When less than half of all team members consider their organization’s leadership practices to be highly effective, leaders at every level of every organization must examine their current leadership behaviors and create a flexible approach to leadership that will have the right impact on today’s teams and team members.

The way you lead plays a pivotal role in how your team and company perform. Rather than simply categorizing any leadership style as good or bad, there are various approaches to consider. The key is to learn how and when to apply various leadership styles.

We present eight key leadership styles below. Each style is unique and meant for various circumstances and teams. Use these to elevate your leadership skills, drive your team and company where they need to be, and achieve results.

leadership qualities infographic

1. Democratic Leadership

In a democratic leadership style, a leader involves their team members in decision-making. This type of leader values collective input, ideas, and collaboration.


A democratic leadership style drives innovation and creativity. Moreover, it values the input of others, which can:

  • Build trust among team members
  • Foster a culture of inclusivity
  • Instill confidence within team members


Achieving consensus among all team members can be challenging depending on the personalities involved. Democratic leaders may have to balance several different opinions and viewpoints to reach decisions. Be prepared to exercise some level of conflict management with a democratic approach. This approach also proves to be difficult when time is of the essence and tight timelines must be strictly adhered to. There may not be time to socialize and gather the thoughts of everyone involved.

2. Autocratic Leadership

Rather than gathering collective input, an autocratic leader makes all the calls and decisions. The autocratic approach is to control what needs to be done and how it should be carried out.


Because decisions rest upon one person, decisions can be made quickly. This can be beneficial, especially amid busy times when tight deadlines must be met and when decisions do not require input or optional viewpoints from others.


Team members may feel included less, ignored, and restricted when working with an autocratic leadership style. This approach is one of the reasons you see the phenomenon of “quiet quitting” where resentment and low employee morale are the results of this style. Leaders should be cautious and practice this style only when necessary.

3. Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leaders go by the books. Unlike autocratic leaders, bureaucratic leaders will accept team members’ input. But if the idea conflicts with business policy, or involves big change, the leader will turn it down.


Bureaucratic leadership can promote better alignment within an organization. It establishes predictability, as bureaucratic leaders tend to seek for and follow established best practices. This style enables team members to understand company standards more clearly and what they need to do to achieve project or task goals.


Companies that lean on a bureaucratic leadership style tend to be more traditional, which stifles growth, change and even continuous improvement. As ideas surface, the bureaucratic leader is less apt to accept or listen to anything outside of the box. This style is less likely to promote creativity or innovation. As a result, team members may feel somewhat restricted or stuck in the box without the freedom or permission to explore possibilities.

4. Laissez-Faire Leadership

Translating to “let them do,” laissez-faire gives team members full authority. Team members get the freedom to approach their work as they see fit. For example, laissez-faire leaders may give their team full control over their work and rules by which they accomplish job tasks and assignments.


Full trust in team members gives them the autonomy, will, and confidence to carry out their work in a way that makes sense to them. As a result, this leadership style can empower your team, allows team members to solve problems on their own, and develops a culture of independence.


Team members may not be as organized or focused on their work, which can create confusion and disorder. Moreover, research shows laissez-faire leadership may lead to increased competition and incivility between team members.

leader presenting project

5. Transformational Leadership

While transformational leaders provide their staff with a great deal of autonomy (similar to laissez-faire leaders), this style focuses on finding bigger and better ways to do things. These leaders inspire creativity and innovation. They encourage team members to identify areas for improvement and find more effective ways to complete projects.


Transformational leaders seek for ideas, take time to motivate and inspire, and are generally some of the best practitioners of communication. This leadership style establishes higher levels of trust with workforce members and drives them toward one vision or goal.


In workplaces with already set standards (e.g., bureaucratic leadership style), working to transform the way work is done may encounter pushback.

6. Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership uses classic reward systems to motivate the behavior and actions of the workforce. Transactional leaders leverage incentives (e.g., quarterly bonuses) to reward their team members for their work. They believe that the best way to motivate teams and achieve relevant goals is to provide incentives, bonuses, and perks outside of the normal compensation structure. These types of plans usually come with specific metrics and milestones to help individuals stay on track.


Transactional leadership can drive motivation among workforce members. In addition, it creates a fair system where all team members are entitled to the same metrics and milestones to earn their incentives.


While established incentives help achieve results, transactional leadership may lack the personalization needed to build relationships. Rewards can only go so far—manager and employee relationships are also critical aspects in retaining staff members.

7. Strategic Leadership

Strategic leaders focus on the company’s overall vision and business objectives. The strategic leader is skilled in translating strategy into the jobs to be done to execute and achieve success. They see the big picture, define scenarios and possibilities at a high level, and cascade goals and actions throughout the organization with effective communication and planning.


Effective strategic leaders communicate the overarching business goals to their workforce and outline ways for them to help get the company closer to those business objectives and outcomes. This style creates stronger alignment and focus throughout an organization.


Strategic leaders can lose sight of current performance and issues because their attention is too focused on the future. The strategic leader can at times marginalize the day-in, day-out work, causing some in the organization to feel their roles are less important they are not a significant contributor to big picture results and expectations.

8. Coaching Leadership

Each team member carries unique strengths and weaknesses. A coaching leadership style identifies these areas, provides guidance, support, direction, and encouragement to help every team member make adjustments, identify opportunities for improvement and leverage team members’ talents and abilities to maximize performance.

This style is similar to the strategic and democratic leadership styles but focuses more on the development and growth of each team member.


A coaching leadership style offers a personalized approach to leadership that helps workforce members:

  • Develop trusting and authentic relationships with one another
  • Make impactful contributions to the team and organization
  • Focus on individual growth, continuous improvement, and success
  • Promote inclusivity, as it acknowledges each person’s talents and strengths


The coaching leadership style may be time-consuming and require a lot of patience as you work through opportunities for improvement and growth with team members. A lack of chemistry between coach and team members can also hinder progress.

Develop Your Leadership Flexibility Potential with CMOE

Developing these styles and skills can be acquired through performance focused leadership workshops. At CMOE, we have a long history and track record of partnering with organizations large and small to elevate their leadership potential.

Our Transition to Leadership and Customized Leadership Development programs are optimal opportunities to help your business leaders grow and expand their skills. Reach out to the CMOE team to explore our development solutions for your leaders.

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About the Author
CMOE’s Design Team is comprised of individuals with diverse and complementary strengths, talents, education, and experience who have come together to bring a unique service to CMOE’s clients. Our team has a rich depth of knowledge, holding advanced degrees in areas such as business management, psychology, communication, human resource management, organizational development, and sociology.

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