While it may not be as popularly listed as a must-have skill to have for jobseekers, like say, communication and interpersonal skills, leadership skill is actually just as crucial and sought-after in new hires.

In fact, in a survey conducted by Indeed.com, 55% of employers cited asking about leadership skills in an interview as the most accurate evaluation of a candidate’s ability to succeed in a role. Apparently, as you develop leadership skills, you are more likely to use different processes and methods to achieve your employer’s objectives and meet the needs of the employees who report to you. 

You start developing your leadership skill by recognising the key leadership styles in the workplace. In order to be an effective manager, you might have to use several different leadership styles at any given time. By taking the time to familiarise yourself with each of these types of leadership, you might recognise certain areas to improve upon or expand your own leadership style. 

At the same time, you will also get to identify other ways to lead that might better serve your current goals and understand how to work with managers who follow a different style than your own.

To begin, let’s take a look at the 10 most common leadership styles in the workplace:

1. The Coach

A coaching leader is someone who can quickly recognise their team members’ strengths, weaknesses and motivations to help each individual improve.

The Coach often assists team members in setting smart goals and then provides regular feedback with challenging projects to promote growth. They’re skilled in setting clear expectations and creating a positive, motivating environment.

This style is one of the most advantageous for employers as well as the employees they manage. Unfortunately, it’s often also one of the most underutilised styles — mainly because it can often be more time-consuming and personal than other types of leadership.

You are a Coach if you:

  • Are supportive
  • Prefer to offer guidance instead of giving commands
  • Value learning as a way of growing
  • Ask guided questions to your team members
  • Balance relaying knowledge and helping others find it themselves
  • Are self-aware

The coaching leadership is positive in nature. It promotes the development of new skills, free-thinking, empowerment, revisits company objectives and fosters a confident company culture. Leaders who coach are often seen as valuable mentors

2. The Visionary

Visionary leaders have a powerful ability to drive progress and usher in periods of change by inspiring employees and earning trust for new ideas. 

The Visionary is also able to establish a strong organisational bond. They strive to foster confidence among direct reports and colleagues alike. This type of leadership is especially helpful for small, fast-growing companies and larger organisations that are experiencing transformations or corporate restructuring.

You a Visionary if you are:

  • Persistent and bold
  • Strategic
  • Risk-taking
  • Inspirational
  • Optimistic
  • Innovative
  • Magnetic

Inspiring visionary leadership can help companies grow, unite teams and the overall company and improve outdated technologies or practices. These leaders are often also good at boosting team members’ morale — think former US President, Barack Obama.

3. The Servant-Leader

Servant-leaders live by a people-first mindset and believe that when team members feel personally and professionally fulfilled, they’re more effective and more likely to produce great work regularly. Because of their emphasis on employee satisfaction and collaboration, Servant-leaders tend to also achieve higher levels of respect.

The Servant-leader is an excellent leadership style for organisations of any industry and size but is especially prevalent within nonprofits. These types of leaders are exceptionally skilled in building employee morale and helping people re-engage with their work.

You are a Servant-leader if you:

  • Motivate your team
  • Have excellent communication skills
  • Personally care about your team
  • Encourage collaboration and engagement
  • Commit to growing your team professionally

Servant-leaders have the capacity to boost employee loyalty and productivity, improve employee development and decision-making, cultivate trust and create future leaders. Servant-leaders are also usually invested in the employees’ personal growth beyond the working environment.

4. The Autocratic Leader

Also known as the authoritarian style of leadership, the Autocratic leader is someone who is focused almost entirely on results and efficiency. 

Autocratic leaders often make decisions alone or with a small, trusted group and expect employees to do exactly what they’re asked. It can be helpful to think of these types of leaders as military commanders.

This leadership style can be useful in organizations with strict guidelines or compliance-heavy industries. It can also be beneficial when used with employees who need a great deal of supervision — such as those with little to no experience. However, this leadership style can stifle creativity and make employees feel confined.

You are an Autocratic leader if you:

  • Are self-confident
  • Are self-motivated
  • Communicate clearly and consistently
  • Follow the rules
  • Are dependable
  • Value highly structured environments
  • Believe in supervised work environments

Autocratic leaders can promote productivity through delegation, provide clear and direct communication, reduce employee stress by making decisions quickly on their own.

5. The Hands-off Leader

This Hands-off leader is the polar opposite of the Autocratic leader, focusing mostly on delegating many tasks to team members and providing little to no supervision. 

Because the Hands-off leader does not spend their time intensely managing employees, they often have more time to dedicate to other projects. Managers may adopt this leadership style when all team members are highly experienced, well-trained and require little supervision. 

Nonetheless, this leadership style can also cause a dip in productivity if employees are confused about their leader’s expectations, or if some team members need consistent motivation and boundaries to work well.

You are a Hands-off leader if you:

  • Delegate effectively
  • Believe in freedom of choice
  • Provide sufficient resources and tools
  • Will take control if needed
  • Offer constructive criticism
  • Foster leadership qualities in your team
    Promote an autonomous work environment

The non-stifling Hands-off leadership style encourages accountability, creativity and a relaxed work environment. The flexibility and trust given can also increase employee retention.

6. The Democratic Leader 

The Democratic leadership style — also known as the participative style — is a balanced combination of the Autocratic and Hands-off types of leaders. 

