Kat Boogaard | The Muse | 9/11/2023
When we think about different types of leaders, it’s tempting to group them into just two categories: good and bad. Maybe there was that former boss who made you feel supported and inspired. And maybe there was also that manager who was so critical, they made you wonder if you were even qualified to handle the afternoon coffee runs.
What is leadership…really?
Complete this sentence: “A leader is…”
What’s your answer? Someone who’s in a formal position of power? Whoever’s ranked above you on the org chart? The person with the corner office and the higher salary?
Those might be the traditional perceptions, but it’s important to recognize that anybody can be a leader. Yes, that means you, too.
Fundamentally, a leader is somebody who uses their own actions and behaviors to influence or guide other people. That might mean someone who’s the designated head of a department. But make no mistake—having that seniority isn’t a prerequisite.
Even if you’re not managing a team on a daily basis, you might still have to step into a leadership role from time to time. Maybe you’re spearheading an important cross-functional project or you have to host a meeting.
Those are opportunities for you to fulfill a leadership role and be looked to as an example. They’re also moments when your own leadership qualities and style will bubble to the surface. So, don’t write off these approaches as something that doesn’t apply to you just because you aren’t in the C-suite.
Why is it important to understand your leadership style?
Before we jump right into the nitty gritty, there’s one critical question that needs to be answered: Why the heck do leadership styles matter?
“Understanding how you lead and want to lead will give you a better sense of control over the size and scope of your reach and impact,” explains Joyel Crawford, a career coach and leadership development consultant.
“Bringing awareness allows you to take ownership and responsibility,” adds Tara Padua, an executive coach, entrepreneur, and startup advisor. “Our leadership style is a whirlpool of our values, our natural strengths and abilities, and our beliefs and experiences. Knowing your leadership style can help you align that whirlpool with your vision, goals, and even your organization’s mission and vision.”
Put simply, to have an impact as a leader, you need to be an effective one. And in order to be effective, you have to understand exactly where you’re starting from—as well as where you want to go. Knowing your current approach gives you a baseline that you can use to identify the improvements you need to make.
10 different leadership styles (and their pros and cons)
You likely know firsthand that there are all different types of leaders. But how can you define their specific leadership styles? Here’s the good, bad, and the ugly on 10 of the most common, “textbook” approaches to leadership.
These styles are based on the findings of several well-known leadership researchers (such as Karl Lewin, Bernard M. Bass, Robert K. Greenleaf, and more). However, since leadership is part art and part science, be aware that you could see various experts define these styles a little differently.