16 Leadership and Management Styles Explained – Make Them Work for You

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Choose The Style You Need, to Make the Best of Your Situation

Leadership and management styles matter more than ever. In fact, in today’s fluid business environment, Leaders and managers are coming to accept that the old thinking about being a boss is too rigid. People running businesses are increasingly self-aware and open to ideas and suggestions. Even so, they need to produce results.

Being effective means using the different leadership styles selectively to achieve their goals. Luckily, in this article we go through 16 styles you need to know about, starting with the three that Dr Kurt Lewin made famous, Autocratic, Democratic, and Laissez-faire.

What is “Leadership Style” and “Management Style”?

All in all, leadership and management styles describe a leader or manager’s methods, characteristics, and behaviours when directing, motivating and managing their teams. Different leadership styles determine how they implement plans and strategies to accomplish their objectives while meeting external expectations and contributing to their team’s well-being. A variety of factors shape a leader’s natural style, including their personalities, values, skills, and experiences, which can significantly impact their leadership’s effectiveness. All in all, leaders and managers need to be self-aware in deciding what works for them.

What’s The Difference Between Both?

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Is your job about inspiring or directing?


In bigger companies, leaders lead, and managers manage, but people often talk about the two interchangeably. Well, in larger companies, leadership inspire the people and manages the strategy, while management directs and leads the different functions.

To find out more, check out our article on the difference between leadership and management.

What Are the 4 Types of Leadership Style?

When people talk of four leadership styles, they usually mean these:

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Dr Kurt Lewin, the German American psychologist, published his theory of leadership styles in 1939 when he defined the first three styles in this list. Our fourth style, Transformational, was recognised later and supports the other three. Now let’s go through them in turn:

#1. Autocratic Leadership:

Direction and decision-making come from the top. All in all, it’s about command and control. The leader decides everything – goals, strategy, policy, working methods and activities. And there’s no argument. They pick the work teams and set the tasks. Moreover, the leader also singles people out for praise and criticism, with no comeback.

  • First, it works well even with inexperienced people, and when you’re under pressure.
  • Secondly, it enables you to take urgent decisions and impose discipline to bring the team back in line or on target or ensure the company’s survival, as with businesses pivoting in the pandemic.
  • The team may become dependent on you, and incapable of making decisions, showing initiative, and growing.

#2. Democratic Leadership:

The leader gives direction but also gathers input from subordinates and team members. Everyone gets a chance to contribute to decision-making. The leader has the final say but allows others to feel engaged and have a stake. Democratic leaders focus on collaboration and consensus building, setting up an open environment where ideas flow freely. Also, they spark their team’s creativity, and projects are enhanced by having positive contributions from everyone.

  • The group feel part of the solution, yielding positive results by producing more creative input.
  • Also, morale is high.
  • Relying on the group for solutions can be problematic if they aren’t skilled or trained.
  • People may feel left out if their ideas or solutions don’t make the cut.

Watch out for this happening, and think about coaching them in problem-solving. Read our Ultimate guide on People Management Skills.

3. Laissez-faire Leadership:

You’re delegating, but still in overall charge, empowering the team, and trusting them to do their job without constantly questioning or micromanaging. You hand over day-to-day decisions and smaller projects but remain available to provide guidance and feedback.

  • Laissez-faire works well with people who are trained and skilled, so you can let them get on with it while you attend to other matters.
  • They’re good at decision-making, so they don’t need to seek your approval on everything, but they keep you in the picture.
  • Finally, they feel more accomplished when they complete tasks without a guiding hand or directive.
  • Decision-making can be slow.
  • Without direction or oversight, the team might not accomplish as much as you want. or worst case, anything at all. You may have to resort to being autocratic, to get back on course. Read our article on Empowerment Training.

Your Secret Superpower: Transformational Leadership

Whatever your natural leadership style, think of this as your secret superpower.

You develop a vision and rally people around it, uniting the team in a shared cause. They’re aligned with the business, and happy and willing to commit effort, time, and energy to it. Interestingly, transformational leadership provides a backdrop to the first three leadership styles, adding a participatory element, and connecting the work to its context. This connection is one of the responsibilities covered in our article, ‘A team leader is responsible for…’

Being a transformational leader means showing empathy and taking care of your team as they go through the change, as our article ‘implement change’ explains.

  • Creates workplace harmony, and keeps communication open.
  • Requires constant communication and feedback, which can be exhausting.
  • Also, it can contribute to burnout as people strive to achieve goals.

