Let's Talk Software

Even if you're not looking for custom software development, we're happy to chat about agile processes, tech stacks, architecture, or help with your ideas. Enter your contact information below and a member of our team will contact you.

    Clients who trust us to deliver on their custom software needs.
    Tonal Logo
    Aquabyte Logo
    More Cashback Rewards Logo
    MasterControl Logo
    Little Passports Logo
    Mido Lotto Logo

    9 Leadership Styles in Business that managers should know

    By Michael Manzo
    Share this article:

    Many business people believe that certain leadership styles are superior to others. However, there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to leadership. Every leader has a unique personality and background that affects their leadership style. This style may change over time, and even could change to best meet certain situations. Perhaps leaders could think of different leadership styles as tools in a leader’s toolbox.

    We’ll go through 9 different leadership styles and theories to assist you figure out what your current leadership style is and how you can utilize it to empower your team to make an impact.

    What is a leadership style?

    The term “leadership style” refers to the methods, tools, and techniques that the head of a team uses to influence the quality and quantity of work done by the other team members.

    Leaders, as we all know, have a wide range of duties. They spend their days doing similar things, such as: strategic planning, encouraging people, disciplining rule-breakers, managing external stakeholders, putting out fires, etc. However, since two leaders are alike, the manner in which they handle the same set of tasks might be very different. Or, put another way, the “leadership style” differs.

    So what is the best way to categorize these styles?

    Lewin’s leadership theory

    If you search for leadership theory, you will come across one name repeatedly: Kurt Lewin.

    Lewin’s leadership theory is one of the oldest and most commonly used methods for classifying leadership. Kurt Lewin and his team of researchers defined three leadership styles in 1939: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. They published their comprehensive study in The Journal of Social Psychology, triggering a chain reaction that motivated psychologists to conduct further research on the subject.

    Authoritarian (autocratic) leadership

    Leaders who are authoritarian, also known as autocratic, have complete command and authority over their followers. The decision-making process is centralized, which means that the most important choices are made by a single individual. An authoritarian leader sees the broad picture but only works with the rest of the team on a task-by-task or as-needed basis. Information flows up, while decisions flow down.

    While you would think that an authoritarian boss is unpleasant, this isn’t always the case. The leadership style refers to how decisions are made, rather than the manner in which they are made.

    You can use the following statements to describe an authoritarian leader.

    • What I say goes
    • My viewpoint is usually correct in business conflicts
    • Too many cooks in the kitchen spoils the soup
    • I worked hard to get to where I am, and if someone on the team wants to be the boss someday, they have to pay their dues

    Advantages of authoritarian leadership:

    • Quickly made decisions.
    • Efficiently complete work.
    • Tends to work well when the leader is the most talented member of the team AND is respected by the team

    Disadvantages of authoritarian leadership:

    • Does not encourage creativity
    • Less likely to produce innovation
    • Could cause retention issues if team members don’t feel that their ideas are valued

    Participative (democratic) leadership

    This style of leader leads by consensus. They consider all viewpoints and encourage collaboration. They “empower” their team by delegating decision-making authority to whoever has the highest likelihood of success, regardless of rank or title.

    Participative leaders are not apart from the team, rather they are a part of the team. They spend their time and energy on the development of their teammates because they know it will help them achieve their final objective.

    According to Lewin’s research, this is the most effective leadership style because it makes the best use of everyone’s potential.

    The following statements can be used to describe a participative leader.

    • When there is a disagreement, we should listen to everyone’s viewpoint and select the best one
    • I encourage individuals who have different viewpoints since it will improve the final result
    • My job is to make sure that everyone on the team lives up to their potential

    Advantages of participative leadership:

    • More innovative solutions and ideas
    • High commitment of group members
    • High retention and promotion rates

    Disadvantages of participative leadership:

    • Less efficient / decisions come more slowly
    • Tends not to work with an unskilled labor force since they need to be told what to do
    • Sometimes the loudest person’s idea wins out over the best idea

    Delegative (laissez-faire) leadership

    Delegative leaders provide very little direction to their subordinates. They provide team members total autonomy over decision-making.

