The Best Inspirational Leadership Styles For Incoming Leaders
Many adopt a leadership role at some point in their life, whether it be in a workplace meeting or in a social setting. Understanding the best and most inspirational leadership styles can help you identify your own strengths and weaknesses and become a better leader as a result.
Leadership is a process of motivating others to work together collaboratively to accomplish great things.
As you progress in your career and develop leadership skills, you’ll likely use different techniques and methods to achieve your objectives while engaging employees who report to you. These different approaches of providing direction, executing plans, and motivating people are known as leadership styles.
Have you ever stopped to examine your style of leadership?
Strong leaders have the power to strongly influence and change our lives. Therefore, it stands to reason that leadership skills affect the success of our teams. Fortunately, leadership is not an elitist sport. Like other management skills, leadership is a platform we can learn from and grow with.
Understanding the different types of leadership styles can help make you a better leader.
Different leadership styles produce different results, and certain people are suited to different styles of leadership. Once you understand what type of leader you are, you will have a better sense of your strengths, weaknesses, and the type of communication that can result in the most effective leadership possible.
Drilling deeper into the definition of leadership reveals several theories, each giving rise to several styles that leaders exist within.
There is overlap between these and common threads running through certain styles. Each has benefits and drawbacks, and each lends itself especially well to certain situations.
This article will introduce the most inspirational leadership styles in detail, as well as answering a breadth of questions about leading and leadership.
As you start to consider some of the people who you think of as great leaders, you can immediately see that there are often vast differences in how each person leads. But how many styles of leadership are there, and do you need to stick to just one? Let’s find out!
Commanding Leadership Style
In commanding leadership, the leader makes all the decisions and gives orders to his or her team without explanations. Close and tight control and follow-up combined with high clarity in rules, roles, and expectations are core parts of the commanding leadership style.
Such autocratic leaders centralize power and decision-making in themselves.
They give orders, assign tasks and duties without consulting the employees. They take full authority and assumes full responsibility. Autocratic leadership is based upon close supervision, clear-cut direction and commanding order of the superior.
This management style promotes very little learning, and even none at all.
Remember that the employees are merely told what to do, and how to do it. This means that they are not given any room to exercise their judgment and, in the process, learn. It also gives very little room for mistakes, since all actions are dictated by the manager, and as a result employees are also deprived of the benefit of learning from mistakes.
Authoritarian leaders typically assert strong authority, have total decision-making power, and expect unquestioned obedience.
This type of management style requires clearly defined roles and strict hierarchies and reporting structures. Employees should not have to question who is responsible for what. To be an effective authoritarian leader, you need to be willing and able to consistently stay up-to-date on your teams’ work and to make any and all decisions.
Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision-making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group.
The autocratic approach can be a good one when the situation calls for rapid decisions and decisive actions. However, it tends to create dysfunctional and even hostile environments, often pitting followers against the domineering leader.
Famous autocratic leaders include businesswoman Martha Stewart, who was once described as a “scrupulous and meticulous boss”.
However, Stewart has built a global empire using this leadership style. Director Ridley Scott is also considered an autocratic leader. He is known to be a perfectionist and expects his actors to know their positions and lines. This has worked well for him considering his box office success.
In certain workplaces, an autocratic leader is the ideal type of leader.
These workplaces include high-stakes environments where human error can mean a safety or security risk, like the military. In other environments, like education and creative services, an autocratic leader can hinder their team and ultimately, undermine their organization’s success.
Visionary Leadership Style
Unlike authoritarian managers, visionary managers don’t involve themselves in the day-to-day details. Instead, they focus on motivation and alignment of the team, to keep everyone moving in the same direction, and entrust their team members to handle the details about how to get there.
Organizations that want to build a culture of innovation are best served by tapping the talents of visionary leadership.
Visionary leaders are natural born problem solvers and rely on abstract thinking to visualize possibilities that most are unable to see. These big picture thinkers can not only see what’s possible, but they can also effectively articulate it to their team. Steve Jobs is an example of a visionary leader: passionate, open-minded, and creative, he was most effective at inspiring forward momentum and creating a culture of innovation during his two stints at Apple.
This transformational leadership style is defined by the leader’s desire to improve upon or transform the business or company they work for.
Great leaders who employ the transformational style seek to empower their team members in order to streamline or upgrade company conventions. This approach privileges organizational growth above all else, and transformational leadership types often spend a lot of time focusing on big picture goals rather than the minutiae of management.
The visionary leadership style drives resonance by bringing people together and working cooperatively towards the same end goal.
Although this is a genuinely good leadership style, it still shouldn`t be overused. Too much of this can result in inattention to shorter-term activities and operational topics. In turn, that could hurt the organization and prevent the team from fulfilling the vision anyway.
Transformational leadership is useful in situations where staff achieve at different levels.
The phrase “outside of your comfort zone” is applicable here: A transformational leader may aim to keep their subordinates just beyond their comfort zone so that continuous progress is possible. All of this goal setting is done with a vision in mind, and constant course correction increases the likelihood of the vision becoming a reality.
