Styles of Leadership and Impact

A leadership style includes the techniques and methods used by leaders to motivate other individuals to follow their instructions.

There are basically three factors that influence the kind of leadership an individual follows:

  • Characteristics of leader
  • Characteristics of subordinates
  • Characteristics of organizational environment

Moreover, the personal background of leaders and employees affects the style of leadership followed. These factors include personality, knowledge, values, and experiences, and learning, which shape an individual’s feelings.

For example, employees who are knowledgeable and experienced may perform well under a democratic leadership style, whereas employees with lesser experience and expectations may require an autocratic leadership style.

Leadership has a direct impact on employees and organizational success. Leaders determine the organizational values, culture, and work ethics, which reflect the work style, behavior, and motivation of the employees.

Types of Leadership Styles

Let us discuss the different leadership styles and their impact on employees:

Autocratic Leadership

This leadership style is also referred to as authoritarian leadership. Autocratic leaders make decisions with little or no involvement of employees. Leaders who follow the autocratic style are extremely confident in their decision-making abilities, organizing abilities, and capacity to formulate strategies and plans.

Although this leadership style works well when decisions need to be taken promptly, autocratic leaders are generally less creative as compared to other leaders. Employees may feel disassociated from the leader and his/her decisions in this style of leadership. There is a lack of shared vision and motivation among employees. Autocratic leadership eliminates commitment, creativity, and innovation on the part of employees.

Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., is an example of this leadership style. Jobs was expelled from Apple after a power struggle with the-then top management. Later, he was asked to join back, and today, Jobs is the best example of how total control and innovation can transform an organization.

Bureaucratic Leadership

Leaders following this style rely on a stated policy to meet organizational goals. Bureaucratic leaders believe that policy dictates direction. They are strongly committed to procedures and processes instead of employees’ needs and objectives.

The disadvantage of this style of leadership is that the most important characteristics of leadership, such as motivation and development of employees, are generally ignored. Policies are not always adequate to motivate and seek commitment from people.

Bureaucratic leaders often do not empathize with people and lack creativity and innovation at work, which often results in resistance or disinterest from employees. Joseph Stalin, the leader of the erstwhile USSR, is one of the many bureaucratic leaders in history.

He helped to transform communism in the USSR from an egalitarian, revolutionary movement into an authoritarian, bureaucratic governmental system.

Democratic Leadership

This style of leadership is also referred to as the participative style of leadership. Contrary to autocratic leadership, the democratic leadership style emphasizes that leaders offer guidance to people and accept inputs from individuals to make decisions.

Democratic leaders reserve the right to make the final decision, but they encourage feedback, ideas, and suggestions from all employees. Democratic leaders usually have more satisfied followers. However, this leadership style has certain limitations, for example, increased chances of poor decision-making and implementation, slow processing of strategies, and greater efforts to bring out workable results.

One of the best examples of a democratic leader is Dwight D. Eisenhower, the 34th President of the US, who was also a military leader. He was faced with the difficult task of convincing the Alliance forces to agree on a common strategy. Eisenhower worked hard to motivate everyone to work together to achieve a common understanding.

Charismatic Leadership

Leaders following the charismatic style of leadership have a vision and personality that motivate people to execute the vision. Charismatic leadership offers opportunities for creativity and innovation because it is highly motivational. Employees tend to follow such leaders and are usually content with their roles and tasks in the achievement of organizational objectives.

However, there is a significant issue with charismatic leadership. If the leader leaves, a replacement is hard to find, because charismatic leadership is based upon an individual’s strong personality. In the absence of such a leader, employees may feel demotivated, disoriented, and without direction.

One of the most charismatic leaders in history is John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the US, who hailed from a powerful family and was blessed with pleasant looks, which added to his personal charisma.

Situational Leadership

The situational leadership theory states that there is no ideal style of leadership to suit every situation. Accordingly, an effective leader constantly adapts to different styles of leadership for different situations or outcomes.

Experienced and seasoned leaders, who are aware of organizational and employee needs, tend to adopt the situational leadership style. Employees are content because there is the freedom to choose the best strategy for every situation, which offers scope for innovation, development, and learning.

Situational leadership provides leaders with the opportunity to test and develop different styles for various situations, resulting in learning and experience for both leaders and employees.

An example of situational leadership is George Bush, the 43rd President of the US, who responded and took decisions after the suicide bomb attacks at the World Trade Center, Washington D.C. on September 11, 2001 (9-11 Tragedy).

Transactional Leadership

This style of leadership is also referred to as managerial leadership. Leaders following this style tend to adopt a system of rewards and punishments for employees. For example, when employees are successful, they are rewarded, and when employees fail, they are reprimanded or punished.

Rules, policies, procedures, and standards are strictly followed in transactional leadership. An example of transactional leadership is Indra Nooyi, CEO of PepsiCo Inc.

She quoted, “You give a team of people a set of objectives and goals and get them all to buy into it, and they can move mountains”. Nooyi topped the Fortune’s 2009 list of Most Powerful Women in Business.

However, employees may not feel content in this style of leadership, because they are not encouraged to be creative or to find new solutions to problems. Moreover, employees may feel less motivated to work towards a goal, if the rewards and compensation do not appeal to them.

Transformational Leadership

Leaders following the transformational leadership style attempt to transform their followers. These leaders are usually energetic, enthusiastic, and passionate toward employees. Transformational leaders represent the most valuable form of leadership because employees are offered fair opportunities to change, transform, and develop themselves as contributors.

Structurally, this style results in the best leadership outcome, because transformational leaders develop people. Such a leadership style is most suitable for modern organizations, facing constant external changes that demand creative problem-solving and employee commitment.

Mahatma Gandhi was a transformational leader, who led by example and empowered his followers to gain Indian independence, following the principle of non-violence.

Laissez Faire Leadership

Leaders following this style believe that people excel when they are left alone to respond to their responsibilities and obligations on their own. Therefore, Laissez-faire leaders extend the least possible guidance to employees and attempt to control them through less obvious means.

The laissez-faire leadership style is suitable for organizations where employees are highly skilled and motivated to work on their own. This leadership style offers enough opportunities to employees to develop their problem-solving skills and exhibits their creativity.

Warren Buffett, the CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, employs the laissez-faire leadership style, allowing his manager full autonomy. However, in situations where employees are unable to accomplish tasks without guidance, laissez-faire leadership may lead to delays in work and disorient employees.

Resonant Leadership

When leaders fail to empathize with the emotions of the group; they create collective distress. The group members may feel off-balance and thus perform poorly, which may further affect the achievement of the organizational mission. Thus, it is important for a leader to accommodate the feelings of the people and spread positive emotional direction.

Resonance is a drive that encourages people to achieve higher productivity, creativity, accord, and results. Leaders with resonant leadership qualities show a high level of emotional intelligence and possess the skills of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, and empathy for others.

Such leaders have a tremendous ability to connect with their followers and their challenges. These leaders have a better ability to create harmony in a team and motivate employees to follow directions, even in a stressful working environment.

Basically, resonant leaders apply emotional and social intelligence skills to create positive relationships and engage others to achieve a common goal.

Late Akio Morita, former Chairman and CEO of Sony Corp., can be cited as an excellent example of a resonant leader. Morita played an important role in establishing, nurturing, and growing Sony Corp. through his outstanding leadership qualities.

He was said to be a leader with an exceptional energy level and an appealing personality. He was a visionary leader and used to share his vision with all his employees. This helped in developing family feeling among the employees.

It was because of Morita’s work style that the employees of Sony always worked in harmony and felt pride in contributing their talent to the achievement of Morita’s vision.


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