Here’s More to Make Seven!

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In today’s fluid environment, people increasingly think of leadership styles as being on a continuum between autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire, the styles we’ve described, and fixing between them as the situation requires. Some people talk about a longer list of 7 leadership styles, comprising the first list plus these additional ones:

  • Affiliative
  • Authoritative
  • Coaching
  • Pacesetting

These 7 core leadership styles work equally well for leaders directing strategy and managers leading teams at the operational level. Now let’s look at these additional styles:

#4: Affiliative Leadership:

Master this style, and you can pivot into the others and carry the team with you.

  • Puts people first, creating harmony and building emotional bonds.
  • Secondly, this is particularly good for smoothing conflicts between team members and reassuring them in times of stress.
  • You still need to have clear boundaries and be prepared to step back into being authoritative as required.

#5: Authoritative Leadership:

  • You’re still commanding, but also inspiring people and bringing them to a shared vision.
  • A more empathetic alternative to autocratic, that achieves similar results.
  • Also, there’s a shorter decision time than democratic.
  • Takes longer to explain things than autocratic leadership.

#6: Coaching Leadership:

  • Helps people develop and makes them more competent.
  • Opens the door for democratic and laissez-faire leadership.
  • Also, it helps employees acquire skills and motivates them to get work done efficiently and accurately.
  • Leaders may find it hard to step back from running the business and focus on the team’s needs.

#7: Pacesetting Leadership:

  • Enables you to set high standards and push for results.
  • Also, it’s good for short bursts of activity like product launches and campaigns.
  • Sustained over a long period, it can be stressful, and people can burn out, even if they’re highly motivated.

Some Leadership and Management Styles with Examples

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Examples to inspire you!


  • Affiliative – Warren Buffet, Investor: Focuses on the team’s well-being and trusts them to creatively carry out strategies to produce returns.
  • Authoritative – Martin Luther King: Had a vision, mobilised a large team to follow it, spoke with authority, knew what the future looked like, didn’t deviate, and encouraged others to follow.
  • Autocratic – Steve Jobs, Co-founder of Apple: Made decisions with minimal team input, and had a distinctive vision.
  • Coaching – Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google: Guided and mentored the team, enhancing their skills.
  • Democratic – Mary Varra, CEO of General Motors: actively seeks input from the team and encourages collaboration.
  • Laissez-Faire – Richard Branson, Founder of the Virgin Group: Gives teams significant freedom and trusts them to make decisions.
  • Pacesetting – Jack Welsh, Former CEO of General Electric: Maximised output of company staff by highly rewarding top performers and eliminating the weakest.

Now what other Leadership and Management Styles are there?

7 More Leadership and Management Styles You Can Count On

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Let’s look and see!


We promised you 16 leadership and management stylers. So, we’ve had 7 so far, plus Transformational leadership, which we called the secret superpower. That makes #8.

So here are 6 more leadership and management styles for you to consider:

#9: Collaborative

#10: Consultative

#11: Participative

#12: Paternalistic

#13: Persuasive

#14: Virtual

So, let’s look at each of these:

#9: Collaborative:

This is a sub-style of democratic leadership and creates an open forum for ideas to be discussed before making decisions based on the majority view.

  • Empower staff to take ownership of the outcome, leading to greater innovation, engagement, and creativity.
  • But decision-making is slow.

#10: Consultative:

In another democratic sub-style, managers ask for their teams’ opinions and thoughts and seek each member’s viewpoint before making the final decision.

  • This is suited to work in specialised fields, where the teams are experts and management needs their input to make informed decisions.
  • Teams can be trusted with small projects, but need supervision on major decisions.
  • Also, decision-making is slow.

#11:  Participative:

This actively involves staff in the decision process. It gives them access to information about the company and its goals and encourages them to come up with innovative solutions. Furthermore, managers seek their staff’s thoughts, ideas and opinions, and work with them to make decisions and act on them.

  • Staff are motivated to contribute ideas and solutions.
  • Managers need to put in time working with the team, rather than focusing on other matters.
  • Also, decision-making is slow.

#12: Paternalistic, or Maternalistic Leadership:

In family-owned businesses, managers often say they’re acting with their team’s best interests at heart, and take unilateral decisions, but there’s no participation. They refer to staff as family and ask for loyalty and trust.

  • People feel valued, their welfare is supported, and they’re trained properly.
  • Ambitious people may feel they will never rise above being an employee because they aren’t family members.

