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Leadership Types and Styles - Overview of Skills

Oct 11, 2007
Leadership style is crucial to success. We find leadership all around us. Each of us will fill the role ourselves at various times in our lives. Leadership can be found in the world of business, sports, politics, religion and as close as home.

Leaders must respond to the rapidly changing world and meet the challenges it demands. There are different types of leaders and you will most likely encounter many over the course of time.

Understanding different leadership styles and their impact will help you become a more effective leader.

In 1939 famed psychologist Kurt Lewin identified classic styles of leadership. These three styles are well established though more specific types have been identified since. Leaders should not be confused with managers. Leaders are always managers but the reverse is not necessarily the case. Good leaders will use the style or a combination of styles that best fits the situation.

This is an authoritarian form of leadership where one person makes the decisions. The expectations are clear. Lewin and his colleagues found this form of leadership caused the most discontent. Used rarely but can be appropriate to complete routine or unskilled tasks.

-What needs to be accomplished, as well as, how and when, are the sole responsibility of the leader.
-Allows for quick decisions when time is crucial.
-This is a less creative approach. A "Do what you are told" Obedient and strict form of control.
-Use when a group or member doesn't have knowledge of the practice or procedure.
-The autocratic style works best when there is no need for input. Input will not change the decision or outcome.

Democratic leadership is participatory and often most effective. Employees and team members feel in control of their own destiny when they are included in the decision-making process that leads to greater satisfaction and a feeling of appreciation. Although the leader may have the final say.

-The leader acts as a guide. Accepts input and seeks ideas and suggestions through discussion.
-Even though the leader may have the final say the team contributes to the process.
-Democratic style can be problematic when the final decision is hampered by a wide range of opinion.
-People are more committed when involved in the process of making decisions. They have a personal stake in the outcome.
-This style is mutually beneficial and helps improve people skills.

Delegative/Free Rein:
As a leader it is not possible to do everything yourself. A leader must prioritize and delegate tasks and decisions while still taking ultimate responsibility.

-Minimal in direction.
-Allows decision-making by the team.
-Works well when the team or a member is more knowledgeable about the subject.
-This style works best with highly motivated and well trained people.
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