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S23: Types of Leadership

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Track 3 S23: Types of Leadership (Ft. Peetu Nieminen & Janette Heikkinen)


Some might say that leaders are born to this world. Some would say, leaders are made. The truth is, they are made after they are born. But, how are they made? Some are shaped through experience, some discover themselves, some are taught and developed to be one. However, in its natural state, there are multiple types of leaders and how they operate. Among 7.8 billion people in the world, there are more or less 5-10 different kinds of leaders and how they operate. In this paper, we will be focusing on the 6 most common types. Autocratic, Authoritative, Situational, Laissez-Faire, Servant, and the Democratic type of leadership. We will go in-depth into what these are, how they differ from each other, real life examples, and some tips to maximize your leadership in all of the mentioned types.


  1. Autocratic Leadership


Autocratic leadership has been one the most frequently-used types of leadership. The history of autocratic leadership is as ancient as human history. People sought leadership within particular groups and usually the leader of the group was either the oldest or the most powerful person amongst the members. People who became leaders in this process gave certain directives to their members, which would make the group stronger or cause it to dissappear. Throughout history, different types and features of autocratic leaders emerged in the world – for example Napoleon, Genghis Khan, Adolf Hitler, Bill Gates and Martin Luther King. There are many different variations of autocratic leadership, but the features remain alike. Autocratic leadership is a style of leadership, where the central authority is strong, decisions are made unanimously and subordinates are motivated through rewards and threats. For example, an autocratic leader could motivate its subordinate by offering him a promotion or by threatening him with ultimatums. In autocratic leadership, trust plays a massive role in influencing the performance of the subordinates. Autocratic leaders’ best tool for building trust is to follow words with action. Whenever subordinates begin to have faith and trust in their leader, it will form an emotional bond between the leader and the subordinate. At this point, the subordinate doesn’t perform the orders of the leader because of fear of punishment or expectations of awards, but because of the trust and sympathy they have for the leader. Whenever an autocratic leader fails to be true to his/her words, the ramifications may be significant and the leader may lose authority over their subordinates. (Demirtaz, 2020, p.294-306)


Autocratic leadership focuses on a high level of performance. Subordinates are expected to give immediate compliance without discussion. Autocratic leaders tend to be highly task-oriented and directive towards specific goals and objectives. This leadership style can be beneficial in certain situations, where there are objectives and tasks that need to be completed as soon as possible, for example during a time of crisis or a high-stress situation where quick decisions are needed. For example, a firefighter needs to have an autocratic leadership style in order to make decisions during a rescue mission. While autocratic leadership may bring a lot of value during certain situations, it can also lead to a lack of creativity and innovation. If an autocratic leader is lacking trust and respect from the subordinates, the leadership style might also lead to low morale among team members, and a lack of ownership. Therefore, it’s important that whenever practicing autocratic leadership, it’s important to understand the potential drawbacks and ramifications that might come with it. (Demirtaz, 2020, p.294-306)


  1. Democratic leadership


The opposite of autocratic leadership is democratic leadership. Much like autocratic leadership, the concept of democratic leadership dates back from ancient Greece to the renaissance and lastly to the present day. Examples of a democratic leader would be Nelson Mandela, Barack Obama and Mahatma Gandhi. According to the principles of democratic leadership, a leader is at its best when people barely know he exists. A democratic leader doesn’t seek the spotlight, but rather gives the spotlight to the people who are willing to follow them. In a democratic leadership style, the leader seeks feedback and input from the team before making the final decision. A democratic leader encourages open communication and discussion among the members so that they might reach a solution as a group. Democratic leadership encourages individual responsibility, ownership as well as active participation. As participation takes time, this approach can lead to things happening more slowly but often the end result is better. The approach can be most suitable where teamwork is essential and quality is more important than speed to market productivity. (Demirtaz, 2020, p.312-333)


Democratic leadership shines whenever collaboration and teamwork are essential. It promotes creativity and innovation, unlike autocratic leadership. Democratic leaders gather information from the feedback of the team and based on that, they will make a well-informed decision based on their expertise. Giving team-members the space to voice their opinions and ideas will also grant a feeling of importance, which can lead to higher levels of satisfaction and engagement. A democratic leader needs to have good communication and listening skills in order to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that the members feel like their contribution is being appreciated. (Demirtaz, 2020, p.312-333)


