Leadership Style: Meaning, Characteristics, Classification and Examples


Meaning of Leadership Style

Leadership style refers to behavioral patterns utilized by leaders for guiding and motivating people in pursuit of organizational goals. It is simply the manner in which a leader directs his followers for carrying out their set of actions effectively. The leadership style adopted by the company’s professionals plays a crucial role in carrying out its operations with continuity. The characteristics and qualities of managers make it quite easy for them to influence subordinates towards performance, creation, and innovation. If a leader lacks an appropriate style of leading others, then ultimately, he may not be able to inspire or control one’s actions.

Leader styles are in general of inherent nature which develops with time as well as practice. However, there are many professionals who adopt leadership styles as per their personality, organizational culture, and distinct needs of the company. It is not merely an authority position but possesses the ability to transform people in the right direction. A good leader can easily manage all things rightly even in the most challenging times leading his team from the front. When all members within the teamwork are uniformly under one person’s direction, a company can maximize its benefits via unity of actions.  

Characteristics of Leadership Style

Various characteristics of leadership style can be well-understood from the points given below: – 


Risk-taking is the ability to involve in decisions carrying a large amount of risk in order to make better returns. A leader should necessarily imbibe this quality in his/her leadership pattern for reaching out established goals. Risk is something associated with every amount of return and can’t be separated.  


Courageous means lack of fear and afraid in dealing with challenging situations. Every leader should possess this ability for successfully influencing his subordinates. In case, if a leader is afraid of hard situations and runs away from his accountability, then subordinates will lose trust in their leader and won’t follow him.  


Participation means welcoming all people within the organization whether part of the management team or not to involve in decision making. A leader should accept ideas from all of his subordinates and give them an equal platform. He should take decisions to take all people together which avoids any conflict and results in unity of actions.


Technology under the leadership style relates to appropriate planning, a delegation of tasks, and following science-based managerial techniques. It is the duty of leaders to consider technically qualified individuals for work positions which leads to better productivity. He must be well aware of technological updates going on around him so that whatever decisions are taken are as per the requirements. The adoption of the technology enables professionals to easily monitor the task of all their subordinates in real-time. 


Coercion means the degree of fear or domination power employed by the management team for controlling people’s actions within the organization. High coercion means managers are excessively using power and causing fear among workers for regulating their performance. A good leader is one who maintains an appropriate balance of coercion in his leadership style. People feel demotivated and are unhappy when performing their actions under a high degree of pressure.

Classification of Leadership Style

The leadership styles which are commonly used by leaders within the organization are classified into 10 categories which are discussed in detail below: – 

Visionary leadership style

Visionary leaders are those who possess a strong power to drive progress within the organization by leading their colleagues. They have farsightedness that enables them to anticipate future events easily. It makes right planning possible to handle periods of changes resulting in uninterrupted growth of the organization. Visionary leaders are able to develop a strong organizational bond and earn trust over their innovative ideas quickly.

Visionary style of leadership is much suited for businesses that are of small-size, fastest-growing, and even the big firms going through corporate restructuring or transformation. These types of leaders can assist companies to grow in a fast manner, unite team members and correct their updated practices or technologies. However, the limitation of this type of leadership style is that these leaders are much futuristic. They are too focused on the big picture and may skip other opportunities available in the present day. 

Example- A manager of a company form group with top officials to held discussions regarding problems which his team members are facing. The aim of the meeting is to find out ways for helping employees with their problems at work so that they can better focus on their duties which yields higher productivity.  

Coaching leadership style

Leaders who follow the coaching leadership style believe in coaching their coordinates towards achieving perfection. A coaching leader is a person who easily identifies the strengths and weaknesses of their colleagues, and motivates them for improving their skills set. Coaching leaders are great communicators and have great knowledge of their respective subjects. Team members are under the regular guidance of these leaders, where they receive regular feedback on their performance. A coaching leader possesses relevant skills in establishing a positive and motivating environment along with setting smart goals.

Coach leadership style is termed as one of the advantageous styles for managers as well as the subordinates working under them. It leads to a positive environment within the company where more focus is made on developing skills, promoting free-thinking and empowerment, and also fostering a confident organizational culture. But many times, this leadership style can be troublesome as it is time-consuming requiring one-on-one time with employees.

