black and brown checkered textile
Leadership Styles

Discover Your Leadership Style: Common Types & How to Identify Them

Leadership is a crucial factor in achieving success, be it personal or organizational. Each leader has a unique style of leading. It is important to understand and discover our leadership style as it significantly affects our interactions with others, decision-making, and handling of different situations. Identifying our specific leadership style is crucial to becoming a self-aware, stronger, and more effective leader. Let’s explore the significance of recognizing and discovering our individual leadership style to unlock our true potential as leaders.

Transformational Leadership

people sitting down near table with assorted laptop computers
Photo by Marvin Meyer

Transformational leadership is a highly effective leadership style that focuses on inspiring and motivating employees to achieve their full potential. It is characterized by leaders who have a clear vision and are passionate about driving change and innovation within their organization. This leadership style empowers employees and creates a positive work environment that encourages collaboration, creativity, and growth.

What is Transformational Leadership?

Transformational leaders are known for their ability to articulate a compelling vision that inspires and motivates their team members. They possess strong communication skills and are able to effectively convey their vision to others, creating a sense of purpose and meaning in the work that is being done. These leaders foster a sense of trust and respect among their team members, which leads to increased engagement and loyalty.

Key Characteristics of Transformational Leaders

1. Individualized Consideration

Transformational leaders are attentive to the individual needs and concerns of their team members. They take the time to listen and provide support, adapting their management style to accommodate the unique strengths and challenges of each individual.

2. Inspirational Motivation

Transformational leaders are able to communicate a compelling vision and inspire their team members to exceed expectations. They set high standards and challenge their employees to reach their full potential, while also providing the support and guidance needed to achieve those goals.

3. Idealized Influence

Transformational leaders serve as role models for their team members. They exemplify ethical behavior and earn the respect and trust of their employees. By leading by example, they create a culture of integrity and excellence within their organization.

4. Intellectual Stimulation

Transformational leaders encourage their team members to think critically and creatively. They challenge assumptions, take risks, and create an environment that values diverse perspectives and innovative ideas. This fosters a culture of continuous learning and improvement.

Why Transformational Leadership is Effective

Transformational leadership has been shown to have a positive impact on employee engagement, job satisfaction, and overall performance. When employees feel inspired and motivated, they are more likely to be actively involved in their work and contribute their best efforts. This can lead to increased productivity, innovation, and organizational success.

Furthermore, transformational leaders empower their employees by providing them with autonomy and decision-making authority. This promotes a sense of ownership and accountability, which can lead to higher levels of job satisfaction and commitment to the organization.

How to Identify Transformational Leaders

Transformational leaders are characterized by their ability to inspire and motivate others. They possess excellent communication and interpersonal skills, and are able to build strong relationships based on trust and respect. They are also flexible and adaptable, able to navigate through change and uncertainty.

To identify transformational leaders within your organization, look for individuals who demonstrate the key characteristics of individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, idealized influence, and intellectual stimulation. These leaders will be able to articulate a clear vision, inspire and motivate others, lead by example, and foster an environment of innovation and collaboration.

Transformational leadership is a powerful and effective leadership style that can drive meaningful change within organizations. By inspiring and motivating their team members, transformational leaders can create a positive and productive work environment that fosters innovation, engagement, and success. Identifying and developing transformational leaders within your organization can lead to increased employee satisfaction, improved performance, and long-term growth.

Transactional Leadership

silhouette of people on hill


Photo by Jehyun Sung

Transactional leadership is a common leadership style that relies on rewards and punishments to motivate and ensure optimal performance from team members. This leadership approach is often used by managers who value structure and adherence to established processes.

Characteristics of Transactional Leaders

Transactional leaders exhibit several key characteristics that distinguish their leadership style. They are task-oriented and focus on short-term goals. They value efficiency and emphasize following rules and procedures to achieve desired outcomes. Transactional leaders tend to be practical and less open to change, preferring to maintain the status quo. They are reactive and intervene when employee performance expectations are not met. Additionally, transactional leaders generally use rewards and reprimands to motivate and maintain high levels of performance.

Advantages of Transactional Leadership

Implementing transactional leadership within an organization can offer several benefits. First, it promotes efficiency and ensures that short-term goals are achieved quickly. Transactional leadership also provides clarity by establishing a clear chain of command and clearly defining each team member’s responsibilities. This clarity makes troubleshooting and crisis management easier.

Another advantage of transactional leadership is its suitability for work environments that require a high level of repetition. The focus on rules and regulations ensures that work processes are consistently followed, which can be particularly valuable in high-pressure situations. Moreover, transactional leadership provides stability and emphasizes adherence to company policies and procedures.