    Delegative leaders distance themselves from the group and refuse to engage in or disrupt a project’s present path. Their remarks are few and far between.

    The following statements can be used to describe a delegative leader.

    • The group can choose what is best for them, but I am expecting a fantastic final product
    • Others in the company can make decisions without my input
    • I’ll share resources with my team. After that, I’m looking for self-starters who can make decisions on their own
    • Those who have opposite viewpoints can work out their differences on their own

    Advantages of delegative leadership:

    • If all group members are qualified specialists, delegation leadership might be useful
    • Works well with independent workers

    Disadvantages of delegative leadership:

    • Roles and responsibilities are often unclear
    • Consequently, things can “fall through the cracks” and cause projects to fail

    Emotional leadership theory

    Daniel Goleman’s six leadership styles are another notable leadership theory. Goleman collaborated with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee on the book “Primal Leadership” to emphasize the importance of self awareness in leadership.

    Goleman identifies six leadership styles, how they are employed, and how they influence the team environment.

    Visionary leadership

    Visionary leadership shares the same concept with Lewin’s authoritative leadership style. Visionary leaders have long-term goals and may inspire and encourage others.

    This style of leadership is most effective when there is a significant shift in the organization or when a clear direction is required. In this situation, individuals are searching for someone they can rely on to lead them into the unknown.

    It is less successful when other team members are specialists with opposing opinions to the leader’s. These team members will not want to blindly follow a leader with whom they disagree.

    Advantages of visionary leadership:

    • The leader inspires team members and helps them understand their duties.
    • The leader remains undeterred by minor issues as they remain focused on the final objective.
    • Visionary leaders are good at developing contingency plans to handle challenges posed by external variables such as politics or global events

    Disadvantages of visionary leadership:

    • Teams have a lack of short-term focus
    • Vision may be lost when it becomes too tied with the leader’s personality
    • Visionary leaders may reject the suggestions of other group members

    Coaching leadership

    A coaching leader can recognize the talents and flaws of other team members and coach them to better. They can also connect these talents to the company’s objectives.

    Coaching leadership is effective when the leader is innovative, ready to cooperate, and able to provide detailed feedback. It is also critical for the coach to know when to step aside and let the person have autonomy.

    Read: 7 Effective Ways to Motivate Your Team

    Advantages of coaching leadership:

    • Coaching leadership may create an inspiring atmosphere
    • There are clear expectations in place, allowing team members to grow their skills
    • This leadership style provides organizations with a competitive edge since it produces talented employees who are productive and ready to train others

    Disadvantages of coaching leadership:

    • It requires time and patience
    • It only works if people are willing to accept this kind of leadership
    • Coaching leadership can be perceived as micromanaging when done improperly

    Affiliative leadership

    Affiliative leadership prioritizes relationships. An affiliative leader’s goal is to bring people together. This charismatic leader tries to develop and cultivate relationships in the workplace, resulting in a more collaborative and happy work environment

    An affiliative leader is useful when forming a new team or dealing with a crisis, as both of these circumstances need trust. When a leader concentrates too much on being a friend and is less concerned with productivity and corporate goals, this leadership style can be destructive.

    Advantages of an affiliative leader:

    • Boosts team spirit
    • Interpersonal conflict is rapidly resolved
    • Team members are less stressed because they feel valued
    • Cultivates close-knit teams that are empowered to assist one another

    Disadvantages of affiliative leadership:

    • A lack of clear responsibilities might result in underperformance by some team members
    • Affiliative leaders are hesitant to express negative things that would affect the growth of others
    • The organization’s aims are frequently overlooked
    • Team members become emotionally dependent on the leader. If the leader changed teams or left, the rest of the team would be lost.

    Democratic leadership

    Democratic leadership is similar to Lewin’s participative leadership. Encouraging everyone in the team to engage and contribute ideas. As a consequence, even if the leader has the last word, the team feels empowered.