It’s important to note that democratic leadership style might not be the most effective in all situations. In some cases, a more autocratic approach is needed in order to move forward. For example, democratic leaders must have a skilled team that can contribute to the decision making process. In situations where the members lack these skills, a more directive leadership style might be necessary. It is important for leaders to be able to adapt their leadership style depending on the situation at hand and having clarity of the potential limitations of a particular style. (Demirtaz, 2020, p.312-333)


  1. Situational Leadership


According to (St. Thomas University , 2014), Situational Leadership is the type of leadership that is flexible. Meaning, it is the type to adapt to the needs of the organization and or the team. Versatility is its strength, yet requires a knowledge on how to lead in various styles and the ability to assess the team situation and understand what it needs. The leadership style can be demanding but at the same time very rewarding. Basically, the situational leadership style can be compared to the famous quote “jack of all trades, but a master of none. Yet, better than a master of one.” 


 According to the same article, in Daniel Goleman’s “Theory of Situational Leadership”, there are 6 types of situational leadership. Coaching leadership provides the end goal and direction but allows the people to have independence on their decisions, ideas, and solutions. They basically give them the end point, yet allow their members to find their own way of doing things. 


Secondly,  Pace setting leaders are the type of leaders the team would want when they are trying to crunch tight deadlines. They are results oriented, good at pushing the team when it comes to achieving high standards and beating the deadlines. However, it may only be effective if the team has necessary skills to match the pace and standard of the leader. 


Third, Democratic leadership, the type of leadership that are more free in sharing information to the team, seeking ideas and thoughts from the team to be of use for the team’s benefit. It creates a better following because they lead on from the thoughts, ideas, and wants of the team. However, in a larger scale team, and even in a small team it would take time for some decisions to be made since the leader would either have to find a common ground for all team members, or have the team agree to a decision before moving forward.


 Fourth, affiliative leadership, whose strength is mainly having strong relationships with the team members. Its weak point would be, this kind would not be as effective in a high-stress or high-pressure environment, since a more directive and or shaper kind of leadership would be more fitting.


 Lastly,Coercive leadership, one of the types that Daniel Goleman does not really recommend. It is the kind of leadership that uses fear,threat, consequences like punishment to motivate employees. Might be highly effective, in certain situations like crisis, and time constrained and immediate consequences. The down side would be having the team morale to be down, increased possibilities of burnout, possibility of a toxic environment, reduced creativity and innovation, damaged relationships, and etc. Which is why it is highly not advisable. Among all these types of leadership, they all fall into one major type, and that is situational leadership. 


Its truly incredible  how one person can be all of these, depending on the situation. It would indeed require much experience, skill, and energy to be this kind of leader. A leader that is able efficiently in different kind of situations.(Daniel Goleman).


  1. Laissez-Faire Leadership


Laissez-fair leadership, is one of the kinds of leaders that allows the team members to create their own decision on situations.According to (Western Governors University, 2020), they stated that this kind of leadership is in a setting where the leader trusts its team, resulting in properly shared load and less micromanagement.  Mainly delegating decision making to other team members. This would mean that the team members are only to receive minimal guidance, in exchange for being able to work independently. In this kind of leadership, results would show a variation of identities, yet truly showing a “team’s effort” kind of result. However, this kind of leadership would be deemed efficient and effective when the team members are of a certain skill level and experience in their respective roles. Enough for them to be able to make independent decisions and calls that they deem beneficial for the team.  This would also need a team with enough self motivation and is at a level of understanding. Without these components, this kind of leadership may do downhill. Could result to team lacking direction, poor performance, confusion, and a lot more. Laissez-Faire leadership would be very optimal with the right set of team.


  1. Servant leadership


On the other hand, servant leadership involves putting the needs of others before oneself. A servant leader listens to their team members’ opinions and works collaboratively with them to achieve common goals. This type of leadership fosters a positive work environment that encourages creativity and innovation. Often times this type of leadership creates a very positive working environment and people seldomly have anything negative to point out in their leaders. 

