Leadership Styles

Different leadership styles are the characteristics that critically define the leaders in our organisations. They’re a mix-and-match of various traits, and will in some way, influence the culture of the whole company.

There are 5 major leadership styles, and we’ll talk through them in this article.

Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic leadership style is probably the most popular leadership style in the 21st century management arena. It’s a style that remains popular due to the positive reaction employees have towards it. If you lean torwards the democratic leadership style, this means that you seek to consult your employees or team members over decisions that will effect them. Naturally, followers prefer this strategy for several reasons. Either their self-interest attracts them torwards managers that allow them to make the choices that benefit them, or it’s the euphoric confidence bounce they experience when they’re allowed to make decisions that were previously ‘above’ them.

However, be warned. The democratic leadership style isn’t perfect in every occasion. Democratic decisions aren’t perfect, in the sense that they take longer to make. When one only has to consult oneself, a decision can be made almost instantaneously. In a war-time, life-threatening or high-risk situation, ‘democratic’ debate simply isn’t relevant. It simply isn’t optimal. Examples of these high pressure decision-making jobs include surgeons, army generals, fire-marshals and air traffic controllers.

The democratic process is used best in simple manufacturing sectors, where a respite from the harsh and ‘robotic’ leadership styles recommended by Ford or other factory managers of times gone by.

The Autocratic Leadership Style

Management may not be the worlds ‘oldest profession’, but the autocratic leadership style is probably the original type of management style ever employed. Simple at heart, the autocratic style of management involves making the decisions yourself and passing them onto subordinates. In the autocratic world, leaders are there to make the decision, and followers are there to follow. This promotes an ‘obedient’ style of follower present in the army, and perhaps some of the ‘tougher’ working cultures such as farming, logging, haulage and fishing.

This isn’t to say that an autocratic leader would fail miserably in, say, customer service. However, the more that workers are left to do imaginative or creative tasks largely on their own, the less likely an autocratic leadership style would really ‘bring the best’ out of the average worker.

The Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Laissez-Faire literally means ‘leave alone to act freely’. It’s the complete opposite to the autocratic style, and you’d expect as a result to find leaders in completely different industries. As I said above, autocracy doesn’t apply well to creative industries, so as you’d expect, fashion designers, film directors and photographers are given plenty of ‘room’ by their managers to do their day-to-day work, but the laissez faire leadership style isn’t just great for creative industries, it’s also useful in the professional jobs.

I’m talking about lawyers, doctors, accountants, surveyors, architects and also teachers. These are individuals whom have spent upwards of 3 years in a training contract and have emerged into either a well paid or respected job. As a result, they expect a certain degree of ‘laissez faire’ from management in the way they work. In other words, they expect to be entrusted with plenty of responsibility and be left to discharge their professional duties with less supervision than say, a sous chef.

The Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Bureaucratic leadership is often met with a wince from a management team. (Almost) everybody dislikes the idea of bureaucracy. Almost by definition, bureaucracy involves time-intensive and often time-wasting rules and procedures within a rigourous and slow framework. Employees operating within a bureaucracy are given very little choice as to how they perform their work. The vast majority of their day-to-day tasks will be governed by the rule book. You may be wondering who this actually benefits. The answer is you, as the bureaucratic manager! Forcing employees to perform tasks in an efficient and prescribed manner will usually facilitate in a speedy review by yourself, or perhaps lower maintenance costs, or even more productivity of workers who use the data further in the process. The restraint and ‘discipline’ put in by your bureaucratic workers will have the exact effect you designed the procedures have, therefore you have great control. The drawback is that your employees feel that they’re being controlled, each rule at a time. Also, in a high-wage economy, bureaucracy can be a very expensive use of employee time.

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