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Learning to Lead: 7 Leadership Styles & How You Can Find Yours

Photo of Tsvetelina Hinova Tsvetelina Hinova 01 February 2024
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Most professionals take on some degree of leadership as they progress through their careers. 

Maybe you already have, or maybe it’s around the corner—either way, knowing about different leadership styles can help you inspire your team to do great things.

Join Thankbox as we navigate through the intriguing landscape of leadership styles. By the end of this article, you’ll be able to channel the leader you desire to be, as well as gain valuable insights into how different styles benefit different situations. 

Let’s get started!

Why choosing a leadership style matters

While not everyone is a born leader, you can still learn how best to be one. 

By knowing your leadership style, you’ll be able to give valuable guidance and constructive feedback to your team members, as well as better understand your thought patterns and decision-making skills. 

Better yet, you’ll also learn how to adapt to new styles to better serve your current goals and discover how you can work with different managers.

Prize icon Unlock your leadership style with Thankbox

Being a great leader includes showing gratitude to your team members who keep things running smoothly. Show that gratitude by sending a custom Thankbox filled with messages, GIFs, gift cards, and more.

7 leadership styles for future leaders

Here’s our list of seven common leadership styles—from autocratic to transactional. In addition to describing each style, we’ll also offer some insight into strengths and weaknesses to help you determine which style is best for you.

1. Autocratic leadership 

Autocratic leadership (aka authoritarian, coercive, or commanding) is the strictest on our list, as you may have guessed.

Businesswoman in red blazer standing behind a table

Someone with this leadership style purely focuses on results and team efficiency, often making decisions alone and expecting team members to cooperate. They also tend to be detail-oriented and provide supervised work environments, with little collaboration, to make sure nobody slips up. 

It can work well if the leader has undeniable self-confidence and motivation, communicates clearly, and is dependable. But (and it’s a big but) this style can also lead to high levels of stress and decreased employee morale, as well as stifling creativity and innovation.

  • Strengths: The autocratic style can encourage high productivity through direct communication and dependable decision-making. It typically works best in industries that are highly regulated like government, healthcare, or finance.

  • Weaknesses: These leaders are more prone to stress as the sole decision-maker, and their lack of flexibility has the potential to stifle creativity and decrease staff morale

2. Laissez-faire leadership

The laissez-faire leader (aka delegative or hands-off) takes on a non-invasive approach to managing a team by delegating tasks with little supervision. They avoid micromanagement and prioritise trust and reliance on team members to use their creativity and experience to achieve goals.

People working together in an office

It can be a pretty successful style if your team members are well-trained and highly skilled, but can be more error-prone if they’re still learning the ropes.

  • Strengths: The laissez-faire style can encourage creativity, accountability, and a more relaxed company culture with a healthy work-life balance. It tends to work best for creative businesses.  

  • Weaknesses: This style has the potential to give rise to arguments and division in a team because the lines of who is actually in charge get blurred. It’s also not the best for new employees who need some support and guidance. 

3. Democratic leadership 

The democratic leader (aka participative or facilitative) is a mix of the autocratic and laissez-faire types. These leaders promote team collaboration and consider feedback before making the final decision.

People doing handshakes in a meeting

Great communication skills, open-mindedness, and flexibility are the major traits you’ll find in democratic leadership. 

  • Strengths: A democratic leadership style can foster higher employee engagement and job satisfaction because team members feel valued and empowered.

  • Weaknesses: It has the potential to be inefficient when quick decisions are needed because organising groups and feedback takes some time. 

4. Pace-setting leadership

The pace-setting leader sets high standards for their team and focuses on performance while holding individual team members accountable. They tend to be quite high-energy and motivational in their approach to helping team members smash their goals. 

Female colleagues gathered inside a conference room
  • Strengths: Pace-setting leadership can give team members the push they need to succeed because it promotes a dynamic and high-energy work environment. 

  • Weaknesses: This leadership type can easily fall prey to miscommunication and burnt-out team members because they're always racing towards a goal. 

5. Servant leadership

Servant leadership is often underrated, but it can produce great results. This type of leader adopts a people-first mindset and believes that team members are more efficient when they feel personally and professionally valued.

Smiling woman wearing glasses

We’re big fans of servant leadership because it puts the needs of employees first. 

At Thankbox, we help leaders (and employees) show appreciation through fun, creative e-cards complete with GIFs, pictures, messages, and gift cards. When employees feel appreciated, they’re more likely to be engaged, loyal, and motivated to do their best work. 

This aligns perfectly with the servant leadership philosophy of valuing and empowering team members.

  • Strengths: Servant leadership can enhance employee loyalty and personal development, as well as cultivate trust in the workplace. 

  • Weaknesses: Servant leaders may find it difficult to be authoritative when the situation calls for it, and can quickly burn out by putting the team's needs above their own. 

6. Coaching leadership 

A coaching leader (aka conscious) tends to focus on highlighting and nurturing the individual strengths of their team members. They’re always developing new strategies to help everyone collaborate well as a team.

Coworkers writing notes on glass window

This collaboration isn’t just limited to sharing ideas. The coaching leader may encourage team members to sharpen their strengths by learning new skills from each other, while also fostering better workplace relationships. 

  • Strengths: This style promotes safety and open communication among a team, while also helping individual team members with their personal development

  • Weaknesses: If you take on a coaching leadership style, it can take a bit of time to develop your team members with individual guidance. 

7. Transactional leadership

A transactional leader will implement a reward and punishment system to motivate and direct their team. They do this by setting up specific rules and standards to achieve goals and making sure to consistently check in on individual performance.

Handshake

Transactional leaders will often show recognition or reward team members who perform well, while those who don’t could be faced with undesirable consequences. 

  • Strengths: This leadership style can give good structure because team members have clarity on what’s expected, while also being motivated to work towards a reward. 

  • Weaknesses: Since rewards are used to motivate, the transactional leadership style falls short in building meaningful relationships with the team. Not every team member is reward-motivated, so it can also stifle creativity. 

Prize icon Unlock your leadership style with Thankbox

Being a great leader includes showing gratitude to your team members who keep things running smoothly. Show that gratitude by sending a custom Thankbox filled with messages, GIFs, gift cards, and more.

How to choose your leadership style? 

Essentially, you’ll do well by choosing a leadership style that feels the most authentic to you, that way you can avoid your team not taking you seriously. 

Consider asking yourself these questions: 

  • Do I believe in freedom of choice or structure? 

  • Would I prefer to make decisions alone, or with the group?

  • What do I value more–relationships or meeting goals?

  • Do I prefer motivation through direction or empowerment?

  • What does a healthy team dynamic look like to me? 

After you’ve answered some of these questions, don’t be afraid to experiment with what works best and ask for feedback. You could also benefit from participating in some valuable leadership activities to gain the confidence you need.

Wrapping up 

The best part about leadership styles is that you don’t necessarily have to stick to one. It all depends on the environment you’re operating in and what your ultimate goals may be at the time. So, getting to know the most prominent styles is amazing for your adaptability and overall potential. 

No matter what your leadership style may be, no leader is above showing appreciation to their team members. With Thankbox, you can show your appreciation and boost team morale with just a few simple clicks.

Create a Thankbox today and make every achievement a memorable one!


Images: Cover | Businesswoman in red blazer | People working together in an office | People doing handshakes in a meeting | Female colleagues in a conference room | Smiling woman wearing glasses | Coworkers writing notes on glass window | Handshake