Leading with Style

Whether in business, politics or some other position of popular authority, there is a definite advantage to having an understanding of various leadership styles and when to use them by Julie-ann Odell .

With the global challenges that the world is facing, the task of leadership is far more complex and urgent than in previous generations. Leaders can be more proactive and influential by strategically using the strengths of various leadership styles that suit the particular challenges being faced and particular needs of the people involved. Instead of selecting one style, effective leaders are able to move among styles, selecting the one that is required in the moment.


Most leaders use a combination of leadership styles and these generally fall into one of the following categories:


Autocratic leadership

Leading as an autocrat can be likened to running a dictatorship with a sole decision-maker whose directives are obeyed unquestioningly. Power and authority are highly concentrated and autocratic leaders are typically concerned with task accomplishment rather than the happiness of those under their command. Often, the autocratic leader is seen to maintain considerable social “distance” from his or her constituency, and tends to motivate followers by fear of punishment rather than by anticipation of rewards.


Autocratic leadership is an asset when a company employs a large, inexperienced staff, or when work must be coordinated across disparate groups. The drawback to this style is commonly associated with high employee turnover and lower employee performance and morale. The least appropriate conditions for applying autocratic leadership occur when high levels of employee creativity are needed or when a democratic leadership model has been established previously.


Bureaucratic leadership

Bureaucratic leaders are all about following rules and regulations. They make sure they adhere to the rules themselves and their staff follows suit. This leadership style is most suited for working in a risky environment that deals with worker safety issues including working with heavy machinery, toxic chemicals, quality assurance and large financial dealings.


It may not be the best approach for developing a new product or re-defining a brand where an out-of-the-box approach and creative thinking is required.

Charismatic leadership

Charismatic leaders are the driving force behind their teams. They generate a lot of enthusiasm in the team by inspiring employees and helping them stay motivated. The one risk with this sort of approach is too much motivation without action. Charismatic leaders may succumb to overconfidence rather than analyzing the realistic ability of the team to take a project to completion.


Democratic leadership

Democratic leadership is characterized by the distribution of responsibility and the empowerment of others. Democratic leaders tend to be empathetic listeners who encourage open communication through all levels of the organization.

Companies with democratic leaders tend to foster a positive and motivating corporate culture, empowering employees to perform at their highest levels of capability. These companies emphasize reward over punishment, they value teamwork, and they encourage participative decision-making.


Democratic leadership is most appropriate when managing an experienced and professional team of employees. Industries that lend themselves to a democratic leadership style include those that leverage creativity and creative problem solving. Democratic leadership breaks down, however, when a group faces a set of complex decisions, and when organizational agility is required to adapt to rapidly changing market conditions.