Applying the right leadership style based on situation and audience…

Every team member is different.  Depending on their role, objectives, personalities and capabilities, as leader you wil need to be flexible in how you lead them to be successful in their current role, as also prepare them for the future. Next to the above mentioned, in the current times we see that how we approach team members and support them, is evolving. The modern digitalised age and thinking requires more agility from the leadership team then before and good leadership is thus slowly becoming an art.


In a recent column on one of the Linked in groups a statement was made that only 18% of people in a leadership role, where actually good in being a leader. Also was stipulated that most leaders where very good when they operationally where doing the job, but that does not make them a good leader when promoted to lead a team. Promoting a good sales to sales leader, often does not have the effect you would like this move to have. Leadership from my personal perspective, is not just knowing how to do things well, but knowing how to get your team members to evolve and excel in whatever task they need to accomplish.

Recently I joined a training around leadership styles which I thought that the styles discussed, would be interesting to share with you. This especially is interesting for current and future leaders to take notice on, and adapt their leadership style when appropriate. Here some of the styles we discussed within the team and it’s interesting as an excercise to first evaluate yourself, and then ask your peers and team members to do the same:

Laissez-Faire/Delegative Leadership

The leader gives a free rein to the Team Members . He allows the team members to take decisions for the organisation. Often zero to little guidance is provided by the leader to undertake the decision making. In general, the Team Members are expected to solve their own and shoulder their work responsibilities independently. Though this style is adopted by many organisations, it can also lead to low productivity amongst the Team Members if they are inexperienced or not motivated enough to set and chase their own deadlines.

Leader attitude: You are able to make your own decisions

Autocratic/Authoritarian Leadership

It’s one of the oldest leadership forms. The leader exercises consistent control and absolute power on Team Members . His decision is deemed to be final and his authority cannot be challenged.

Leaders attitude: I have the power to decide, you “HAVE” to follow my orders

Participative/Democrative Leadership

As leader you encourage the Team Members to contribute to a decision-making process of the organisation. Though the ideas of Team Members are welcome, it’s the leader who takes the final decision. This can have a positive impact in the productivity and motivation quotient of the Team Members . The leader provides guidance to the Team Members regarding the operations and management. The Team Members execute his suggestions for successful completion of a task. At the end of the day they have been involved and carry shared responsibility for the results.

Leaders attitude: Your ideas are welcome, but I will take the final decision

Bureaucratic Leadership

A bureaucratic leader likes to follow all the rules, policies and procedures of the organisation, and expects the Team Members to do the same. In many cases, bureaucratic leaders get their position because the have the ability to conform to the rules, and not because of their qualifications. This type of leadership does not have scope for innovation and creativity, however, it can be beneficial for organisation where the same type of work needs to be done. It can end up demotivating the employees as the leader may act as a strict “Policy Police”.

Leaders Attitude: This is the company policy, you “MUST” follow it at all times

Transactional Leadership

The leader creates a formal structure enlisting the expected results from the Team Members and the rewards for completing the task. Failure in executing may attract punishment, however it may not be mentioned explicitly. In this type of leadership Team Members are influenced by the rewards and punishments, and have to obey the orders of the leader.

Leaders attitude: You complete the task, you get an incentive. If you don’t, you will see

Personally I do not call this leadership, but management! Somehow I have an adversity against managers as in current times, team members do not stay long when micromanaged.

Transformational Leadership

A transformational leader motivates the Team Members by uplifting their morale and performance by inspiring them. He/She has a clear goal and vision, and an ability to infuse energy and enthusiasm to the entire group. This type of leader has a positive impact on the Team Members and helps them in achieving the organisation goals.

Leaders attitude: We can do it together!

Transformational leaders are very well set in organisations who are required to change direction. Motivating their Team Members to do better and making them understand the impact they are making on the business will help drive change and improvements.

Paternalistic Leadership

Typical dominant leaders who act as a father figure. This leadership is undertaken when there is a need to protect and control the Team Members to make them loyal and committed towards the organisation. This leadership works well in an organisation that has a definite hierarchy structure.

