Updated: Jul 16, 2021
What makes someone a great leader?
If you ask an employee, they might say it's someone who feels more like a friend than a superior, or one that never seems to mind if they come into work a bit late.
Ask a member of the leadership team, and you'll hear all about someone who exceeds every goal set before them and produces exceptional results.
The truth is, effective leadership can be found somewhere in the middle. The best leaders are often the ones who support, encourage, and inspire you to become the best team member—and person—you can be, which benefits the company from top to bottom.
So now it's your turn to be that rockstar leader. Ready to learn how?
In this article, we’ll cover:
What Makes a Great Leader?
Leader's Beacon found that anywhere between 38 – 50% of new leaders fail within their first 18 months. That statistic isn’t meant to scare you, but rather, it’s meant to emphasize just how much there is to learn about how to be an effective leader.
To start, it's important to remember that you’re not just leading a company or department—you’re leading people.
Yes, you want to hit (and exceed) those sales goals. But when you connect with your team, inspire them, and help them find genuine passion in their work, you'll reach a whole new level of success as a leader.
As Canadian leadership expert and author Robin Sharma says, “Leadership’s not a title, it’s a behaviour.”
7 Common Leadership Styles in Management
Leadership comes in all shapes and sizes. Before you can become an effective leader, you need to discover what type of leader you are (or want to be). There are several different leadership styles out there, but we’re going to look at seven of the most common types:
1. Autocratic Leadership
Autocratic leadership is also referred to as authoritarian leadership.
If you’re an autocratic leader, you make the majority of business decisions by yourself without the consultation of your team, though you might have a small, trusted group you defer to (if you have time). You’re focused on results and efficiency and are confident in your ability to use your expertise to make the right decisions.
The Upside: This style works well when quick decision-making is needed on a regular basis. When there’s a lot on the line, you can’t be surveying the company for their input—you need to take action. This leadership style is common in heavily-regulated industries with strict compliance standards.
The Downside: Stress. Bearing the weight of every decision puts more pressure on you as a leader, although it takes away stress from the team, since choices are made quickly and without their involvement.
2. Bureaucratic Leadership
It’s all about the rules for bureaucratic leaders. If you live by company policies, established systems, and clearly defined rules, this is the leadership style for you.
Unlike the autocratic leader, these leaders may listen and consider input from their team or employees—but not if it goes against company policy. They make decisions based on what’s worked best for the company in the past and tend to be resistant to change and innovation. Team members have very defined roles and responsibilities here, and leadership is focused on maintaining their hierarchy.
The Upside: This leadership style works best at larger, more traditional workplaces that don’t want to waste time or resources when they already have tried-and-true systems in place.
The Downside: There isn’t a lot of freedom for employees to collaborate or get creative in their roles, which makes it hard for companies to maintain a dynamic edge.
3. Democratic Leadership
Also known as participative leadership, the democratic approach is a combination of autocratic and laissez-faire styles.
If you’re a democratic leader, you like to get input from your team members and consider their opinions before making decisions. For example, Michael Scott calling for a team meeting about anything from a PR disaster to his dating life (though we don't recommend the latter).
You make the final call, but each employee has their say on the matter.
With democratic leadership, employees feel their voices are heard, which makes them feel valued. This approach is fantastic for employee engagement and morale, and can even improve job satisfaction and retention.
The Upside: Since employees are involved in a lot of the decision-making processes, they’re more engaged in the overall mission of the company, are confident in their roles, and know what to do without being micromanaged.
The Downside: It takes time to schedule big group discussions and hear from each employee. This requires a bit more planning from the leadership team, but it can pay off in the long run.
4. Coaching-Style Leadership
Like to work one-on-one with your team members? Coaching-style leadership is all about identifying and nurturing the individual strengths of everyone on the team. These leaders are seen as mentors, and they help their employees improve by giving them new tasks, constructive feedback, and guidance.
Coaching-style leaders build strategies around improving their collaborative workflow while focusing on the growth and success of each individual. Their goal is to create a strong team that embraces the unique skills of each member.
The Upside: This approach often helps companies build or maintain a positive, collaborative environment.
The Downside: Fast-paced environments can end up struggling with a coaching-style leader, as it requires a lot of one-on-one time between leadership and team members.
5. Laissez-faire Leadership
Based on the French term, “Let them do,” the laissez-faire approach to leadership is all about maintaining a relationship of trust between the leaders and their team.
Leaders will delegate responsibilities to their team members with minimal interference or supervision. It’s essentially the opposite of the autocratic leader and tends to work well in start-up environments.
The Upside: For companies with highly-experienced employees who don’t need ample training or supervision, this approach can streamline work and productivity.
The Downside: If they're not given clear expectations of their role, new employees can struggle under this style of leadership.
6. Transformational Leadership
Are you ready to shake things up? Then you’re probably a transformational leader. As such, you’re driven by the desire to improve your workplace and upgrade company conventions. You’re focused on the company’s overall growth, not the nitty-gritty of everyday tasks.
Transformational leadership pushes employees to grow and improve in positive ways. This can help create a healthy, thriving work environment as teams and individuals reach above and beyond their goals.
The Upside: Since transformational leaders stay focused on the big picture, this style of leadership works well for companies with various levels of management who can focus on the day-to-day tasks and responsibilities.
