One of the best ways to figure out what makes a team so successful is to look at the top. And when you do, it’s not unusual to see that the success of an organization can be driven by a very different leadership style than your own.

If you take the time to study each of the various leadership styles, you’ll notice more differences than similarities. Each style of leadership has strengths and weaknesses when it comes to managing a team — it heavily depends on the attitude, beliefs, preferences, and values of the person involved.



In recent history, many leaders of the business world have brought these differences in leadership styles to light. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous leadership styles, and how they can influence your team’s success.

1. Transformational Leaders



“Good leadership consists of showing average people how to do the work of superior people.” – John D. Rockefeller

Pros: Transformational leaders lead with motivation. They strive to create an enthusiastic work environment and drive their teams with innovations and changes. Transformational leaders have the ability to inspire and motivate, and typically, their followers will work for the leader for fewer benefits because they believe in the leader’s vision. Simply put, transformational leaders aim to inspire.

Cons: Transformational leaders have the ability to motivate teams to do their best in whatever it is they do. However, some transformational leaders lack the ability to enforce their teams to achieve the desired results. Transformational leaders tend to focus on the big picture, and not the details, which means an additional manager may be needed to help transformational leaders direct the team and keep their vision moving in the right direction. And while great things can be achieved with enthusiastic leaders, a combination of tirelessly applied energy and unreasonable deadlines or long hours can quickly lead to employee burnout.

Famous transformational leaders include: Sam Walton (Wal-Mart), Herbert D. Kelleher (Southwest Airlines), Jack Welch (General Electric), John D. Rockefeller (Standard Oil)

2. Charismatic Leaders



“The thing that motivates me is a very common form of motivation. And that is, with other folks counting on me, it’s so easy to be motivated.” -Jeff Bezos

Pros: Charismatic leaders are the driving force that inspires teams to deliver above and beyond what is expected. Often, charismatic leaders use charm to lead and inspire and usually, they are universally respected. A charismatic leader is one that knows how to read people, how to “work a room”, and pays extremely close attention to details.

Cons: A typical pitfall of having a charismatic leader on your team is that it breeds a sense of dependence upon the leader and can lead to individuals losing the ability to think and act on their own. With charismatic leaders, it’s important to find a good balance between the independence of each person on your team, and the team’s reliance on the leader.

Famous charismatic leaders include: Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo), Jack Dorsey (Twitter)

3. Participative Leaders



“I ask everyone’s opinion when they don’t speak up. And then when they have an opinion, I’ll ask others to talk about it.” – Ginni Rometty

Pros: Participative leaders are known for openly asking for input and advice from all team members. This type of leader treats each team member’s opinion as important and individuals are accepted as part of decision-making processes. Participative leaders make everyone feel involved, appreciated, and as a result, highly-motivated.

Cons: Because of the inclusion of the team (and the constant input and feedback) decision-making processes can be much slower with participative leaders. In a new company, security issues also arise with this type of leadership. If too many people know too much internal information, it may harm the organization in the later stages or put the organization at risk of information being leaked out.

Famous participative leaders include: Muhtar Kent (CEO Coca Cola), James Parker (ex-CEO Southwest Airlines), Jim Lentz (CEO Toyota), Ginni Rometty (CEO IBM)

4. Laissez-Faire Leaders



“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.” – Warren Buffett

Pros: Laissez-Faire leaders can be very effective in situations where team members are highly-skilled, highly-motivated, and capable of working independently. Since team members have the ability to accomplish tasks with little guidance and are experts in their specific areas, Laissez-Faire leadership allows the team to demonstrate their deep knowledge as a whole and solve problems faster. The leader will provide the necessary tools and resources, but decision-making is completely up to the team.

Cons: Laissez-Faire leadership is not ideal in situations where team members lack the necessary knowledge or experience needed to make decisions or complete tasks. Some individuals are simply not good at setting their own deadlines, managing tasks, or solving problems on their own and require guidance. Therefore, Laissez-Faire leadership can cause projects to go off-track or deadlines to be missed.

Famous Laissez-Faire leaders include: Warren Buffett (Business Magnate), Paul Allen (Co-Founder Microsoft)

5. Transactional Leaders



“Often, organizations need bold, grand gestures to galvanize people towards a new mission or refocus their attention.” – Howard Schultz

Pros: Transactional leaders emphasize managing and supervising their employees and group performance. They tend to monitor their employee’s work very carefully and assess any deviations from expected standards. Transactional leaders incorporate reward and punishment in the everyday work-life. They often believe that team members will perform better with a chain of command, and they heavily incorporate monitoring systems in their style of leadership.

Cons: Transactional leaders tend to disregard emotions and social values and instead, assume that everyone is rational. The problem with this type of leadership is that it can lead to an exploitation of power. It has also been proven to be an ineffective form of leadership in stressful situations.

Famous transactional leaders include:  Howard Schultz (Starbucks), Bill Gates (Microsoft)

6. Autocratic Leaders



“I’m a maniacal perfectionist. I have proven that being a perfectionist can be profitable and admirable when creating content across the board: in television, books, newspapers, radio, videos.“ – Martha Stewart

Pros: Autocratic leadership can be beneficial in cases when decision-making needs to be quick, without the need to consult others on a team. Autocratic leaders tend to thrive in organizations where strong leadership is key to getting things done quickly and efficiently. Typically, they are the most knowledgeable person on the team. This style of leadership allows teams to focus on their tasks without worrying about making difficult decisions. Team members can also become highly-skilled at performing specific tasks, which can be beneficial for the entire group.

Cons: Autocratic leaders exercise absolute power and have difficulty taking advice from others or listening to their employees. Many entrepreneurs believe an autocratic leadership style gives them complete control over their ideas and business. However, this style can quickly lead to employee resentment and lower team morale.

Famous autocratic leaders include: Martha Stewart (Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia), Albert J. Dunlap (Sunbeam Corporation)

There are many ways to lead a team and the most effective styles of leadership often depend on the situation and the challenges faced. But the most effective leaders are those who are able to apply the right skills at the right moment. Which type of leader are you? Which leadership style would you add to the list?

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