10 Main Leadership Styles: 41 Traits and 28 Strengths

Innovation, influencer, servant, and results-driven can all be attributed to good leaders. However, the personalities of leaders determine how they choose to lead others, provide directions, and implement decisions – their leadership style. It is rarely though that an individual has traits of only one leadership style: depending on personality and experience, a successful leader adopts a mix of principles from a few different leadership styles.

Below are listed various leadership styles and the setting in which they would be most successful.

Part 1

Transformational Leadership

  • Transformational leaders seek to inspire individuals to achieve their very best.
  • They encourage employees to do high-quality work and make them feel that the talents they are bringing to the table matter.
  • These individuals understand the human-element of employees and want to be empathetic to their needs while also propelling them forward.
  • They are primarily coaches who lead by example.

Where They Thrive:

  • Transformational leaders are great for companies who have an outdated approach and who need someone to come in to redefine the internal structure.
  • They are also great for businesses who have a new direction or strategy that they need a leader to “sell” to the employees.
  • These leaders do well in small organizations with big dreams and aspirations, and established and larger groups who want to raise morale and motivate employees again.

Check this article about transformational leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 2

Charismatic Leadership

  • If two words could be used to describe these individuals, it is “excellent communicators.”
  • Charismatic leaders can inspire loyalty and respect with their words.
  • They know how to make people feel that they are speaking directly to them even if they are giving a speech to a group.
  • Their confidence and oratory skills provide them with a level of influence over employees.
  • Charismatic leaders share common traits with transformational ones such as idealized influence and inspirational motivation.

The Organizations That Benefit:

  • Charismatic leaders are great for organizations whose employees might need to be talked through a difficult time.
  • Cause-driven organizations like nonprofits, political campaigns, and newly formed organizations would benefit from a charismatic leader.
  • The relational aspect they bring to business will help people feel at ease and inspired to move through a difficult transition or mission.

Check this article about charismatic leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 3

Visionary Leadership

  • Visionary leaders are driven, passionate, and disciplined to reach long-term goals.
  • Their purpose is to push the organization and its employees to fulfill a vision.
  • They live in the future and motivate their teams to do the same. Everything they do involves some nod to the ultimate destination.
  • They are adept at stimulating creativity and innovation and forming teams that are meant to take the company the distance.

The Companies Who Benefit:

  • These leaders are perfect for organizations who need someone to rally the team to meet new goals or objectives.
  • Also, much like transformational leaders, visionaries need to be adept at “selling” this new vision.
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Check this article about visionary leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 4

Transactional Leadership

  • While transformational, charismatic, and visionary leaders motivate employees by developing some relational bond, transactional leaders are not driven to do this. Their primary goal is to increase employee productivity and performance.
  • Transactional leaders use policies and procedures to keep employees on task and in line.
  • Instead of facilitating relationships, transactional leaders motivate employees to do their best with money and benefits.
  • These individuals only intervene when goals are not being met, and are adept at installing short-term goals they want workers to reach.

The Organizations Transactional Leaders Work Well For:

  • Transactional leaders are useful for companies who need incremental goals met in a short amount of time.
  • Large or small organizations who know they need to achieve quarterly and annual goals even if the cost is decreased quality/creativity would benefit from a transactional leader.
  • Retail companies, and organizations who depend on a sales representative to close deals often use transactional leaders.

Check this article about transactional leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 5

Autocratic Leadership

  • Autocratic leaders mostly rely on their opinion and are not keen on seeking input from others.
  • Autocratic leaders make all of the decisions and decide how work will be done.

Why Autocratic Leaders Could Be an Asset:

  • This leadership style works well for organizations that need for decisions to be made quickly and efficiently, as only one person is responsible for decision-making.
  • Autocratic leaders may also do well in small organizations where many of the workers are not knowledgeable about a particular topic or practice and need someone to hold the reins.
  • The military and construction sectors employ this style as authoritarian leaders are useful for making quick, decisive choices.

Check this article about autocratic leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 6

Affiliative Leadership

  • Affiliative leaders enjoy a work environment based on teamwork and unity.
  • They are good at bringing positivity to an organization that has seen turbulent times.
  • They are also adept at keeping groups motivated and in high spirits during times of crisis or stress.
  • Affiliative leaders care about those working for them, and they do all they can to build relationships so they can bring unity to teams.
  • These individuals also provide a lot of positive feedback that likely raises employee morale.

