Learn about the 6 main types of leadership and discover which one is best-suited for your profile 

Until recently, determining leadership types was a less complex task. A person’s innate characteristics was considered to dictate their leadership style. 

As studies on human behavior in the business world advanced, it was discovered that a leader’s profile may be modified through training and skills development, thereby opening a range of possibilities for each individual to become a better professional. 

Idalberto Chiavenato, in his book People Management, describes three main styles of leadership: autocratic, liberal and democratic. Other authors, such as Paul Hersey and Weber, for example, have dedicated their studies to uncovering other complementary leadership styles. 

In this article, we have compiled the 6 main types of leadership and will present the pros and cons of each of them. 

At the end of the article, we will provide you with a special tip on how to improve your leadership skills. Check it out! 

1 – Autocratic Leadership 

Autocratic leadership is a perfectly expression of the type of leader with which we are most familiar. In this model, decisions center upon the leader — who can be thought of as “the boss” — who in turn delegates tasks among the members of their team in a descending manner. 

Due to the fact that it is a more authoritarian leadership model in which there is little room for dialogue, autocratic leadership has become less prominent in corporate environments as professionals develop and enter the labor market better prepared to express their ideas and contribute to the decision-making process. 

2 – Democratic Leadership 

Taking into account the fact that poor leadership is the main cause of job dissatisfaction for more than 40% of professionals, the democratic leader has been gaining space in companies as a means of including team in decisions and reaping the benefits of a horizontal model. 

Under this type of leadership, dialogue becomes a two-way street, opening space for leaders and subordinates to obtain solutions together, combining their experiences and complementary visions together to achieve the desired results. 

When compared to autocratic leadership, democratic leadership provides benefits to everyone involved: on one hand, the company is able to rely on a more coherent decision-making process that is  focused on the common good, while employees tend to feel more valued and are more productive and proactive during their daily activities due to the fact that they are able to understand the importance of their role in achieving results. 

3 – Liberal Leadership 

Liberal Leadership is common in startups and in companies for which the size of the board is reduced and leaders are responsible for more than one area, for example. Under a liberal leadership model, each team member is provided with a higher level of autonomy and more freedom to act. 

This is due to the fact that the liberal leader tends to act only when requested, delegating the process of organization, planning and execution to members of their team. This behavior is known as the hands off, or non-interventionist, approach. 

Under this type of leadership, the leader’s main challenge is to form a team made up of highly qualified professionals that are capable of taking responsibility for results, thereby transforming the leader’s role into something more akin to a counselor. 

4 – Coaching Leadership  

Coaching leadership takes it names from the fact that, under this leadership model, the manager appropriates coaching tools in order to develop their team. 

The leader is therefore responsible for supporting their employees throughout their interpersonal development process, which includes their thoughts, emotions and behaviors. Normally, the relationship between the leader and their team is based on trust and thoughtful interactions. 

A leader coach, when faced with a challenging situation, avoids making decisions by themselves — as would be expected from an autocratic leader, while also not delegating responsibility for decision-making partially, or even completely, to their team, as is seen in democratic or liberal leadership approaches. 

In these cases, coaching leadership centers on understanding the particular aspects that need to be developed in each individual that is part of the team in order for them to be prepared to manage highly challenging projects, training them for success in situations involving constant pressure and stress. 

5 – Charismatic Leadership 

From among the leadership models presented so far, the charismatic leader has certainly been one of the most prominent in recent times, particularly after so many delicate moments that shook the emotional health of the population, such as those that occurred during the pandemic. 

This is because charismatic leadership is light-hearted and positive, which leads to professionals being inspired by their leader. Through charismatic leadership, management is able to by example, becoming a model that is to be followed by the employees. 

This type of leadership has grown in popularity due to its capacity for achieving desired results without having to place an exhaustive amount of pressure employees, thereby allowing it to become a major source of inspiration for the ideal leadership profile of the future

6 – Situational Leadership 

The situational leader is one that is able adapt their behavior in relation to their team according to the specificities of each individual situation, taking into account issues such as: 

  • Each employee’s maturity level; 
  • The urgency/importance of the situation; 
  • The impact of the respective issue on the business’s final results; 
  • The external market scenario. 

Due to its inherently flexible nature, situational leadership has been proven to be a very promising approach in many companies since it allows leaders to adapt their behavior and direct the team in the manner that best suits each specific situation. 

Bonus tip: be your best version of a leader 

As we have seen throughout this article, there are several different types of leadership that can be applied according to each leader’s specific profile and level of development. 

The most important thing to remember is that you can identify with more than one type of leadership, mixing different elements of leadership styles into your behavior depending on the specific stage of your career. 

Regardless of which type of leadership you most identify with, one thing is certain: constantly evolving is essential to being promoted at work and delivering the best to your team and to your company as a whole. 

With this is mind, why not learn more about leadership?  

For those who would like to have an online experience, we have just launched the Masterclass Strategic Organization Leadership, which reflects upon leadership and offers tips to become an even better leader. The class is taught by Prof. Issam Ghazzawi from the University of La Verne, California. Enroll now now and participate in the course free of charge. 

If you would like to have an international experience and delve further into the subject of leadership, we are currently offering three courses on leadership in universities in the United States and Europe. Learn more about each of the programs and participate in our selection process for scholarships.