Leadership style

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A leadership style is a leader's method of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people.[1] Various authors have proposed identifying many different leadership styles as exhibited by leaders in the political, business or other fields. Studies on leadership style are conducted[2] in the military field, expressing an approach that stresses a holistic view of leadership, including how a leader's physical presence determines how others perceive that leader. The factors of physical presence in this context include military bearing, physical fitness, confidence, and resilience. The leader's intellectual capacity helps to conceptualize solutions and to acquire knowledge to do the job.[citation needed] A leader's conceptual abilities apply agility, judgment, innovation, interpersonal tact, and domain knowledge. Domain knowledge encompasses tactical and technical knowledge as well as cultural and geopolitical awareness.[3][need quotation to verify] Daniel Goleman (2000) in his article "Leadership that Gets Results" talks about six styles of leadership.[4]


The autocratic leadership style particularly emphasises the distinction between authoritarian leaders and their followers. These types of leaders make sure to create only a distinct professional relationship.[citation needed] They regard direct supervision as fundamental in maintaining a successful environment and followership.[citation needed] Authoritarian leadership styles often follow the vision of those that are in control, and may not necessarily be compatible with those that are being led. Authoritarian leaders focus on efficiency, potentially seeing other styles, such as a democratic style, as a hindrance on progress. Examples of authoritarian leadership: a police officer directing traffic, a teacher ordering a student to do their 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 to get a point across.[citation needed] Authoritarian traits include: setting goals individually, engaging primarily in one-way and downward communication, controlling discussion with followers, and dominating interactions.[5]

Several studies have confirmed a relationship between bullying, on the one hand, and an autocratic leadership and an authoritarian way of settling conflicts or dealing with disagreements, on the other. An authoritarian style of leadership may create a climate of fear, leaving little or no room for dialogue, and where subordinates may regard complaining as futile.[6] As such, authoritarian styles have sometimes been associated with reduced group-member satisfaction relative to more democratic leadership styles.[7][page needed]

Authoritarian leadership became trendy for a period in the inter-war years - witness for example Stalin, Mussolini and Pilsudski.


The way a paternalistic leader works is by acting as a parental figure by taking care of their subordinates as a parent would. In this style of leadership the leader supplies complete concern for their followers or workers. In return they receive the complete trust and loyalty of their people. Workers under this style of leader are expected to become totally committed to what the leader believes and will not strive off and work independently. The relationship between these co-workers and leader are extremely solid. The workers are expected to stay with a company for a longer period of time because of the loyalty and trust. Not only do they treat each other like family inside the work force, but outside too. These workers are able to go to each other with any problems they have regarding something because they believe in what they say is going to truly help them.[8]

One of the downsides to a paternalistic leader is that the leader could start to play favorites in decisions. This leader would include the workers more apt to follow and start to exclude the ones who were less loyal. In today's market paternalism is more difficult to come by according to Padavic and Earnest who wrote "business dimensional and Organizational Counseling." They believe this because there have become more lay-offs and stronger unionization. This affects paternalistic leaders because the co-workers may not believe that their jobs are 100% ensured. When this happens, workers begin to look for bigger and better job opportunities instead of staying at one company for a longer period of time. Because of this, the leader may be thinking that you could be leaving and not fully believe you when you tell them something about a job opportunity. This could put the workers and leader at risk for a bad situation.[8]

According to B. M. Bass, who wrote Leadership and Performance Beyond Expectations, workers who follow paternalistic leadership also have better organization skills. The leader encourages organization because they allow the workers to complete tasks so that they can stay on top of their work. The workers complete tasks this boosts self-confidence and it makes them work harder to reach a goal and exceed the goal to prove to their boss they are working hard. Having this style of leadership can also help implement a reward system. This system will allow their workers to work even better because there is something for them at the end of the tunnel. While doing this they will also be able to accomplish more work in a set time frame.[8]

Even though paternalistic leadership style is practiced in majority of places such as India, South east Asia, Middle East and Africa, there hasn't been concrete empirical research on the implications of this leadership style due to the pre-conceived negative notions of the Western Literature.[9] These negative notions arise due to differences in the intrinsic cultural aspects defined by Geert Hofstede's study (1980). He stated that North American and Western European countries classify themselves as an individualistic culture that is centred around the principles of egalitarianism, lack of in-group interdependence, direct communication and low power distance. Therefore, from a western perspective, the authoritative aspects of paternalism are not accepted innately whereas the parental aspect of this leadership style is looked upon as an invasion of privacy as personal and professional lives are two separate facets of life. On the other hand, paternalistic leadership style is quite effective and successful in non-western cultures which are collectivistic in nature as these societies look up to their leaders as a fatherly figure and rely upon him for guidance and protection in return of deference and loyalty, thereby aligning with the principles of paternalistic style.