The Democratic leader is someone who asks for input and considers feedback from their team before making a decision. Because team members feel their voice is heard and their contributions matter, a democratic leadership style is often credited with fostering higher levels of employee engagement and workplace satisfaction.

As this type of leadership drives discussion and participation, it’s an excellent style for organisations focused on creativity and innovation — such as the technology industry.

You are a Democratic leader if you:

  • Value group discussions
  • Provide all information to the team when making decisions
  • Promote a work environment where everyone shares their ideas
  • Are rational
  • Are flexible
  • Are good at mediation

Under the Democratic leader, employees can feel empowered, valued and unified. It has the power to boost retention and morale. It also requires less managerial supervision, as employees are typically part of decision-making processes and know that their thoughts are valued.

7. The Pacesetter

The pacesetting leadership style is one of the most effective for driving fast results. Pacesetters are primarily focused on performance and often set high standards, holding their team members accountable for hitting their goals.

While the pacesetting leadership style is motivational and helpful in fast-paced environments where team members need to be energized, it’s not always the best option for team members who need active mentorship and feedback.

You are a Pacesetter if you:

  • Set high standards 
  • Focus on goals
  • Are slow to praise
  • Will jump in to hit goals if needed
  • Are highly competent
  • Value performance over soft skills

The pacesetting leadership style pushes employees to hit goals and accomplish business objectives. It promotes high-energy and dynamic work environments. 

8. The Transformational Leader

The transformational leadership style is similar to the coaching style as it focuses on clear communication, goal-setting and employee motivation. 

However, instead of placing the majority of the energy into each employee’s individual goals, the Transformational leader is driven by a commitment to the organisational objectives. Because these types of leaders spend much of their time on the big picture, this style of leading is best for teams that can handle many delegated tasks without constant supervision.

You are a Transformational leader if you:

  • Have mutual respect within your team
  • Provide constant encouragement
  • Inspire others to achieve their goals
  • Think of the big picture
  • Place value on intellectually challenging your team
  • Are creative
  • Have a good understanding of organisational needs

Transformational leadership values personal connection with their team, which can boost company morale and retention. It also values the ethics of the company and team, as opposed to being overly focused on achieving goals.

9. The Transactional Leader 

A Transactional leader is someone who is laser-focused on performance, similar to the Pacesetter. 

Under this leadership style, the manager establishes predetermined incentives — usually in the form of monetary reward for success and/or disciplinary action for failure. Unlike the pacesetter leadership style, though, the Transactional leaders are also focused on mentorship, instruction and training to achieve goals and enjoy the rewards.

While this type of leader is great for organisations or teams tasked with hitting specific goals, such as sales and revenue, it’s not the best leadership style for driving creativity.

You are a Transactional leader if you:

  • Value corporate structure
  • Micromanage
  • Don’t question authority
  • Are practical and pragmatic
  • Value goal-hitting
  • Are reactionary

Transactional leaders facilitate the achievement of goals, through short-term goals and a clearly-defined structure.

10. The Bureaucrat

Bureaucratic leaders are similar to autocratic leaders in a way that they expect their team members to follow the rules and procedures precisely as written.

The bureaucratic leadership style focuses on fixed duties within a hierarchy where each employee has a set list of responsibilities, and there is little need for collaboration and creativity. This leadership style is most effective in highly regulated industries or departments, such as finance, healthcare or government corporations.

You are a Bureaucrat if you:

  • Are detail-oriented and task-focused
  • Value rules and structure
  • Have a great work ethic
  • Are strong-willed
  • Have a commitment to your organization
  • Are self-disciplined

The Bureaucrat can be efficient in organisations that need to follow strict rules and regulations, where each person in the team/company has a clearly defined role which leads to efficiency. These leaders often separate work from relationships to avoid clouding the team’s ability to hit goals.

Choosing and Developing Your Leadership Style

You can start honing your leadership skill by choosing a leadership style that feels authentic and applicable to you. Some questions you may need to ask yourself when determining your suitable style are:

  • What do I value more — goals or relationships?
  • Do I believe in structure or freedom of choice?
  • Would I rather make a decision on my own, or collectively?
  • Do I focus on short or long-term goals?
  • Does motivation come from empowerment or direction?
  • What does a healthy team dynamic look like to me?

These are just a few examples of questions to ask yourself while reading through leadership styles to help you decide which style you relate most with. To develop your leadership style consider these strategies:

  • Experiment – Try out varied approaches in different circumstances and pay attention to the outcome. Be flexible in changing out your approach.
  • Seek a mentor – Speaking to a leader with more experience than yourself can offer great insight into how they developed their style and what worked for them.
  • Ask for feedback – Although sometimes difficult to hear, constructive feedback helps you grow into a successful leader. Seek feedback from individuals you trust will give you an honest answer.
  • Be authentic – If you are trying to perfect a leadership style that is in opposition to your personality or morals, it will come across as inauthentic. Try to choose a leadership style that’s in alignment with your strengths and work to further improve it.

By understanding each of the common workplace leadership types, as well as the outcomes they’re designed to achieve, you can select the best leadership style for your current working situation and personality type.

Talk to us for advice on which leadership styles will suit your company and how to develop your people into these leaders.