Such leaders can inspire employees to try to be their best selves, create a workplace where mutual respect is highly valued and encourage employees to think critically about the values they hold.
But this type of workplace can also become a cult of personality or create an environment where gaining the leader’s approval becomes a priority for employees, diverting their focus from performing their jobs well or supporting each other.
Democratic Leadership Style
The democratic approach can encourage team co-operation, teamwork and bring employees together by allowing team members to have a say. When employees have a say they feel slightly more valued in their job role.
The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “What do you think?”.
The democratic style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if he or she is uncertain and needs fresh ideas from qualified teammates. It is not the best choice in an emergency situation, when time is of the essence for another reason or when teammates are not informed enough to offer sufficient guidance to the leader.
Democratic leaders show high levels of collaboration, team leadership and strong communication skills.
This style of leadership works well in developing ownership for a project, but it can make for slow progress towards goals, until a certain amount of momentum has built up. Anyone wishing to use this style will need to make sure that senior managers are signed up to the process, and understand that it may take time to develop the consensus.
Participative or democratic leaders decentralize authority.
It is characterized by consultation with the subordinates and their participation in the formulation of plans and policies. He leads the subordinates mainly through persuasion and example rather than fear and force. Sometimes the leader serves as a moderator of the ideas and suggestions from his group.
Democratic leadership is an effective leadership style but can sometimes be too slow when fast decisions are needed.
Use it at the right time and to the proper extent, and it can prompt astounding creativity and idea generation. It can build sizeable commitment and bring people together as a team with significant reductions in blame games and politics as a result.
By the way, participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say in the decision-making process.
Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative. Democratic leaders tend to make followers feel like they are an important part of the team, which helps foster commitment to the goals of the group.
From polls to surveys, to feedback to questionnaires, a democratic leadership style relies heavily on the views and opinions of their team.
These leaders are typically able to incorporate the broad spectrum of ideas, views and input from valuable employees, leaders and stakeholders to their advantage. So, in a nutshell, great for managing change and an agile workforce.
Coaching Leadership Style
The coaching leader develops people for the future. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Try this.” The coaching style works best when the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall.
Coaching leaders allow people to try different approaches to problem solving and achieving a goal in an open way.
The coaching leader shows high levels of empathy, self-awareness and skills in developing others. A coaching style is especially useful when an organization values long-term staff development.
A coaching leader is one who spends a great deal of time on identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of each member of their team.
They will take the time to cultivate deep connections with direct reports to gain a thorough understanding of each team member’s hopes, beliefs, dreams and values. The coaching leadership style is similar to democratic and affiliative leadership, but coaching leaders place more emphasis on the growth and success of individual employees.
Apply this leadership style when the employees are motivated and are keen on developing and improving their skills and competence levels.
Using this leadership style, you can create a very high commitment, engagement, and loyalty in your team.
Developing the team members will eventually nurture them to become coaching leaders themselves. That next generation of coaches can continue to coach others, leading to even better improvement in performance in the long run. Coaching leadership is time-consuming and requires a lot of skill on the part of the leader. It will only work if the individual receiving coaching is motivated and open to feedback.
Great coaches understand their team and accept that they, just like their people, are constantly learning.
The learning experience that comes with this management style further encourages a thirst for learning and development among employees. They will then actively seek personal and professional development while improving on their performance to the benefit of the company.
Pacesetting Leadership Style
A pacesetting leader is one who leads by example. They set high standards for themselves in the hope that others will follow suit. A team comprised of self-motivated, high-performers who value continuous improvement will thrive under the direction of a pacesetting leader.
This approach is well-suited to highly competent and motivated teams, working to tight deadlines.
Perhaps not the best-suited to everyday environments and less-pressured settings. The drive to succeed and strong initiative of this leadership style is certainly admirable. However, tread with caution. Because of their own incredible passion and discipline, this type of leader could intimidate and unknowingly pressure employees.
The Pace-setter very much leads by example, but this type of leadership only works with a highly-competent and well-motivated team.
It can only be sustained for a while without team members flagging. Like the Coercive leader, Pace-setters also show drive to succeed and initiative, but instead of self-control, these are coupled with conscientiousness. So in turn although their intentions are positive a forward thinking, they can come across as very controlling due to their high demands.
Do not write this one off. Instead, make sure you learn more about how and when to use it.
The pacesetting leadership style is excellent for short spurts when results are all that matter, but it can be exhausting for everybody in the long run and lead to demotivation and burn out within the team. Long-term pace setting can be devastating for morale and lead to high stress levels and high turnover rates — people feel like they are asked to perform beyond what is possible.
This style gives employees more freedom to put their skills and competence to good use. It is also a good way for employees to hone their skills.
Employees will feel more inclined to face up to the challenge, for fear that their task may be transferred to others if they are unable to perform as expected. But employees may feel like they are working for slave drivers which, in a sense, the pacesetting manager is. The manager may even reach a point where she will obsess over the smallest of details and be too focused on the work, without caring for the personal welfare and well-being of the employees.