Example– A manager from the sales department organizes a meeting where he performs a detailed analysis of last quarter’s sales with associates. He points out all strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities by seeing the past performance report. He reaches out to each member on an individual basis and checks their progress. Finally, the meeting is concluded by deciding targets for next quarter and setting up incentives for motivating employees.  

Hands off/ Laissez-faire leadership style

Laissez-faire leadership style is also known as delegative leadership style where more attention is paid to delegating tasks among team members. This style of leadership can prove out to be successful only if team members have the right skills, are competent, take responsibility, and like engaging in their individual roles. The leaders provide very little or no supervision and do not spend much time with their subordinates.

Laissez-faire leadership style offers several benefits to business enterprises such as creativity, accountability, and a relaxed work environment. Whereas, the leadership style in addition to benefits also carries disadvantages. These are like employees getting demotivated due to lack of support, confusion regarding leadership expectations, and absence of proper organizational structure.

Example– Manager of MNC asked his new coming employees that they are no fixed work schedule for them. They can maintain their own schedule on one condition that they are efficiently working and hitting goals which the team set together. Managers give them free hand to learn and explore things of their interest even outside of their project.

Autocratic leadership style

The autocratic leadership style is one where only the boss has entire control over the operations. This is also called the authoritarian style of leadership where managers do not delegate their power to subordinates. Autocrat leaders take all decisions themselves or with very little participation of their subordinates. Such leaders like to dictate the decisions, policies, and activities expecting others to strictly comply with them. Autocratic leadership follows a top to down communication approach with no focus on socializing or team-building activities. All situations are evaluated by leaders alone with no consideration of feedback from group members.

The main benefits of autocratic leader styles are that such leaders can promote high productivity via proper delegation, setting up adequate communication, and bringing down the stress of employees by taking all decisions themselves. However, this style of leadership also carries disadvantages like an excessive burden on the leader due to handling all responsibilities, lack of interest in team members due to non-cognizance of their ideas, and absence of flexibility.

Example- A surgeon in the hospital before starting an operation give clear-cut instructions to his team members. He clearly explains the rules and procedures and ensures that everybody follows it strictly so that surgery becomes successful.

Participative or democratic leadership style

Democratic leadership style is a combination of Laissez-faire and autocratic styles of leadership. Democratic leaders are those who encourage the participation of his/her team members in the decision-making of an organization. Team members are regularly asked for innovative ideas and inputs that would contribute towards organizational growth. This leadership style is characterized by high employee engagement and satisfaction because of the fact that team members voice is heard and their contribution matters a lot in overall performance.

The democratic leadership style is also termed as participative leadership style due to the active participation of all team members. It is the most suited one for employees where they feel empowered, unified, and valued. Here, team members are highly motivated and satisfied requiring less guidance from management as they themselves are part of whole decision making. Democratic leadership style also carries some demerits such as it even results in non-efficiency and higher costs. Acquiring ideas and feedback, and then organizing a big discussion around it take a long time to finally arrive at a decision. Also, some team members may feel pressured for sharing their ideas in the group which they don’t like.

Example- Tom works as a store manager and has hired many talented members. He asked every one of ideas and suggestions while deciding the storefront and floor design. Tom work as a final moderator on his team’s ideas and suggest areas of improvement.  

Servant leadership style

The servant leadership style is one of the unique pattern adopted by leaders for managing people. These leaders pay great emphasis on their subordinates and develop a better understanding with them for knowing their mindset. Servant leaders believe that if members in a group are both personally as well as personally fulfilled, they can provide better output. Such leaders are able to earn a great level of respect from the team due to their attention to employee satisfaction and collaboration. Service leaders are of believing that the first service should be offered and the principle of leading should come later.

This leadership style is well-suited for almost every type or size of business enterprise. It is more prevalent among non-profit organizations. Servant leaders possess great skills in motivating people, boosting their morale, and assisting them in re-engaging with their work setting. The challenge associated with this style is that many times due to giving more preference towards team needs by leaders than his/her own, it may result in burn-out. The leaders may find it hard to be authoritative thereby risking the goals of the organization.