The Downside: These leaders are all about change and innovation, so they probably won't get the freedom they desire in more traditional or highly-regulated workplaces.
7. Transactional Leadership
One of the most common leadership styles in today’s workplace is transactional leadership. As the name suggests, this type of leader rewards good performance and disciplines poor performance.
Companies with transactional leadership teams usually have incentive plans that outline their rewards, such as monetary bonuses. Mentorship programs are also common in this type of environment, with training provided to help educate employees and improve their skills.
The Upside: This style of leadership is great for companies that have specific performance-related benchmarks they need to hit, or those that are focused on increasing their sales and revenue at a fast rate.
The Downside: This type of environment can feel a bit cut-throat, but if employees are given the proper training and a positive culture is maintained, it can benefit both the team and the company’s bottom line.
Choose Your Leadership Style
Self-reflection is key to discovering your ideal leadership style. Your personal and professional skills, your workplace, and your company's goals will all play a part in identifying the style that suits you best. Here are a few questions to get those wheels turning:
What are your strengths?
Where do you need to improve?
What are your core values?
What are your company's core values? What's their mission?
As a leader, how often and how quickly do you need to make decisions?
What makes sense for your workplace—is it highly regulated? Is there room for creativity?
Do you need (or desire) input from employees?
How much oversight do your team members need?
Essential Qualities of an Effective Leader
Ready to become the manager, supervisor, or team leader you always wish you had at work? Here are some of the top qualities every effective leader should have:
They Actively Work Towards Their Vision
The most effective leaders have strategic goals for themselves, their company, and their team, and they share those goals openly. By passionately sharing your vision, as well as your well-defined path to achieving it, you can create a unified movement within the company that inspires teamwork, connection, and productivity.
They Communicate Clearly
No matter which leadership style you adhere to, you need to maintain clear communication between you and your employees. No boss knows everything—requesting more information when needed and clarifying misunderstandings will help you develop a positive environment with your team. Be tactful, respectful, and open to what your team is communicating to you. Make time for your employees to talk with you, whether it’s through scheduled one-on-ones or a more casual open-door policy.
They Recognize and Reward Success
In a recent survey, employees said receiving gratitude makes them more motivated in their work, improves their job performance, makes them feel closer to their peers, and makes work more fun.
Adult learners are especially motivated by acknowledgement and rewards, be it through a monetary bonus or verbal/written recognition. Whether they’ve hit a sales goal or a new personal development goal, recognizing and rewarding your team empowers them to do their best and strive for even better.
They’re a Role Model
Leading by example is one of the most powerful forms of leadership. If your boss constantly talked about the importance of communication, but rarely answered your emails, messages, or calls, you’d get pretty frustrated, right? If you have double standards, you have low standards, and your employees will quickly take notice. Do as you say, and you'll build trust and respect instead.
They Make Confident Decisions
Part of being a leader is making hard choices quickly and decisively. Whether you make these decisions alone or with the input of your team, consider how your choice aligns with your goals for the company, the company's mission, and how it will impact the team members. No matter your decision, it’s critical that you take responsibility and follow through.
They Inspire and Motivate
Inspiring your employees requires more than just a positive attitude. Provide your team with constructive feedback, opportunities for growth, and the resources they need to be exceptional in their roles. Every team member's motivations are different; by getting to know them beyond their corporate role, you can discover their genuine motivations and help them build an employee experience that speaks to what they truly want, need, and value.
They Trust Their Team
New leaders, especially, can struggle with trying to take everything on themselves in an attempt to prove their skills. But an effective—and efficient—leader knows how to delegate tasks wisely, not only to alleviate their own workload but also to ensure the work is being completed by the most skilled team member.
They Try New Things
Don’t be afraid to break the mould. Workplaces change when their needs, goals, and team members do. What worked well for your predecessor, or at your former workplace, may not work in your current position. You may need to adjust your leadership style to find the most effective approach for your team or company.
Transitioning From Peer to Leader
One of the most exciting opportunities for an employee is the promotion from peer to leader. As a new leader, this is your time to make positive and impactful changes in your workplace, and in the individual lives of your team members.
When you make that transition within the same company, you benefit from already knowing the environment and work, but the relationship with your coworkers and the boundaries you set with them have to change. No more gossiping on your coffee break or venting during lunch as you might have before.
If you’re transitioning to a leadership role in a new company, you can cement yourself as an authority figure right off the bat. But at the same time, you have to acclimate to a new work environment, processes, and coworkers.
When you become a leader, you have to manage a new workload alongside many emotions, personalities, and egos. Meet with department heads about your transition to leadership to see how you can help each team specifically, seek a mentor, and talk to HR about completing any leadership training courses they have available.
The Key to Successful Leadership Training
The desire to become a better leader spans generations and roles—but it's not being met by employers. Employees want the opportunity to grow in their careers, but 77% of Millennials across employment levels feel their company’s ability to provide them with leadership training is weak.
The benefits of leadership training programs are clear: They can lead to a 25% increase in participant learning and a 20% increase in overall job performance.
Whether you need training programs for future leaders or ongoing support for current managers and supervisors, our instructional designers and elearning developers will create online courses your colleagues will love.
Want to see how easy it can be? Reach out today to get started!