Top Leadership Styles And When To Use Them

leadership styles

Quick Summary: Top 5 leadership styles

Let’s start by understanding what each leadership style is like. What are the advantages and disadvantages of each one, and some examples of what they look like when applied in real life. Remember that these are just the more common ones, but there are tons of other types that exist out there. On top of that, you might also find leaders using hybrid versions where elements from different types will be mixed and matched. This is great when you have a team that needs more than one leadership style.

The concept of leadership has been alive ever since the first animal appeared on this earth. Any living thing that tends to move around in packs will always have a leader they look towards to guide them through everyday life. This position involves teaching, supporting, and guiding their people through anything they might need help with. And, one of the most interesting things about this, is that there are as many leadership styles as personality types as you can think of.

In this article, we’ll talk about what the most common leadership styles are in work settings. We’ll discuss how they’re connected with people’s personality types, and how to tailor your management style to your team. We’ll also talk a bit about discovering your own management type so you can use it the next time you need to guide your team through a difficult situation. 


This is the type of leadership that revolves around one universally accepted opinion maker – the manager. It works when it comes to time-sensitive situations and with team members who don’t have a lot of self-confidence in their own decisions. It’s also great for situations where a lot of mistakes have been happening. This is one of the leadership styles that will help set clear steps and expectations to prevent issues from coming up again. But, it doesn’t allow for creativity, differing opinions, or relationship building. It can also cause high turnover and employee dissatisfaction.


From all the leadership styles, the democratic is one of the most collaborative ones. This is a style that’s often seen in managers who truly value the differences that every employee brings to the table. It helps people feel included and heard, which are two huge factors around employee satisfaction. That said, there’s also some negative sides to this type of management. When involving everyone in the decision making process, it’s going to take longer than it should to come to a final resolution. If you’re taking every single person’s opinion into account, this includes those people who might not know what they’re doing. The outcome is a resolution that doesn’t actually work for the problem at hand. It’s a fine line between listening to everyone’s thoughts, and letting those same opinions overshadow your experience and knowledge as a manager. 


This is a leadership type that’s rooted in inspiring team members with a vision, and then guiding them through how to achieve that vision.  This is incredibly useful when it comes to creating two-way communication, and it’s priceless when it comes to offering both professional and personal development for the employee. It makes people feel supported and not judged as they navigate learning how to best perform their job. However, it does involve a lot of energy and time from the manger’s end, and is not the most efficient when it comes to organizations that’s efficiency and results driven first. 


Also named Laissez-faire leadership after the French economic system it’s based on, this managerial style is mainly about delegation. This is one of the leadership styles that’s ideal for teams of very experienced people since it allows them to individually work on their tasks. That said, if the team is not flexible when it comes to change, it’s not a recommended managerial style. The reason for this is that delegated tasks can change in a hearbeat depending on developing needs. One moment you might be working on a project, the next there’s a fire that needs urgent putting out. It’s also not great for defining clear responsibiliy guidelines. 


“If you complete 50 emails in the next hour, I’ll buy you a Starbucks gift card”. That sounds like the best boss ever! Especially given that your job is to literally complete 50 emails in an hour. So, getting paid for it and getting a gift card? Perfect.

Not so fast.

Leadership styles based on conditions such as these tend to create more followers than anything else. Which is not what you want as a leader. It’s also not great for valuing empathy, and tends to kill creativity and innovation. That said, it is great for short term motivation and productivity. It also offers very achiavable goals for employees, so it’s a good choice when it comes to people who need a little bit of an incentive.

What do leadership styles and personality types have in common?

Both are closely related to each other. Leadership styles often are based on each person’s personality traits. For example, an introvert will likely prefer a more hands-off style that involves more delegation. It means a bit less regular interaction for them, which tends to be what these personalities like best. Someone more outgoing, however, might like a communal (more democratic) leadership style. It will allow them to interact with their team constantly so they can open up conversations and share opinions. 

The Professional Leadership Institute provides comprehensive leadership training with our Leadership Fundamentals Certification.

How do I find my leadership style?

Great question! Leadership styles are very much variable as you develop as a manager, and as a person. This means that while you might prefer using one type today, in a year other leadership styles might work better for you instead. That said, and as we mentioned, most managers will unconsciously shift towards leadership styles that mirror their personality traits. So, to find your leadership style you should find out what your personality type is first.

If you’re not sure what that is, we can help. Have you ever thought about a personality assessment quiz? The DISC personality assessment we offer at Professional Leadership Institute is specifically designed to give you insight into your work personality type. It’s just 25 questions and offers you an in-depth view of your personal characteristics. Did we mention it’s free? If this is something you’re interested in, you can check it out here.  

When should I use each style?

Having the ability to switch between leadership styles depending on your team’s personalities will put you light-years in front of the competition. Tailor your management to each member’s needs and even each situation you’re facing. For example:

Short on time + dominant team member? Try an authoritative approach. 

Fixing a mistake + questioning (conscientious) employee? Going with XXXXX style will probably give you the best results. 

Not sure about your team’s personality type? Having them also take the DISC assessment will be very helpful! Both of you will be able to take some time to get to know each other better so you can improve not just your leadership style, but also your relationship with each other. 

Related Readings

Professional Leadership Institute (PLI) is an educational website providing professionals from all types of businesses with practical education in entrepreneurial leadership. To keep evolving your leadership toolkit, additional PLI resources below will be useful:

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