Leaders attitude: You can share your problems, I am listening

Task Oriented Leadership

A task-oriented leader focussed attention on completing the series of tasks and all the processes that help achieve the organisation goals. They do not give employee satisfaction or motivation much importance, and concentrates on the execution of tasks. Often these kinds of leaders are analytical and delegate work to complete within a given time frame.

Leaders attitude: You have to complete this task before the end of the day

Charismatic Leadership:

Charismatic leaders have magnetic personality which they use to exercise leadership rather than exercising authority. Team members are in the awe of the charm of the leader and like to emulate. They are made to believe by the leader that their group is distinct and superior to others. Such leaders often create an unchallengeable position for themselves in the organisation.

Leaders attitude: We are the best team ever

Servant Leadership

In a servant leadership there is a decentralised structure. The training needs of individuals are understood and developed in order to help them perform better. In the absence of completion, this leadership style enhances the productivity and creativity quotient significantly.

Leaders attitude: let’s all contribute towards success!

People-Oriented Leadership/ relation-oriented Leadership

The leader gives utmost importance to motivation, development and well-being of the Team Members . The leader acts as mentor, values opinions during the decision making process. This fosters a positive working environment and encourages to perform better.

Leaders attitude: You can do it, I will help you out

Neurocratic Leadership

These leaders are highly motivated and task oriented individuals. They try and get the work done at any cost and do not like to face failure. Often they are emotionally driven persons and at some times eccentric. They often take decisions without informing their team members

Leaders attitude: if you don’t complete that task today, it will reflect on “MY” performance

Sociocratic Leadership

Leaders who fit in this box, create a social club in the organisation. The give more importance to interpersonal relations amongst the team members than the tasks at hand. They ensure that all their Team Members are happy and satisfied by creating a positive social environment.


Leaders attitude: How about team building outing next weekend?

Narcisstic leadership

This kind of leadership exist when the leader is a narcissist and pushes his own agenda at the expense of the team members. He is only interested in the protection of his own interests. He has an inflated ego and a constant hunger for power. He may even resort to arrogance which  can be detrimental to team spirit.

Leaders attitude: “MY” word is the last word”! I don’t care if you have to work on weekends

Pacesetting Leadership

These leaders set high standards for themselves and expect the team members to do the same. A pacesetting leader has a good knack of identifying low performers and can replace them immediately. If they think that work is not going at a desired pace, they may take over the task to complete this themselves.

Leaders attitude: I will complete this task in no time. Watch and Learn!

Coaching Leadership

typically they help team members by coaching and guiding them. There is a two-way communication. Though the leader is the final decision maker, they encourage the team member to provide inputs. And motivate them to enhance their knowledge and strengthen their skill set

Leaders attitude: Don’t worry, I will guide you in this project

For the readers who are too lazy to Read, watch this video



There are different approaches leaders take. The art is to apply the styles when required. Looking at my experience as team member, and later as leader of large teams. I notice that I have different styles depending on who I’m engaging with. Asking my team members to evaluate, I was just on the spot. I also asked them which style they needed to be successful as at the end of the day. If we make them better, we all do better.

Just sticking a style on a person is not something I would advise. But understanding the different styles, applying them to the specific situation is an art on itself. Looking back at the training I also got a thought that the required leadership style should also be in line on where you want that specific department or team member to play. Transformational leadership is fine, however when the changes have been implemented, you may be looking for a different approach. When hiring for a new candidate, look at the team members and your business drivers, as the leader who adapts the wrong style, can kill creativity of the team.

I want to thank @Coraline van Hoeymissen for the deck with leadership styles (yes, I borrowed this). It’s valuable to brainstorm with your colleagues and define the styles you need as a business to grow.  In every cycle you and your company are taking, different styles may be required. Being aware of the different styles will help you change your approach towards your team members. Also take a good look at the individuals in your team and investigate which style will make them successful.


About the author: @Rahim Gulamali Strategic Customer Experience focussed Transformational Leader with outstanding track record across BPO, Strategic Change Management, Corporate Risk Management, Information technology, Technical and Financial Project Management. Proven track record in; designing, guiding, clarifying and completing (international) strategic programs; motivating teams and individuals to deliver; streaming and energizing existing business processes where People drive/own the success.

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