Organizations Who Could Soar from Their Attention to Teamwork:

  • Affiliative leaders are great for organizations who have just come out of a challenging period that has taken a toll on employee morale.
  • Also, if a large corporation has lost some of its relationship with workers, an affiliative leader can be brought in to reinstate close bonds between managers and employees.
  • Organizations who have a structure where departments greatly depend on one another would do well to have an affiliative leader. These organizations cannot afford to have a conflict that halts production, so it would be helpful to have an affiliative leader on board.
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Check this article about affiliative leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 7

Democratic Leadership

  • Democratic leaders are all about collaboration and the sharing of ideas.
  • They make decisions based on the input of others that may or may not be on the same hierarchal level.
  • They naturally drive engagement because employees are allowed to be a part of the decision-making process.
  • Leadership is decentralized, and choices have to go through a lot of people before a final decision can be made by the leader.
  • Workers are encouraged to be innovative, creative and independent in their thoughts.

The Organizations Democratic Leaders Work Well For:

  • Democratic leaders are great for organizations that serve a clientele who also want to be a part of the decision-making process. For instance, a school board that seeks insights from parents, governmental leaders who seek input from representatives of various districts to find out what the people want, or forward-thinking companies who do not want a rigid managerial style and want balanced information from employees.
  • Creative industries usually benefit from this leadership style.

Check this article about democratic leadership to learn more about this leadership style, its advantages, disadvantages and best practices.

Part 8

Laissez-Faire Leadership

  • Laissez-Faire leadership is a component of the democratic leadership style. However, it is to the extreme of leaving employees to their own devices.
  • Leaders who subscribe to this method intervene as little as possible in how employees work or regulate themselves.
  • Laissez-Faire leaders are there to offer resources that workers might need, but they do not concern themselves with the nuts and bolts of employee tasks. Workers are trusted to get the job done.
  • This style of leadership apparently involves a lot of trust and confidence in employee level of competency on the part of the leader.

When Laissez-Fair Leaders Could Be an Asset:

  • Laissez-Fair leadership is best to use in short-term situations: if a new manager is coming into a company and wants to gauge how workers are doing, it would benefit them to take a hands-off approach to see how the teams work uninterrupted.
  • It is also beneficial to companies when working with high-skilled independent contractors or freelancers that are self-guided and directed to accomplish the tasks they need to.
  • The larger the department or group that needs to be managed, the more difficult a leadership style like this one becomes.
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Part 9

Strategic Leadership

  • Strategic leaders come into a company with a “big picture” mindset.
  • Their approach is to turn the organizational structure into a mechanism that helps the company meet the strategic vision attached to it.
  • Their ultimate goal is to spur effective productivity and performance.
  • A strategy is a part of everything they do: encouraging worker creativity, a generalist mindset, self-control, and a tendency to delegate.

Which Organizations Fair Well with This Leader:

  • Strategic leaders are excellent for any organization who needs someone to pull all the pieces together.
  • If companies are having a problem getting one department in synch with another, managing an unbalanced budget, or concerned about high turnover; strategic leaders can come in and create a strategic plan for all of these problems to work toward a solution eventually.
  • To the strategic leader, everything is connected. Therefore, companies who have not figured out how to get all the pieces attached, would benefit from a strategic leader.

Part 10

The Cross-Cultural Leader

  • This concept is a relatively new one, as the globalization of the business world is still a recent phenomenon.
  • Cross-cultural leaders have to not only do the job of managing and pushing the company forward, but they have to understand how their action and language can be interpreted in other cultural contexts.
  • Cross-cultural leaders have to think about language barriers, time-zone obstacles, and how specific actions might have a different connotation in another country.
  • This requires a lot of research, patience, and compassion on the part of the leader.

Great for Multinational Companies:

  • Cross-cultural leaders are excellent for organizations who are multinational corporations or non-governmental organizations (NGOs).
  • Businesses that have multiple branches in other countries need cross-cultural leaders. They need people who are going to be open traveling to another country, speaking in another language, and respecting the way the nation chooses to conduct business.
  • Also, if a company houses many individuals from another country, then a cross-cultural leader is also necessary.


Posted in: Leadership