Leadership Style: From Surviving to Thriving

What's Your Leadership Style?

What's Your Leadership Style?


Choosing a specific leadership approach depends on a myriad of factors such as the type of leader you want to be, the kind of impact and/or legacy you want to generate, the environment in which you operate, the decision making process you deploy (including who has final decision authority). Many leaders seem also to desire a connection with a deeper purpose and meaning in their role as a leader. Considering just these few areas will help you more closely align with your highest and most rewarding leadership style.

More often, leaders blend and flex into a few leadership styles.  There are leadership styles in business, leadership styles in management, leadership styles in education, leadership styles in nursing, and so on.  Certain environments may at times lend themselves to the application of one style over another.  A first step in selecting the best leadership style for you is to become conscious of how you are leading and the results of that style.

One’s philosophy is not best expressed in words; it is expressed in the choices one makes…and the choices we make are ultimately our responsibility. -Eleanor Roosevelt

With regards to the various types of leadership styles, you can select components from several approaches that match your personal preferences/personality, your employees, your workplace and your goals.  Let’s continue with outlining several leadership styles, with each offering pros and cons.

Some Leadership Styles Are More Effective Than Others


The three main leadership styles are often agreeably the following:

  1. Autocratic Leadership Style aka Authoritarian Leadership Style

Autocratic leaders run the show by deciding and dictating everything from goals and roles to policies and procedures.  For authoritarian leaders, it’s all about command and control.  They generally neither solicit nor consider input from their subordinates.

  1. Democratic Leadership Style aka Participative Leadership Style

Though they may not ultimately use it, democratic leaders ask for input from their staff.  Team members take more on more of a participatory role relative to decisions and the decision-making process.

  1. Laissez-Faire Leadership Style or Delegative Leadership Style

The term “laissez-faire” (‘allow to do’) originated as a French term and applied to the economic marketplace, meaning the government would not interfere.  A laissez-faire leadership style can be considered nearly the opposite of an authoritarian leadership style whereby laissez-faire leaders step back from the decision-making process and delegate decision authority to their staff relative to workplace issues and solutions.


We can add two more to create our list of the five leadership styles:

  1. Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leaders tend to focus on improving processes, procedures and efficiencies within the organization.  Structure and order are key to driving success for a transactional leader. 

  1. Transformational Leadership Style

Management is transactional.
Leadership is transformational.
James MacGregor Burns, creator of Transformational Leadership Theory

Regardless of Style, Connecting is Crucial for Success

Regardless of Style, Connecting is Crucial for Success

A transformational leader seeks to generate positive change by motivating and inspiring employees, both of which fuel innovation and creativity for organizational success.  He/she opts to influence vs. direct staff and is often able to create and sustain a culture of greater trust.

Let’s dig deeper into the transformational leadership style.

Superior leadership performance– transformational leadership – occurs when leaders broaden and elevate the interests of their employees, when they generate awareness and acceptance of the purposes and mission of the group, and when they stir their employees to look beyond their own self-interest for the good of the group.

-Bernard Bass, Leading Transformational Leadership Researcher

Are You a Transformational Leader?

Are You a Transformational Leader?


A leadership theory created by James MacGregor Burns, transformational leadership is an approach that continues to gain momentum in the workplace, particularly with the challenges that leaders of today are facing.  As with any of the leadership styles, there are transformational leadership advantages and disadvantages.  For the most part, however, the benefits outweigh the pitfalls of this leadership style.


  • Idealized Influence. Transformational leaders are role models because they adhere to a high ethical standard of behavior.  They “model the way” by setting a strong, positive example of leadership.
  • Intellectual Stimulation. Transformational leaders challenge assumptions (their own and those of their staff), they take risks, and they ask for input from others (their ‘followers’). They ignite creativity and innovation in their organizations and invite new perspectives in order to meet whatever challenges and opportunities appear to facilitate organizational success.
  • Inspirational Motivation. Transformational leaders create and communicate a vision that inspires and engages employees by encouraging and connecting with their sense of purpose. They tend to highlight team member strengths, helping them leverage them towards meeting the common vision and goals (often with high expectations). Transformational leaders generally foster a strong sense of team spirit, comradery and commitment in support of overall success.
  • Individualized Consideration. Transformational leaders strive to create a supportive and diverse work environment. They are empathetic to needs of staff, providing coaching and mentoring when and as needed. They consider the uniqueness of individual staff members – their talents, experiences and needs.


From our perspective, here are a few of the characteristics and qualities of a transformational leader.

  • Humble – they recognize their ability to make a positive impact, yet they also recognize the gifts and strengths of their staff. The world does not revolve around them.
  • Open-minded – they are open to hearing the ideas of others, and truly listen.
  • Visionary – they are able to set and communicate an engaging vision for the organization and for staff.
  • Self-Aware – they know themselves and have the ability to manage themselves in their role as leaders (e.g., values, strengths, weaknesses, motivations, emotional responses).
  • Risk-Tolerant – they are comfortable taking calculated risks and they know that taking the right risks is imperative in their role as a leader.
  • Decision-Maker – they don’t shy away from making tough decisions, even without all the data.
  • Inspirational – they inspire their staff and generate trust in the workplace.
  • Flexible – they recognize that in order to drive transformation, they need to adapt into change rather than fight it.
  • Motivated – they don’t rest on success, but continually seek out ways to improve themselves, their staff, and their organization.
  • Confident – they are confident enough to admit their mistakes and work to correct them, realizing that mistakes are learning opportunities. They build wisdom and make course corrections accordingly.
  • Ethical – they set and operate with high ethical standards such that staff respect them as leaders and trust them.
  • Accountable – they realize that ultimate responsibility for their choices and decisions rests on their shoulders.  They take ownership of sub-par outcomes and consequences.