#13: Persuasive:

This is a sub-style of autocratic leadership. Managers use their powers of persuasion to convince their team that their decisions are for the good of the team or department.

  • People feel more trusted and involved and accept top-down decisions more easily. They react more positively to reason and logic.
  • Employees resent the restrictions they’re placed under and feel frustrated they can’t give feedback, or create solutions.

#14: Virtual:

This concerns people reporting from remote locations and has taken on added importance since the pandemic, with working from home and hybrid working. Zoom, Teams and the rest certainly help, but virtual leaders rely heavily on email and phone conversations, where body language is invisible, and things easily get missed. Besides flexing leadership styles for different individuals, virtual leaders also need great communication skills, particularly active listening.

Our Last Leadership Styles – Charismatic, and Arguably the Greatest One of All, Servant Leadership

It’s important to know about these leadership styles, which apply equally to managing strategy and functional teams:

#15: Charismatic:

This style’s lasting success depends on more than the leader’s magnetic personality. Effective bosses with personal charisma are attractive but don’t rely exclusively on their charm, or it soon wears thin. So they combine it with pivoting between Lewin’s three “Primary” styles, autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire leadership.

  • People are drawn to work with a charismatic person.
  • A Charismatic leader needs to combine their personality with other proven leadership styles to be effective.

#16: Servant:

Our final style has been in the spotlight recently as the UK celebrated King Charles’ coronation, and people remembered his mother, the late Queen, an outstanding servant leader who dedicated her life to serving others. In business, servant leaders stand out as charismatic, emotionally intelligent, and working hard to meet the needs of their teams, generally combined with pivoting between authoritative, democratic, laissez-faire, and transformational as appropriate.

Why Do People See Servant Leadership as So Important in Business?

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It’s all about serving others


Servant leadership typically results in higher levels of engagement and job satisfaction, as team members feel heard and cared for, and inspired to support each other and develop a ‘serving’ work culture.

Global employee recognition solutions provider OC Tanner’s website quotes company surveys where only half the employees trust their bosses. By contrast, servant leaders strive to help people grow. They make a lasting positive impact on their company and wider society. And the only ‘con’ with this style is that few can achieve it.

What Is the Best Leadership and Management Style?

From Lewin’s three leadership styles in 1939 to the other ideas we’ve been looking at, leadership styles are as varied as leaders are themselves.

From the team’s point of view, the best style is probably democratic leadership, because it’s about “what do YOU think?” It involves the team in decision-making and takes their opinion into account.

Democratic leadership facilitates communication, collaboration, and participation. Leaders who are more extroverted and open to creativity might like the laissez-faire or democratic approach. And if they’re more of a “my-way” kind of person, maybe transactional or autocratic will work best. Outgoing and charismatic types might like the coaching or transformational management style.

But whatever your natural style, building your understanding of Transformational leadership will help make you a more effective leader. And the research confirms it.

What Are The Best Leadership Styles in Global Management?

Worldwide studies reveal that the team members’ positions, as in the work they’re doing and the industry they’re in, affect which leadership style they think will work best in managing their operations. Saying that, the team members’ and leaders’ opinions on this will also change with the circumstances, hence the need for flexibility that we have talked about. So global managers must also allow for cultural differences in different countries and multicultural workforces.

However, with the spread of globalisation, the consensus is that out of all these different styles, transformational leadership is the one style that is universally effective across different cultures. And this is because today’s dominant workforce consists of knowledgeable employees who need the envisioning and empowering that transformational leadership can provide, whichever country they’re working in.

AND FINALLY: What Is My Leadership Style?

Well, after reading this post on leadership and management styles, you’re probably thinking you should do something about developing your natural leadership and management style. So, here are some suggestions:

3 Ways to Identify Your Leadership Style:

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Now here are three action steps for you!


  1. Take a formal leadership style test or assessment. There are plenty available online, and MBM can also advise. Contact us to get started.
  2. Consider the traits you see in others, that you’d like to emulate – and those you wouldn’t, too!
  3. Get opinions from colleagues who are familiar with your leadership.

Now think about your relationships with the people you lead, and how you feel comfortable getting things done. All in all, the most effective leadership and management styles involve self-awareness and emotional intelligence. And remember, you’re dealing with people, so be kind!

Action: For even more useful content on leadership, check out our ultimate guide on Leadership Skills.

Enjoyed this article? Well, engage with us on Linkedin.

Updated on: January 20, 2024

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