5 Leadership Styles and How To Use Them (With Examples) – CV Nation

5 Leadership Styles and How To Use Them

A helpful guide to the five key leadership styles and how you can use them to become an effective leader, with real-life examples.

All leaders have the same goal: to get results. But the best leaders use a range of different leadership styles to achieve this. These leadership styles have their own advantages and disadvantages, which we will cover in this guide.

So which leadership style is the best?

To understand which leadership style is best for you, it’s important to learn about the fundamentals of the different styles and what makes them effective.

In this guide we explain the five key leadership styles. These include leadership styles that promote innovation, diversity and change. We’ll also provide examples of the leaders who utilise these styles.


The 5 Key Leadership Styles

1. Authoritative Leadership Style

Authoritative leadership – often referred to as autocratic leadership – involves the undemocratic rule of the boss alone. Leaders who use this style control almost everything, from establishing policies and determining goals to delegating tasks and building strategies.

Many people consider authoritative leaders to rule with somewhat of an iron fist, with team members merely carrying out orders.

While the authoritative leadership style offers the advantage of improving productivity when the leader is present, it can axe creativity and reduce employee morale.

Example of the Authoritative Leadership Style

Sir Alex Ferguson, former manager of Manchester United Football Club, is a prime example of an authoritative leader.

One of the key benefits of this leadership style for Sir Alex Ferguson was the fact that it enabled him to maintain control for many years, despite dealing with powerful team members.

2. Transformational Leadership Style

Transformational leadership focuses on change and innovation. Leaders who use the transformational leadership style promote and shape change across organisations and industries, providing employees with the vision and strategy to achieve their transformation goals.

When leaders use the transformational style, employees tend to feel engaged and employee turnover is usually much lower. However, the transformational leadership style requires a high level of feedback and communication with employees to ensure visions are realised.

Example of the Transformational Leadership Style

Elon Musk is a great example of an effective transformational leader. He constantly pursues innovation and better ways of working.

As a transformational leader, Elon Musk has been able to make revolutionary breakthroughs and lead his team to solve extremely complex problems.

3. Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leadership is based on transactions between leaders and employees. These transactions are, generally speaking, reward and punishment. This is used to motivate employees to achieve objectives and improve performance standards.

Control, structure and delegation play key roles in transactional leadership. While this leadership style offers mutual benefits for both leaders and employees, it is rigid and followers have little freedom.

Example of the Transactional Leadership Style

Bill Gates is a good example of a transactional leader. During his time at Microsoft, he established rigid structure, set goals and provided team members with the capabilities to perform to high standards. He often met with team members to ensure projects were making progress, focusing on meeting short-term objectives.

4. Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

The Laissez-faire style is a very hands-off approach to leadership. With this leadership style, leaders allow subordinates to make their own decisions and take control.

This leadership style is usually implemented when employees are very skilled and experienced. The laissez-faire leadership style promotes innovation among employees, as they have the freedom to be creative. However, it is known to minimise productivity.

Example of the Laissez-Faire Leadership Style

Herbert Hoover used the laissez-faire leadership style. He provided his team members and officials with the freedom to make their own decisions. His subordinates were extremely skilled and experienced, which provided the perfect environment for the laissez-faire style.

5. Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic leadership style involves employees in the decision-making process. Unlike the laissez-faire style, leaders also contribute heavily to the decision-making process when using the democratic leadership style. In fact, leaders will usually have the final say in all decisions.

Front-line employees will often be able to identify problems and requirements that management are unaware of. As such, contribution to decision-making from employees can have a positive impact on business performance.

The democratic leadership style increases employee engagement, satisfaction and morale. However, it can slow down the decision-making process, making it less effective when working to tight deadlines.

Example of the Democratic Leadership Style

Google makes use of the democratic leadership style. The company regularly involves employees in decision-making to support innovation.


How to Identify Your Own Leadership Style

So, you’ve learned about the key leadership styles. But which leadership style should you use? How do you know which style will be most effective for you?

To determine which leadership style is most effective for you, think about what is natural to you. Do you prefer rigid structures and chains of command? Do you believe employees having freedom to make their own decisions is key to innovation? Do you feel bureaucracy holds projects back?

As a leader, you should also be aware of the most effective leadership style to use in line with the situation, environment and the people that you’re leading.

Different environments will call for different leadership styles. For example, if you’re leading a team of highly-skilled engineers, you may be wise to use more of a laissez-fair approach. An authoritative approach may not be necessary or beneficial in such a situation.

Changing Your Leadership Style

Can you change your leadership style?

Yes, it’s absolutely acceptable to change your leadership style. In fact, being able to adapt and change is one of the key traits of great leaders.

Bill Gates is an example of leader who altered his leadership style, changing from a transactional leader to a transformational leader.


Hopefully you’ve found this guide to leadership styles helpful. Check out our guide on the most important skills for leaders.


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