Somewhere in your career, you may find yourself in a leadership position. In this situation, you’ll need to identify or adopt new leadership styles that work best for you and your team. So, what are leadership styles in the workplace? Let’s find out.

What Are Leadership Styles in the Workplace?

Leadership styles are the behaviors and characteristics that influence how an individual leads or manages others within the workplace. As a leader, you’ll need to search for the best style that suits your team’s needs. We’ll go over the most common leadership styles used in the workplace, along with their pros and cons.

Transformational Leadership

What it looks like: Transformational leadership is a style that inspires or motivates positive changes in employees to achieve a specific goal. A transformational leader focuses on clear communication and praises their team (collectively and individually) for their efforts and creativity. This type of leader aims to achieve goals for their company while helping others to achieve theirs.

Transformational leaders are often energetic and passionate. They challenge the status quo but support the vision of the company.

Advantages: Employees are likely to feel inspired and motivated to find creative ways to accomplish a goal. Individuals are satisfied with their work and work environment. The transformational style helps transform team members into leaders themselves.

Disadvantages: Sometimes, challenging the status quo is not the best idea. Yes, taking risks can pay off, but it can also lead to negative consequences that impact the entire team and company. If a leader makes the wrong choice, employees may lose their confidence or trust in them.

In addition, employees may feel constant pressure to do their best to achieve a company’s goals. While a little pressure can foster productivity, constant pressure can cause employee burnout if they are expected and pushed to put in extra hours each day they come into work. Burnout can also happen if pressured to go above and beyond what they can mentally and physically handle.

Transactional Leadership

A laptop shows the results and performance of a website on Google Analytics

What it looks like: A transactional leader is focused on results and performance. Leaders who adopt this style emphasize clearly defined goals, structure, and organization. They tend to implement a system of rewards and punishments to help motivate employees to complete objectives. Overall, transactional leadership is a management-oriented style, and managers are fixated on fulfilling short-term goals.

Advantages: This style is perfect for establishing efficiency and productivity thanks to the incentives for completing tasks on time. Goals and expectations are clearly defined, making it easy for employees to understand how they’re supposed to complete their assignments. 

Disadvantages: Transactional leaders expect strict obedience to the rules and policies, with little room for deviation or flexibility. As a result, this often discourages creativity and innovation. Here are some other disadvantages:

  • Finding a reward and punishment system that motivates and works for everyone 
  • A lack of empathy and means of building relationships
  • No leadership development for employees; they remain as followers
  • If something goes wrong, employees are responsible for failures, leading to dissatisfaction
  • No long-term goals

Authoritative (“Autocratic”) Leadership

What it looks like: This style is more or less what it sounds like. Sometimes, synonymously known as “autocratic,” this leadership style reflects someone who makes and takes control of all the decisions for the team, including feedback.

Advantages: Not everything about authoritative leadership is negative. It can provide a highly structured and organized environment. This system is helpful for team members who are inexperienced and need direction. It also reduces the time it takes to make decisions, allowing teammates to work on a project immediately.
Disadvantages: Employees may feel insecure or intimidated when they are around someone who controls and manages every last thing. It could even cause tensions between employees who view their leader as a dictator and struggle with being told what to do. Generally, there is a higher turnover rate because of these issues. Another downside to adopting an autocratic style is everyone becomes dependent on the leader to make all the decisions. If the leader is absent, employees may not be self-reliant enough to handle tasks.

Democratic (“Participative”) Leadership

 A team celebrates as they look at their coworker’s laptop in an office

What it looks like: Referred to as “participative leadership,” this style runs more democratically. Leaders often request input from their team members and make decisions as a group based on that input. They encourage discussions to help projects go smoothly.

Advantages: Morale and trust are usually high. Everyone feels like they are part of the team and their feedback matters.
Disadvantages: The timeframe to make decisions takes longer and can cause project delays. Sometimes, decisions made by the whole group do not mean the best outcome will happen. Another negative is it can become difficult to define who the leader is if everyone is an equal contributor.

Laissez-Faire Leadership

What it looks like: Laissez-faire is a concept opposite of authoritative leadership. Rather than controlling all decisions, this style allows employees to make and take decisions into their own hands. Leaders will step in to help if needed, but they trust their employees to lead on their own.

Advantages: Employees have the freedom to make decisions and complete tasks however they please, as long as it accomplishes the vision. If an employee needs assistance, they have plenty of tools and resources at their disposal. Let’s look at some other advantages:

  • Teammates hold themselves accountable
  • Highly motivated employees
  • Relaxed environment
  • Freedom to be creative
  • High sense of trust
  • Low employee turnover rate

Disadvantages: Although workers have the freedom to complete assignments however they wish, this can come as a challenge for some who are not used to making decisions on their own. A laissez-faire style can also lead to chaos if team members aren’t familiar with who is in charge or who to go to for help.

Build a Positive Work Culture

You may find that you naturally fit one of the leadership styles above but want to adopt a new one. Whichever leadership style you choose, it should fill the needs of your employees or company and build a positive work culture.

To learn more about building a positive work culture, feel free to read our article titled, “5 Ways to Create a Positive Work Culture” on the Loop blog.