It is essential that extensive research be initiated, from a Non-Western point of view to understand the implications of this leadership style on social, cultural and organisational metrics without any negative bias. This would help in better comprehension of factors which lead to successful leaders and organisations in emerging economies where paternalistic leadership style is practiced at large.


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.[10]

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.[11]

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.[12]


The laissez-faire leadership style is where all the rights and power to make decisions is fully given to the followers. This was first described by Lewin, Lippitt, and White in 1939, along with the autocratic leadership and the democratic leadership styles.[13]

Laissez-faire leaders allow followers to have complete freedom to make decisions concerning the completion of their work. It allows followers a self-rule, while at the same time offering guidance and support when requested. The laissez-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.[14][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.
  • Followers are experts, in situations where followers have more knowledge than the group leader.
  • Followers are trustworthy and experienced.

Note that these conditions would intuitively mean that the group is already likely to be effective.

This style should not be used when:

  • The leader cannot or will not provide regular feedback to their followers.[14]

This leadership style has been associated with lower productivity than both autocratic and democratic styles of leadership and with lower group member satisfaction than democratic leadership.[7] Some researchers have suggested that laissez-faire leadership can actually be considered non-leadership or leadership avoidance.[15]


Transactional leaders focus their leadership on motivating followers through a system of rewards and punishments. There are two factors which form the basis for this system: Contingent reward; and management-by-exception.[citation needed]

  • Contingent reward provides rewards, materialistic or psychological, for effort and recognizes good performance.
  • Management-by-exception allows the leader to maintain the status quo. The leader intervenes when subordinates do not meet acceptable performance levels and initiates corrective action to improve performance. Management by exception helps reduce the workload of managers being that they are only called-in when workers deviate from course.

This type of leader identifies the needs of their followers and gives rewards to satisfy those needs in exchange for a certain level of performance. Transactional leaders focus on increasing the efficiency of established routines and procedures. They are more concerned with following existing rules than with making changes to the organization. A transactional leader establishes and standardizes practices that will help the organization reach:[citation needed]

  • Maturity
  • Goal-setting
  • Efficiency of operation
  • Increasing productivity.

Effect on work teams[edit]

Survey done by Jun Liu, Xiaoyu Liu and Xianju Zeng[16] on the correlation between transactional leadership and how innovations can be affected by team emotions. The research was composed of 90 work teams, with a total of 460 members and 90 team leaders. The study found that there is a relationship between emotions, labor behavior and transactional leadership that affects the team. Depending on the level of emotions of the team; this can affect the transactional leader in a positive or negative way. Transactional leaders work better in teams where there is a lower level of emotions going into the project. This is because individuals are able to:

  • Think freely when setting their emotions aside from their work.
  • Have all of their focus on the given task.

A transactional leader is:

  1. Negatively affected when the emotional level is high.
  2. Positively affected when the emotional level is low.

Transactional leadership presents a form of strategic leadership that is important for the organization's development. Transactional leadership is essential for team innovativeness.


Advocates of transformational leadership portray the transformational leader as a type of person not limited by followers' perception.[17] The main objective is to work to change or transform their followers' needs and redirect their thinking.[18] Leaders who follow the transformation style of leading, challenge and inspire their followers with a sense of purpose and excitement.[19]

Transformational leaders also create a vision of what they aspire to be, and communicate this idea to others (their followers).[20] Schultz and Schultz identify three characteristics of a transformational leader:[17][21][need quotation to verify][19]

  • Charismatic leadership has a broad field of knowledge, has a self-promoting personality, high/great energy level, and willing to take risk and use irregular strategies in order to stimulate their followers to think independently
  • Individualized consideration
  • Intellectual stimulation

