5 Common Leadership Styles for Business Owners

When you think of a stereotypical “boss,” you might think of someone barking orders—but this isn’t often how things are in the modern office. Leadership styles vary wildly from manager to manager, especially now that work takes place increasingly online. In addition, these styles stretch across a continuum, from the autocratic-style boss issuing orders to the “hands off” approach of the laissez-faire leader. Plus, if you spend time at any one organization, you’ll likely find a blend of styles among its management, or even leaders who switch between styles as the situation demands. 


Your approach to leadership influences your company culture, so it’s critical to keep it in mind as you shape your organization. Here are some of the most common leadership styles:


Autocratic Leadership


This style is all about top-down leadership: orders come from management alone, and leaders don’t consult with their team on decisions. This leadership style was common in the past but is less common now, especially since it’s rarely effective as a long-term strategy—though you may find yourself using it on occasion. 


Strategic or Authoritative Leadership


One of the more “visionary” leadership traits, this style is used by managers who like to chart the company’s way forward through big-picture strategies. At the same time, they typically energize their team members as followers, encouraging them to buy into their vision. Like autocratic leadership, this style is very leader-focused—but here, the manager doesn’t just dish out orders. Instead, they take the time to explain and encourage their team to follow.


Democratic or Shared Leadership


As it sounds, this leadership style occurs when team decisions are made by the team as a whole. This style is particularly great in moments when team input is greatly valued (as the decision will impact the team globally), and it’s also a good way to foster collaboration and discussion as part of your company culture.


Coach-Style Leadership


Underpinning this style is the leader’s belief that each member of their team has a wealth of untapped talents and insights that need to be developed. Coach-style leaders want to upgrade their team over time, unlocking their potential by allowing them to participate in relevant company work and decisions. In many ways, this style works well when paired with a democratic style, as it helps develop a team to work better together as a whole.


Laissez-Faire Leadership


“Laissez faire,” which is French for “let them do,” is the leadership style with the least consistent input from the manager. With this type of leadership, the team is authorized and trusted to do the work and even make major decisions alone. This style can be tricky to balance depending on your workers, but if you have an experienced team you trust, it can be a powerful way to move your company forward while ensuring each member has a stake in its success. 


Approaches to leadership are constantly changing from workplace to workplace, especially as businesses adapt to increasingly online collaborations. Even so, taking time to design the work culture you want for your team can help set your organization up for success in the long run.

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