Disadvantages of Transactional Leadership

While transactional leadership has its advantages, it also has some disadvantages. One of the main criticisms of this leadership style is its inflexibility. Transactional leaders often resist change and may prioritize maintaining the status quo over innovation. This rigid approach can stifle creativity and hinder the organization’s ability to adapt to evolving market conditions.

Another drawback of transactional leadership is its potential to demotivate employees. By relying on rewards and punishments, transactional leaders may discourage initiative and discourage employees from taking personal responsibility. This can lead to a decrease in employee motivation and job satisfaction.

Additionally, transactional leaders may focus primarily on short-term goals and struggle to identify and achieve broader, long-term objectives. This narrow focus can limit the organization’s ability to compete with more visionary and nimble competitors.

Examples of Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is often seen in organizations that value structure and standardized processes. For example, in the military, transactional leadership is commonly used to ensure strict adherence to established protocols and procedures. This is particularly important in situations where the safety of the team and the success of the mission rely on everyone following orders precisely.

Another example of transactional leadership can be found in large corporations that emphasize efficiency and productivity. In these organizations, transactional leaders establish clear expectations and rewards for meeting or exceeding goals. They closely monitor performance and intervene when necessary to address any deviations from expected performance.

Transactional leadership is a leadership style that relies on rewards and punishments to motivate and maintain optimal job performance. Transactional leaders focus on achieving short-term goals, following rules and procedures, and promoting efficiency. While transactional leadership has its advantages, such as ensuring consistency and achieving quick results, it also has its drawbacks, such as a resistance to change and potential demotivation of employees. Understanding transactional leadership can help leaders identify their own leadership style and consider its suitability for different organizational contexts.

Laissez-faire Leadership

brown game pieces on white surface


Photo by Markus Spiske

The laissez-faire leadership style is one of the common types of leadership styles that individuals can adopt. It can be defined as a hands-off approach, where leaders provide their team members with autonomy and trust them to make their own decisions. In this leadership style, leaders offer guidance and support when needed but allow their team members to manage their own work and responsibilities.

Laissez-faire leaders prioritize freedom and empower their team members to take ownership of their tasks and projects. They delegate tasks and give their team members the space to be creative and innovative. Mistakes are seen as opportunities for learning and growth, and the team members are held accountable for both the successes and failures.

This leadership style is most effective when the team members are highly skilled and self-driven. It works well in industries such as advertising, technology, entertainment, and retail buying, where individuals require little oversight and have a high level of expertise. Laissez-faire leaders thrive in environments that value creativity and independent thinking.

There are several advantages to adopting a laissez-faire leadership style. Team members have the freedom to work in their own preferred way and make decisions based on their expertise and knowledge. This autonomy leads to increased productivity, job satisfaction, and creativity. Laissez-faire leaders create a low-pressure environment that fosters innovation, collaboration, and personal growth. Additionally, team members feel accountable for their work, which leads to higher levels of engagement and effectiveness.

However, there are limitations to the laissez-faire leadership style. It may not be suitable for individuals who are new to the field or require more hands-on guidance. Without proper structure and support, team members may feel overwhelmed or lack direction. It is important for leaders to gradually delegate tasks as team members gain experience and provide regular feedback to ensure their success. Additionally, leaders should be available to support their team members and encourage them to reach out for help when needed.

In order to identify if laissez-faire leadership is your style, it is important to reflect on your approach to leading others. Do you value autonomy and trust in your team members? Are you comfortable delegating tasks and allowing others to make decisions? Are you supportive and available when your team members need guidance? Answering these questions can help you recognize if the laissez-faire leadership style aligns with your natural tendencies and values as a leader.

The laissez-faire leadership style allows team members to have autonomy and make their own decisions. It is effective when working with highly skilled individuals and in industries that value creativity and independence. Laissez-faire leaders empower their team members and create an environment that fosters innovation and collaboration. However, it may not be suitable for individuals who require more hands-on guidance or structure. By understanding your leadership style, you can enhance your effectiveness as a leader and create a positive and productive work environment.

Democratic Leadership

man holding incandescent bulb


Photo by Riccardo Annandale

The democratic leadership style, also known as participative leadership, is a popular and effective approach that fosters collaboration and empowerment within a team. This style encourages open communication and involvement in the decision-making process, providing employees with a sense of ownership and value.

In a democratic leadership setting, leaders actively seek input and feedback from their team members. They create opportunities for open discussion and brainstorming sessions, allowing everyone to contribute their ideas and perspectives. This collaborative approach not only promotes creativity and innovation but also leads to a stronger sense of engagement among team members.

One of the key characteristics of democratic leaders is their emphasis on teamwork. They recognize the value of collective effort and encourage team members to take on leadership roles within their groups. By delegating responsibilities and empowering employees, democratic leaders foster a sense of ownership and accountability, which can result in increased motivation and productivity.