Done well, the clear guidance can really life a team’s performance, done badly and it can really breakdown the confidence and belief of a team.
The pacesetting style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. Used extensively, however, this style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.
Affiliative Leadership Style
We’re entering touchy-feely territory here. An affiliative style of leadership puts people first, concentrating on creating a harmonious working environment and building emotional bonds.
The affiliative leadership style requires lots of empathy and the ability to build relationships through a range of communication styles.
This tact proves particularly helpful during stressful circumstances, and if applied well, can help to motivate employees to continue through the tough times. On the flip side, this leader can struggle to understand how to improve poor performance and may be more hesitant to provide advice.
This is the “people-come-first” style, meaning that people are seen as more important than their functions.
This management style is aimed at creating a harmonious relationship in the workplace, particularly between the manager and the employees, and also among the employees. The manager focuses on avoiding conflicts and works at encouraging a good personal and professional relationship among employees.
This style of leadership focuses purely on the teams relationship, they are highly team orientated and people focused.
After all, by reducing work life tension and stress along with nurturing the well-being of your team, it can have a direct impact on the quality of work they produce. The qualities of a leader within this style requires advanced people skills.
Affiliative leaders strive to create emotional bonds with their team members and direct reports.
Leaders who utilize this style put people before profit and believe the team always comes first. This style is focused on building trust within the team and fostering a sense of belonging to the organization. The downside of this leadership style is that constant praise and nurturing can cause performance issues to be overlooked and unaddressed.
Such leaders demonstrate empathy, and strong communication skills, and are very good at building relationships.
This style is most useful when a team has been through a difficult experience, and needs to heal rifts, or develop motivation. It is not a very goal-oriented style, so anyone using it will need to make sure others understand that the goal is team harmony, and not specific tasks. It is probably obvious from this that it cannot be used on its own for any length of time if you need to ‘get the job done’.
Charismatic Leadership Style
Charismatic leadership is considered by some theorists to be a standalone style, where the action is achieved by inspiring people to make a change. Think of Barack Obama and his “Yes We Can” campaign, which was able to inspire millions.
Charismatic leaders don’t doubt their own decisions, they move forward unwaveringly and believe that the decisions they make are the correct ones.
They move through a crowd of their followers shaking hands and lending an encouraging word. They are undeniably clear on their expectations and where they see the company going. They have mastered the art of developing images for themselves that others want to emulate.
Charismatic leaders present a vision for the organization and set goals to enable their subordinates to make this a reality.
Employees feel motivated and empowered, and as a result, this leadership style is associated with happy and engaged teams. A relatively large amount of control and freedom is afforded to employees, but there is a risk that this style of leadership will neglect the smaller picture.
The charismatic leadership style relies on the charm and persuasiveness of the leader.
Charismatic leaders are driven by their convictions and commitment to their cause. Such leaders also are sometimes called transformational leaders because they share multiple similarities. Their main difference is focus and audience. Charismatic leaders often try to make the status quo better, while transformational leaders focus on transforming organizations into the leader’s vision.
If you are naturally a charismatic, outgoing, and personable leader, you may find this style easy to adopt.
However, it can be more challenging for introverts or people who are uncomfortable in the limelight. It also requires a great deal of emotional intelligence, a willingness to take risks, and the ability to lead and manage change.
The relationship between charismatic leader and followers is an emotional one.
In order for a charismatic leader to be effective, the situation has to be right. There are situations required for a charismatic leader to have success: The organization is in a time of crisis or stress, or is in need of change. At least, there is opportunity for the organization to have new goals or direction.
Charismatic leadership can at its best, be an inspirational style to lead.
A successful, charismatic leader is able to create a vision, which attract subordinates to the cause. The ability to motivate and empower people through this vision can eventually lead to more success. If work morale is low and the company is lacking direction, a strong, charismatic leader can provide the organization a needed boost and positive vision for the future.
No two leaders approach management exactly the same way. Although managers can have similar styles, and individuals often emulate their mentors, there are as many leadership styles in management as there are people in management.
Leadership is a balancing act between the tried and true and the new and untested.
The problem is that the vast majority of leaders aren’t asking themselves which management style is the right fit. They’re simply adopting the one they’re most comfortable with, or the one they’ve been told to exhibit. This inflexibility inevitably leads to disaster.
Amazing leaders craft their approach around their audience and can fluidly switch between styles as situations change.
Leadership style depends on personality type and playing to your strengths. You can also combine the above styles or switch between, depending on what the goals are.
Each of us naturally leans towards one or two styles of leadership. The trick is not to view them as fixed.
Flexing between leadership styles makes sense — when no two days in business are the same; you can’t expect to work the same and achieve different results. Try to use different techniques and traits from the leadership styles you identify most with, making sure you adapt to the specific situation.
If you’re wondering whether it’s possible to change or improve your leadership style, you’ll be pleased to know that the answer is YES. Are you ready to take on your leadership journey?
By understanding various frameworks of leadership and how they work, those who are stepping up to lead can develop their own approaches to leadership and be more effective. Want to know more about leadership? The Ultimate Leadership Survival Guide has been written for you!