10 Types of Leadership Styles

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 25 August 2020

You might assume leadership responsibilities in various capacities throughout your career, whether by leading a small team or managing an entire branch of a company. In order to effectively oversee a project or department, you need to decide what kind of leader you want to be. Different scenarios demand different styles of leadership, so it is crucial to be adaptable. In this article, we explain why it is important to identify your leadership style and explore some common styles in use today.

Why is it important to identify your leadership style?

Leadership styles are important on an individual and company level. Being aware of your approach to leadership helps you align your goals and vision with your strengths. You also become more mindful of your weaknesses and gain better insight into your impact on the people you lead. When you are aware of your weaknesses, you can learn to use your strengths more strategically to counteract them.

Once you identify the best leadership approach for your personality and situation, you can also look for improvements that you can make to become more effective at your job. The more leadership styles you discover, the more opportunities you have to successfully work and communicate with your fellow employees and managers.

Common leadership styles

Here are the 10 major types of leadership styles to help you choose the one that works best for you:

  • Visionary

  • Coaching

  • Affiliative

  • Autocratic

  • Pacesetting

  • Participative

  • Transformational

  • Laissez-faire

  • Servant

  • Transactional


The visionary style suits people who are highly driven by their vision and prospects for what their company can become. You need to offer guidance to your employees, shareholders and investors in the direction of your long-term plans for the company.

A visionary leader is enthusiastic and determined to reach their goals, and they seek to inspire employees to follow the plans they have laid out. Such leaders propose new ideas that define the future of a business or an industry and bring about favourable change.

Example**:** Mila is a newly appointed CEO who seeks to propel a company that sells electronics to industry dominance. She streamlines the range of products and minimises the bureaucracy that causes lengthy delays. As a result, there is a shorter period of time between the research and development stage and the manufacturing stage, and the company's sales improve.


A coaching leader is interested in the long-term growth of the individuals on their team. They identify the strengths, weaknesses and opportunities for change among their staff. This information helps the leader guide their employees and set their professional goals.

This style of leadership focuses on collaboration and partnership rather than hierarchy and command, and it works by harnessing the capabilities of each team member to boost overall performance. This approach is especially useful when drafting teams. As a coaching leader, you determine the critical success factors, build trust and set accountability mechanisms.

Example**:** Vincent is a soccer coach who seeks to get the best from every player to make his team more competitive. He uses tactical measures and encouragement to ensure that all team members are playing to their strengths. Every player is aware of their role on the team, and they use their skills for the team's benefit.


Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds with their employees. These leaders want to maintain a harmonious and positive environment to make the staff feel comfortable in the workplace.

If you often think of people before results, this style may suit your personality. You may be concerned with how your employees feel at work and want to meet their emotional needs. The affiliative approach is ideal when conflicts are a regular occurrence or when employees need reassurance after events like budget cuts. As you create these emotional relationships, it is still important to address any performance problems among employees.

Example**:** A retail outlet hires Lee as the new marketing manager. After allocating tasks to his team, he witnesses conflicts between the employees as they compete against each other. These conflicts get in the way of the staff doing their job, so Lee encourages the employees to talk to one another and cooperate as a unit.


The autocratic or authoritarian leadership style involves a singular authority who creates all company policies, comes up with goals and approves all important decisions without much input from their subordinates.

Autocratic leaders work best when quick decisions are necessary. These leaders monitor their workers closely and demand excellent results. The authoritarian leadership approach needs dynamic leaders to be effective. The leader should keep up with trends to keep the company competitive.

Example**:** Damien is a construction manager at a mid-level firm. The nature of his department's work is demanding and stressful, but he wants to boost productivity. He resolves to deal with the complex issues on his own and leave employees to focus on their core jobs.


Pacesetting leaders set high standards for themselves and their employees to get quick results. Such leaders expect self-direction and excellence, and they exemplify these attributes themselves. Pacesetting leaders set goals and a timeline for achieving those goals. This style is most effective when employees are highly trained and energetic.

The pacesetting approach is more useful in the short-term when a leader needs to motivate a highly competent department to complete a specific task.

Example: Sharon wants to inspire her team of engineers to increase performance and productivity by putting in as many hours as they do and being accessible for any queries. She provides her employees with the space to work and produce high-quality results. Sharon also gives the team members credit when it is due and corrects them when they make mistakes.


The participative (democratic) leadership style fosters a collaborative environment in a company. Democratic leaders exhibit charisma and influence. A reigning president, for example, can encourage open communication and give different parties a chance to discuss their concerns.

A participative leader makes informed decisions by seeking out input and ideas from their employees. They also listen to dissenting opinions and foster an environment where employees can disagree. One effective way of collaborating with employees is by building teams headed by capable leaders. Employees are more motivated when their ideas are put into consideration.

Example: Lynn likes to use strategy meetings as a sales manager to motivate her team to reach their goals. The team members come up with unique ideas during the discussions, and they find additional solutions to current problems. Lynn has noticed that the members are more enthusiastic about projects if they took part in the creative process.


A transformational leader changes a firm's structure, culture and procedures. In the age of innovation, businesses often need radical shifts to handle the competition. This approach is especially prevalent in IT as firms continue to adopt digital solutions.

A transformational leader uses engagement and inspiration to challenge existing practices. They motivate the staff to innovate change. By fostering a high degree of independence, these leaders give individuals the room to be creative. Transformational leaders delegate day-to-day tasks to capable managers who go through intensive training.

Example: Stephanie is the head of operations of a nearly bankrupt airline, and she has turned to new technology like machine learning to change its fortunes. She relies on the company's colossal workforce to boost its sales and implement digital solutions.


The laissez-faire leadership style is a more laid-back approach to management. Leaders create capable teams and give them the necessary resources to achieve their goals. Such leaders offer training and educational opportunities to ensure the department heads are competent. They handpick the talent themselves to ensure they get the best people for the job.

Laissez-faire leaders are well versed in the company's position, but they believe that their teams are well equipped to handle different situations and make decisions. These leaders are more focused on learning and innovations and more forgiving to employee mistakes.

Example: Adrian prefers the laissez-faire leadership style as the head of a multinational company. The staff under him enjoy significant freedom and autonomy. This method works for Adrian because his company acquires firms with CEOs who are already capable and experienced.


The servant leadership style embraces persuasion rather than command. These leaders uplift their employees by fostering their development to unlock potential.

A servant leader assumes an active part in the day-to-day activities of the business. This vantage point allows them to know what their employees go through. Servant leaders align the staff's sense of purpose with the organisation's goals.

Example: Raymond runs a chain of hotels and resorts where he has created a culture of service. He makes himself visible and accessible and seeks to serve his employees to create a positive working environment.


Transactional leaders value the role of structure and hierarchy in getting results in a company. They emphasise results and rely on performance reviews to reward and penalise employees. These leaders depend on highly motivated employees to perform well in a structured environment.

Rather than promoting change, transactional leaders seek to maintain the status quo by enforcing the current systems. This leadership style works best in large corporations or military operations.

Example: Melissa is at the helm of a fast-fashion chain that is sales-oriented. She depends on hardworking and dedicated staff to keep turning in profits and is strict in enforcing working standards.