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kotter, John P., 1947- (2001). What leaders really do. Harvard Business School Pub. Corp. ISBN 1-57851-382-0. OCLC 57299317.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. ^ Lindsay, Douglas. "Shared Leadership in the Military: Reality, Possibility, or Pipedream?". ResearchGate.
  3. ^ Army Leadership. Competent, Confident, and Agile. Washington, D.C.: Headquarters, Department of the Army. 12 October 2006. p. 18. Publication available at Army Knowledge Online (www.us.army.mil) and General Dennis J. Reimer Training and Doctrine Digital Library at (www.train.army.mil), FM 6–22.
  4. ^ "Leadership that Gets Results". Harvard Business Review. March 2000. Retrieved June 24, 2016.
  5. ^ Chira, Robert (2016). International Logistics Management. p. 412. ISBN 978-1524632090.
  6. ^ Salin, D.; Helge, H. (2010), "Organizational Causes of Workplace Bullying", Bullying and Harassment in the Workplace: Developments in Theory, Research, and Practice
  7. ^ a b Forsyth, D. (2010). Group dynamics (5th Ed.). Belmont, California: Wadsworth.
  8. ^ a b c Erben and Guneser, Gul and Ayse (November 2008). "The Relationship Between Paternalistic Leadership and Organizational Commitement:Investigating the Role of Climate Regarding ethics". Journal of Business Ethics. 82 (4): 955–968. CiteSeerX doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9605-z.
  9. ^ Cheng, Bor-Shiuan; Chou, Li-Fang; Wu, Tsung-Yu; Huang, Min-Ping; Farh, Jiing-Lih (2004). "Corresponding Western Leadership Scales". doi:10.1037/t60537-000. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ Woods, A. P. (2010). "Democratic leadership: drawing distinctions with distributed leadership". International Journal of Leadership in Education. 7 (1): 3–36. doi:10.1080/1360312032000154522.
  12. ^ Martin-dale, N (2011). "Leadership Styles: How to handle the different personas". Strategic Communication Management. 15 (8): 32–35.
  13. ^ Kevin Wren (15 April 2013). Social Influences. Routledge. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-134-66357-6.
  14. ^ a b "Styles Of Leadership". Essortment. Retrieved March 16, 2012.
  15. ^ Bono, J. E. & Judge, T. A. (2010). Personality and Transformational and Transactional Leadership: A Meta-Analysis. Journal of Applied Psychology 89, 901–910.
  16. ^ Liu, J.; Liu, X.; Zeng, X. (2011). "Does transactional leadership count for team innovativeness?". Journal of Organizational Change Management. 24 (3): 282–298. doi:10.1108/09534811111132695.
  17. ^ a b Schultz, Duane P.; Schultz, Sydney Ellen (1998). "Chapter 7: Leadership". Psychology and Work Today (10 ed.). Abingdon, Oxfordshire: Routledge (published 2015). ISBN 978-1-3173-5080-4. Retrieved 2016-05-22. Transformational leadership[:] A leadership style in which leaders are not constrained by their followers' perceptions but are free to act to change or transform their followers' views.
  18. ^ Schultz, Duane P. Schultz, Sydney Ellen (2010). Psychology and work today : An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall (published 2015). p. 201. ISBN 978-0-2056-8358-1. Transformational leaders [...] are not limited by their followers' perceptions. Rather than believing that they must act in accordance with what their followers expect of them, transformational leaders work to change or transform their followers' needs and redirect their thinking.
  19. ^ a b Schultz, Duane P.; Schultz, Sydney Ellen (2010). Psychology and work today. New York: Prentice Hall. pp. 201–202. ISBN 978-0-205-68358-1.
  20. ^ Carless, S. A., Wearing, A. J., & Mann, L. (2000). "A short measure of transformational leadership". Journal of Business and Psychology. 14 (3): 389–405. doi:10.1023/A:1022991115523.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  21. ^ Schultz, Duane P. Schultz, Sydney Ellen (2010). Psychology and work today : An introduction to industrial and organizational psychology (10th ed.). Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall (published 2015). p. 201. ISBN 978-0-2056-8358-1.

External links[edit]