In addition to teamwork and empowerment, democratic leaders prioritize creating an environment that encourages engagement and creativity. By actively involving their team members in decision-making processes, they tap into the diverse perspectives and skills that each individual brings. This not only leads to better decision-making but also fosters a sense of trust and respect among team members.

However, it’s important to note that democratic leadership also has its limitations. The decision-making process in a democratic setting can take longer due to the need to consider multiple opinions and reach a consensus. This can be challenging when time is of the essence or when high-stakes decisions need to be made quickly.

Another challenge of democratic leadership is the potential for some team members to feel disappointed if their ideas are not chosen for implementation. The democratic process relies on listening to numerous, sometimes contradictory, ideas, which can result in certain ideas being overlooked. Leaders need to be mindful of this and ensure that all team members feel heard and valued, even if their ideas are not ultimately implemented.

To overcome these challenges, leaders can implement strategies to streamline the decision-making process and manage expectations. Setting clear deadlines and establishing a structured framework for discussions can help ensure that everyone’s input is considered in a timely manner. Additionally, providing regular opportunities for reflection and learning can help improve future conversations and decision-making processes.

The democratic leadership style is characterized by collaboration, empowerment, and engagement. It promotes teamwork, creativity, and open communication, leading to increased motivation, productivity, and job satisfaction among team members. While it has its challenges, with proper management and structure, democratic leadership can be a highly effective approach for promoting a positive and productive [1] work environment.

Servant Leadership

a tall building with a bunch of glass bottles on the side of it


Photo by Zeynep Sümer

Servant leadership is a leadership style that places the needs and well-being of others at the forefront. It embodies a selfless approach to leading, where the leader prioritizes the growth and development of their team members above their own objectives.

One of the key principles of servant leadership is the idea that leaders should serve their team and organization first. This means that instead of focusing solely on their own goals and objectives, servant leaders prioritize the needs of their employees and the greater good of the organization. By doing so, they create an environment where team members feel heard, valued, and empowered.

Servant leaders empower their team by creating a positive work environment where employees have a voice and are encouraged to contribute their expertise and ideas. They focus on building strong relationships based on trust, respect, and open communication. This fosters a sense of belonging and engagement among team members, leading to increased motivation and productivity.

In practice, servant leadership is characterized by several key principles. These principles, as established by Robert K. Greenleaf, include listening, empathy, healing, awareness, persuasion, conceptualization, foresight, stewardship, commitment to the growth of people, and building community. A servant leader embodies these principles in their interactions with their team, creating a supportive and nurturing environment that allows individuals to grow and thrive.

Servant leadership is distinct from other leadership styles, such as autocratic or transactional leadership. While traditional leadership models often prioritize the leader’s authority and control, servant leadership focuses on empowering and serving others. This style encourages collaboration, active listening, and shared decision-making, which fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among team members.

There are several benefits to adopting a servant leadership approach. By putting the needs of others first, leaders earn the respect and trust of their team members, leading to stronger relationships and increased loyalty. Employees feel valued and supported, which enhances job satisfaction and overall well-being. Servant leadership also encourages a shared vision and fosters a positive work culture centered on collaboration and cooperation.

While servant leadership has many advantages, it is not without its challenges. It requires leaders to shift their mindset from focusing solely on their own goals to prioritizing the needs of others. This can be a significant change for leaders who are accustomed to more traditional leadership styles. Additionally, servant leadership requires a certain level of selflessness and humility, as leaders must be willing to put their own interests aside and prioritize the growth and development of their team [2] members.

Servant leadership is a leadership style that places the needs of others at the forefront. By serving their team and organization first, servant leaders create a positive work environment where employees feel valued and empowered. This approach fosters strong relationships, increases engagement and motivation, and ultimately drives team success. Adopting a servant leadership style requires a shift in mindset and a commitment to prioritizing the growth and well-being of others. However, the benefits of servant leadership, including increased employee satisfaction and improved team performance, make it a valuable approach for leaders looking to make a positive impact in their organizations.

Self-awareness and Identifying Your Leadership Style

man holding cup filled with coffee on table


Photo by Andrew Neel

Discovering your leadership style is a crucial step in becoming an effective leader. It starts with developing self-awareness and understanding your own strengths, weaknesses, and preferences. Self-awareness allows you to recognize your natural inclinations and behaviors, and provides a foundation for growth and development as a leader.

One way to gain insight into your leadership style is by understanding the different types of leadership styles that exist. Some common leadership styles include autocratic, democratic, transformational, servant, laissez-faire, and charismatic leadership. Each style has its own characteristics, benefits, and challenges.

For example, autocratic leaders make decisions without consulting their team members, which can result in efficient decision-making but may lead to a lack of employee engagement. In contrast, democratic leaders involve their team members in decision-making, fostering collaboration and innovation, but decision-making can be slower.

