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The 3 Biggest Leadership Styles and How to Identify Them

Wednesday 28 November 2018

7 minute read

By Rachael Farley

Whether you’re a CEO or a middle manager, your leadership style determines how you run your team of employees, and can differ from person to person.

It’s easy to get confused between what a leader and a boss actually is. As Theodore Roosevelt once said in a famous quote:

“People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives.”

Kurt Lewin was an early 20th century psychologist who identified three specific types of leadership; authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire.

But how do these leadership styles differ?



With an autocratic approach, leaders take complete control and tend to make decisions for the team, rather than asking for their input. Work is fairly structured and there is little room for creativity or innovative thinking.

This type of leader can make quick decisions for their team as they are solely in charge. Also, there is a clear line of demand if an employee wants to raise a query or issue.

However, if a leader discourages input from their employees, this may have a negative impact on team morale and create resentment. People have different levels of expertise and the leader could easily ignore the solution from a team member due to their reluctance to ask others for ideas.



Members of the team take a more collaborative approach with democratic leadership. Unlike autocratic leadership, creativity is encouraged and even rewarded with this type of leader.

As more ideas are flowing around the team, group members are more committed, meaning productivity is higher.

On the other hand, some team members may not have the industry expertise to contribute to the decision making. Also, select employees may feel like their input is overridden by other members of the team or simply ignored, which could lower morale.



Laissez-faire is a French term that translates to ‘leave alone’, as that is essentially what the leader does. They take a hands-off approach, giving the group members complete freedom to make decisions.

This type of leadership would benefit a team who are highly skilled and value their own independence, rather than having someone micro-manage every task.

However, a big disadvantage of this type of leadership is that the leader isn’t technically leading. It could be perceived that they are avoiding their responsibility and may not take accountability for their team, blaming individuals if a task goes wrong.

What's next?

Ultimately, there is not a ‘one-size fits all’ leadership style as different methods would work better for various industries, businesses and projects. By taking into account the pros and cons of each style, you can hone your own leadership skills to drive your team to success.

Why not take a quiz to find out what your leadership style is?

Find more like this via Office Life.

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