    Democratic leadership works best in high-skilled teams where all members can contribute meaningfully. It has less of an influence on junior teams that lack expertise and understanding on the subject. You should not apply this that need urgent response.

    Advantages of democratic leadership:

    • Promotes creativity and innovation
    • Create a high level of employee involvement and trust
    • Contribute to greater responsibility and productivity

    Disadvantages of democratic leadership:

    • Less efficient / decisions come more slowly
    • Team members may lose trust if the leader makes a choice without their involvement
    • Democratic leadership is ineffective when team members lack skills.

    Pacesetting leadership

    A pacesetting leader is someone who leads by example in terms of productivity, performance, and quality. They expect team members to follow in their footsteps. If team members cannot keep up, pacesetting leaders will step in and ensure that they can complete the work properly.

    Pacesetting leadership is effective when the leader establishes clear expectations and inspires team members to achieve deadlines. When team members stop believing in their leader and become anxious, overworked, or unmotivated, it fails.

    Advantages of pacesetting leadership:

    • Pacesetting leaders are able to achieve business goals on time
    • Progress reporting allows for the immediate recognition of issues.
    • Team members respect the leader as a member of the team, not just the leader of the team.

    Disadvantages of pacesetting leadership:

    • Long-term vision can suffer since the leader is more likely to get stuck in tactical issues.
    • Team members might feel smothered and micromanaged
    • A heavy emphasis on outcomes and deadlines might result in a loss of creativity.

    Commanding leadership

    Commanding leadership is related to Authoritarian leadership. The leader in this approach has certain aims and objectives that they express to the team and expect others to follow. They established processes and rules to provide structure.

    Leaders often employ commanding leadership when other team members lack skills or competence.This situation requires the structure for the participants to know how to fulfill their responsibilities. It is also effective in emergency situations where there is no time for debate.

    Advantages of commanding leadership:

    • Clear objectives and expectations can boost work performance
    • Effective during crisis situations
    • Helpful in low-skill or an inexperienced team

    Disadvantages of commanding leadership:

    • This leadership style may fail when the leader is not more experienced than the group
    • Collaboration is non-existent, which discourages innovation
    • Employees may become disengaged and team morale may suffer
    • Since decisions all fall on the leader, bottlenecks can occur


    As you can see, there are several leadership viewpoints and theories, and we have explored 9 of them. We have also described the advantages and disadvantages of each style. There is no best leadership style that applies to 100% of situations. To fulfill the organization’s goals, competent leaders will identify the proper style for themselves, their team, and the business situation.


    Share this article:
    President & Chief Executive Officer

    About the author...

    Michael Manzo has nearly than 30 years of experience managing all aspects of software development including product management, user experience and interface design, engineering, quality assurance and marketing. Michael has served as President and CEO of CodeStringers since September 2014, having served as the company’s founding Chief Product Officer from July 2012.Prior to CodeStringers, Michael was Chief Marketing, Product and Strategy Officer at Openet, a leading global provider of transactional business and operational support system (B/OSS) software for telecom and cable firms, where he led marketing, product management, strategic planning and growth initiatives for the company. Manzo joined Openet as part of a turn-around team and, during his tenure, Openet grew from $15m in annual revenue to more than $150m, became the worldwide market share leader in the company’s primary product category, and developed a widely recognized reputation as the telecom infrastructure industry thought leader.Previously, Michael was Vice President of Products and Marketing for Traverse Networks, a fixed mobile convergence enterprise solution provider, which was acquired by Avaya. Michael has also held executive positions at Voice Access Technologies, Omnisky (acquired by EarthLink), Telocity (acquired by Hughes DirecTV), and Notify Technology Corporation. Michael has a BA in Journalism from the University of New Hampshire. In his spare time, Michael is an amateur woodworker, building indoor and outdoor furniture for friends and family. Until injuries sidelined him, Michael was an accomplished triathlete, having completed six Ironman distance races and numerous shorter distance races. Michael also served nine years in the U.S. Army Reserves and National Guard being honorably discharged as a Sergeant.

    Scroll to Top