Transformational leaders inspire and motivate their team members to achieve more than they thought possible, creating a vision for the future and guiding their team towards it. Servant leaders prioritize the needs of their team members and focus on supporting their growth and development. Laissez-faire leaders provide their team members with autonomy and trust, allowing them to work independently and take ownership of their work.

To identify your own leadership style, start by reflecting on your own behaviors and tendencies. Consider situations where you have been in leadership roles and think about how you approached those situations. Did you tend to make decisions on your own, or involve others in the process? Did you focus on inspiring and motivating your team, or on supporting their individual needs? By reflecting on your experiences, you can gain insight into your natural leadership style.

Seeking feedback from others can also provide valuable insights into your leadership style. Ask for feedback from colleagues, mentors, or team members who have worked closely with you. They may be able to offer insights into your strengths, areas for growth, and how your leadership style is perceived by others. Being open to feedback and actively seeking it out demonstrates your commitment to growth and development as a leader.

Understanding your leadership style is not about labeling yourself or fitting into a specific category. It is about gaining self-awareness and using that knowledge to adapt your approach as needed. No one leadership style is better than another, as each style has its own strengths and weaknesses. The key is to leverage your strengths and be aware of your weaknesses, adjusting your approach to best meet the needs of your team and the situation at hand.

By developing self-awareness and identifying your leadership style, you can become a more effective leader. This self-awareness allows you to recognize when to apply certain leadership styles, and when to adapt your approach. It also enables you to build strong relationships with your team members, foster collaboration, and create a positive work environment.

Self-awareness is a journey that requires continuous learning and growth. As you continue to develop as a leader, stay curious and open to new experiences and perspectives. Embrace feedback and make adjustments as needed. By cultivating self-awareness and understanding your leadership style, you can become the best leader you can be and inspire your team to achieve greatness.

Strategies for Developing Your Leadership Style

a computer monitor sitting on top of a wooden desk


Photo by Karl Pawlowicz

Identify Your Default Leadership Style

Take a moment to reflect on your preferred leadership style. Do you tend to take charge and make decisions on your own, or do you involve others in the decision-making process? Knowing your default style will help you understand your natural tendencies and areas for growth.

Seek Feedback

Ask for feedback from your colleagues, team members, and supervisors to gain insight into how your leadership style is perceived. This feedback can help you identify your strengths and areas for improvement.

Broaden Your Leadership Skills

Don’t limit yourself to just one leadership style. To become a more effective leader, you need to be able to adapt your style to different situations. Familiarize yourself with various leadership styles, such as autocratic, democratic, transformational, and laissez-faire, and practice incorporating elements of each style into your leadership [1] approach.

Play to Your Strengths

Identify your natural strengths as a leader and find opportunities to leverage them. What are you good at? What do others appreciate about your leadership style? By focusing on your strengths, you can build confidence and effectiveness as a leader.

Work on Your Weaknesses

Don’t shy away from areas where you may be weaker as a leader. Acknowledge your weaknesses and actively work on developing the corresponding leadership skills. Seek out resources, training, and mentors who can help you grow in these areas.

Observe and Learn from Others

Take the time to observe leaders who excel in areas where you want to improve. Watch how they interact with their team members, handle difficult situations, and inspire others. Learn from their example and incorporate their strategies into your own leadership style.

Try Something New

Step out of your comfort zone and try new activities that align with the leadership style you want to develop. For example, if you want to become more comfortable with delegation and trust, take on a project or task and empower others to make decisions and take ownership. The more you practice, the more natural it will become.

Hold Up a Mirror

Continuously seek feedback and reflect on your leadership style. Ask for input from others on how they experience your leadership and whether there are areas for improvement. Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity for growth.

Be Authentic

Remember to stay true to yourself and your values as you develop your leadership style. Authenticity is a key factor in effective leadership. People respond best to leaders who are genuine, transparent, and true to themselves.

Developing your leadership style is an ongoing process that requires self-reflection, continuous learning, and a willingness to grow. By identifying your default style, seeking feedback, and actively working on both your strengths and weaknesses, you can become a more effective and adaptable leader. Remember, leadership is not about being perfect, but about constantly striving to improve and inspire others.

Discovering and harnessing your unique leadership style is a vital aspect of personal and professional growth. By recognizing the various types of leadership styles and reflecting on your own preferences, strengths, and areas for improvement, you can embark on a journey of self-development and transformation.


[1] The relation between leadership styles in higher education …
[2] 35+ Powerful Leadership Statistics [2023]: Things All Aspiring …

Max Johnson

Max Johnson is currently a Vice President at a Fortunate 100 company. He has also held multiple leadership positions at two startups previously. When he is not busy working, you can find him surfing at the beach or skiing in the mountains.

You may also like...