitude regardless of their leadership style.  This type of thinking is dangerous and often leads to high turnover in the organization.

Check out the following leadership styles and ask yourself which type of leader you are and then think about your team and ask yourself what type of leader they are more likely to respond to…

The authoritarian leadership style or autocratic leader keeps strict, close control over followers by keeping close regulation of policies and procedures given to followers. To keep the main emphasis on the distinction of the authoritarian leader and their followers, these types of leaders make sure to only create a distinct professional relationship. Direct supervision is what they believe to be key in maintaining a successful environment and follower ship. In fear of followers being unproductive, authoritarian leaders keep close supervision and feel this is necessary in order for anything to be done.

Examples of authoritarian communicative behavior: a police officer directing traffic, a teacher ordering a student to do his or her assignment, and a supervisor instructing a subordinate to clean a workstation. All of these positions require a distinct set of characteristics that give the leader the position to get things in order or get a point across. Authoritarian Traits: sets goals individually, engages primarily in one-way, downward communication, controls discussion with followers, sets goals individually, engages primarily in one-way, downward communication and donates interaction.[1]

The democratic leadership style consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality.[2]

This style of leadership encompasses discussion, debate and sharing of ideas and encouragement of people to feel good about their involvement. The boundaries of democratic participation tend to be circumscribed by the organization or the group needs and the instrumental value of people’s attributes (skills, attitudes, etc.). The democratic style encompasses the notion that everyone, by virtue of their human status, should play a part in the group’s decisions. However, the democratic style of leadership still requires guidance and control by a specific leader. The democratic style demands the leader to make decisions on who should be called upon within the group and who is given the right to participate in, make and vote on decisions.[3]

Research has found that this leadership style is one of the most effective and creates higher productivity, better contributions from group members and increased group morale. Democratic leadership can lead to better ideas and more creative solutions to problems because group members are encouraged to share their thoughts and ideas. While democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles, it does have some potential downsides. In situations where roles are unclear or time is of the essence, democratic leadership can lead to communication failures and uncompleted projects. Democratic leadership works best in situations where group members are skilled and eager to share their knowledge. It is also important to have plenty of time to allow people to contribute, develop a plan and then vote on the best course of action.[1]

The laissez-faire leadership style or delegative leadership was first described by Lewin, Lippitt, and White in 1938, along with the autocratic leadership and the democratic leadership styles. The laissez-faire style is sometimes described as a “hands off” leadership style because the leader delegates the tasks to their followers while providing little or no direction to the followers.[4][unreliable source?] If the leader withdraws too much from their followers it can sometimes result in a lack of productivity, cohesiveness, and satisfaction.[5]

Lassiez-faire leaders allow followers to have complete freedom to make decisions concerning the completion of their work. It allows followers a high degree of autonomy and self-rule, while at the same time offering guidance and support when requested. The lassiez faire leader using guided freedom provides the followers with all materials necessary to accomplish their goals, but does not directly participate in decision-making unless the followers request their assistance.[6][unreliable source?]

This is an effective style to use when:

  • Followers are highly skilled, experienced, and educated.
  • Followers have pride in their work and the drive to do it successfully on their own.
  • Outside experts, such as staff specialists or consultants are being used.
  • Followers are trustworthy and experienced.

This style should NOT be used when:

  • Followers feel insecure at the unavailability of a leader.
  • The leader cannot or will not provide regular feedback to their followers.[6]

What is my leadership style? Authoritarian but not to the degree described above (lol).  Many of my clients pay me to give them direction.  Although they have the final say in how their business is run, I don’t think I would be very successful if I were constantly asking them what they wanted to do or looking to them for complete guidance.  In many instances, people look for an authoritative leader when they don’t know what to do or if they don’t completely understand the task.  We often lose team members trying to be too democratic or too relaxed and these attitudes can be perceived as the leader not having clear direction or control.  It is important to always have democratic elements in your leadership style because you want your team to feel that their opinions are valued, whether you use them or not.  I also see the value in the lassiez-faire leadership style because it has a way of empowering the team but make sure the team is fully engaged and have a clear understanding of their responsibilities. 


  1. a b Martindale, N (2011). “Leadership Styles: How to handle the different personas”. Strategic Communication Management 15 (8): 32–35.
  2. ^ Foster, D.E. (2002). “A Method of Comparing Follower Satisfaction with the Authoritarian, Democratic, and Laissez-faire Styles of Leadership.”. Communication Teacher 16 (2): 4–6.
  3. ^ Woods, A.P. (2010). “Democratic leadership: drawing distinctions with distributed leadership”. International Journal of Leadership in Education 7 (1): 3–36.
  4. ^ “Laissez Faire Leadership Style”Careers, Finance and Investing. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  5. ^ Johnson, C. E.; Hackman, M. Z. (2003). Leadership, a communication perspective (4 ed.). Waveland Press. p. 38. ISBN 9781577662846.
  6. a b “Styles Of Leadership”. Essortment. Retrieved March 16, 2012