Example- A product manager came to know about complaints that the company is receiving from its range of customers. In order to understand better about problems, he organizes one-on-one tea meetings with those who are ultimately using the product. 

Bureaucratic leadership style

Bureaucratic leaders are quite similar to autocratic leaders who want their team members to strictly abide by all rules. Under the bureaucratic leadership style, a good hierarchy is developed within the organization showing clear responsibilities of every team member. The whole leadership pattern is task-focused, detail-oriented involving less creativity and collaboration. Bureaucratic leaders always live by rules and also want others to stick to mentioned rules. They pay great emphasis on rules, structures and are highly committed to organizational goals. 

Bureaucratic leadership style pattern is very effective for enterprises/departments which are highly regulated such as healthcare, education, finance, and government. There is no confusion among members within the team as everyone is well-aware of their roles resulting in better efficiency. But sometimes this leadership style can prove out to be rigid which does not welcome any creativity in work. It may restrict employees from change and does not thrive in a dynamic environment.

Example– An automobile company manager roll out an instruction notice for employees to perform within the specified set of rules. The members are asked to take as many steps for task completion but within the permitted rules.

Transactional leadership style

Transactional leaders are those who are laser-focused on employee’s performance in a race to meet established goals. This leadership style involves a give and takes scenario where members are either penalized or rewarded based on their output. The leader here step-up monetary incentives for people who get success and disciplinary actions for those who get failure. Everyone is made well aware of the work they need to perform, why to perform, and within what limits. The output of employees is measured with a pre-determined set of criteria and goals. Transaction leaders believe in mentorship, giving training and instructions for meeting the goals.

Transactional leadership style can be very useful for companies if employees are motivated with benefits and perks. Tasks that are of repetitive nature and goal-focused are well suited for this leadership pattern. However, the style pays more attention to short-term goals rather than long-term goals causing the company to struggle. Employees who do not get incentives also get demoralized which reduces their efficiency.

Example– A branch manager of a private bank organizes a meeting on a bi-weekly basis with team members. He tells them ways to improve their performance as well as the company’s monthly goals for getting bonuses. He declares that every 10 performers within a particular district are going to get a high monetary reward.  

Transformational leadership style

Transformational leadership style is somewhat similar to coaching style where more focus is on setting up goals, motivating employees, and establishing clear communication. These leaders believe in transforming things better by proper monitoring and guidance. They let their subordinates be free for exploring new approaches and ideas. Care is shown for team members and their problems are noticed which develops a sense of belongingness among them. 

Transformational leaders spend much time on the big picture of the company and can easily handle multiple delegated tasks. They are easily able to develop a personal connection with their team which improves company retention as well as morale. The challenge under this leadership pattern is that leader looks on an individual basis which may cause wins of the company or team to go unnoticed. Also, as the leaders are thinkers of the big picture, it may cause overlooking of details.

Example– Shreya has recently joined a clothing company as marketing manager. CEO asked her to set up new goals and manage the whole sales team efficiently. Shreya first performs an analysis of the whole organization’s operations for knowing their strengths and weaknesses. After a period of 2 months, she prepared well-drafted plans for the company and share the same with team members. She asked them to properly study them and accordingly set goals for them that align with company goals.

Pacesetter leadership style

Pacesetter’s leadership style proves out to be the best one in order to attain faster results. Such leaders are highly focused on performance level and set up a strict range of standards for team members. They take all reasonable steps to ensure that all team members follow rules and are held accountable for hitting the ultimate goals.

Pacesetter leadership is considered a great tool in motivating people and works well in a fast-changing environment. It boosts morale and directs people toward their goals for reaching our business objectives. However, it can create stress among employees due to high pressure towards reaching a goal or target. In addition to this, it can create confusion when applied in a fast-paced environment.

Example- A leader used to organize a meeting on weekly basis with his members for informing them about updates. After some time, he thought that taking an hour out of everybody’s working schedule is not worth it and did not justify a meeting. Leader changes the meeting timings to 15 minutes for increasing the efficiency and invites only those who need to be updated.