I witnessed a vice president ask their co workers 3 simple compound questions and I saw the change in those associates. The leader of the team asked the team mateds 3 compound questions and they were; what are your top 3 priorities this week, how could I make you feel more heard and  how can I help you achieve your goals. These types of questions bring out psychological safety to a team. Many times the key to success is being a servant leader. (IMD 01.2023)


Servant leadership is a leadership philosophy were the leaders primary goal is to help an serve their team members, rather than the team members serving the leader. Some advantages of this leadership style are:

  1. Empowerment: Servant leadership mpowers team members to make decisions and to hold themselves accountable, to take ownership. This can lead to increased motivation, job satisfaction and engagement. This will happen because employees and team members will feel valued and trusted. 
  2. Collaboration: Servant leaders hold collaboration and communication in a high value, which can help develop teamwork and hold a positive work environment. By listening to and valuing the perspectives of the team members, servant leaders can make better decisions and create a good culture of mutual respect between everybody. 
  3. Innovation: By encouraging creativity and empowering team members to take risks, Servant leaders can foster innovation, and this can lead to new ideas in the team as well as productivity and innovation. 
  4. Ethics: Servant leaders prioritize ethical behavior, this can help build trust and loyalty inside the team members, customers, and other people involved. By showing out ethical behavior, servant leaders can create a culture of honesty and accountability within their projects and organizations.
  5. Personal growth: Servant leadership is focused on the growth and development of team members, both professionally and also personally. By  giving opportunities for learning,building new skills, and personal development, servant leaders can help their team members reach their full potential and develop constantly. 

Overall servant leadership can lead to a more empowering, productive and motivated workforce. Also it can lead to a more ethical and stronger organization. 


  1. Authoritative leadership 


Unlike autocratic leaders these take time to explain their own thoughts.

 Authoritative leadership is characterized by a leader who makes decisions on behalf of the group without consulting them. This type of leadership is effective in situations where quick decisions need to be made, such as during a crisis. Authoritative leadership is excellent in situations where a task needs great urgency, when the task has no space for errors and no time for discussion, when conditions are dangerous, when you have to keep people out of the failures way, when people need to be guided through clear tasks and logical expectations. This type of leadership is excellent to use in situations that were just introduced. 


Authoritative leadership is perfect when you need people to step up and move quickly, however this type of leadership needs to be used carefully and at the right time, the right duration and in the right way. 

 There is a lot of disadvantages to authoritative leadership. You have to make sure to use it at the right time an dat the right way, so that you are not causing any negative consequences  for your team. The leader should always make sure that the teamplayers know how is their effort affecting the success of the group. Clarifying the goal and the vision helps a lot. (IMD 01.2023)


Both authoritative and servant leadership have their advantages and disadvantages. Authoritative leaders may be seen as strong decision-makers, but they risk alienating their team members if they do not involve them in the decision-making process. Servant leaders may foster a positive work environment, but they may struggle to make tough decisions when necessary.


Some advantages in authoritative leadership.

  1. Clarity: An authoritative leader provides clarity on the direction and guidance to their team members or work colleagues. They are very decisive and quick in making decisions, this can help prevent confusion and make sure that everyone is on the same page. 
  2. Efficiency:  When there is an authoritative leader in charge, there is less time wasted on different debates and discussions. Decisions are made quickly, which can help making the processes quicker and improve efficiency.
  3. Accountability: An authoritative leader takes full responsibility for the decisions they make. This can create a certain culture of accountability inside the team, where as everyone knows who is in the end responsible for the success or the failure of a project.
  4. Expertise: An authoritative leader is often chosen because of their expertise in a certain area. They have a deep understanding of the field, and this can be valuable when we are making important decisions.
  5. Crisis management: In times of an emergency or a crisis, an authoritative leader can take charge of things and make decisions quickly. This can be extremely essential in situations where there is no time to waste and taking action is necessary.

It is important to take into consideration that while an authoritative leadership style can be effective in some situations it can also lead to lack of creativity, employee engagement and teamwork. It’s essential to balance between being decisive and empowering the meam members to contributing their ideas and perspectives. 



To sum up everything that has been stated to far all of these six leadership styles have their place in different organizations depending in the situations at hand. It is up to the leaders to determine which style of leadership suits their teams and their own needs while achieving organizational goals. Different types of leaderships are needed and a leadership style that may be perfect in a certain situation or a project might be totally an unfit leadership style to another. 




Cossack, D. (2018, November 30). The Founders District [Video]. YouTube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LmqBbKh8XJk


Demirtaz, O. (2020). A Handbook of Leadership Styles. Cambridge Scholar Publishing.


Santucci, V. (2022, January 25). What is Situational Leadership? St. Thomas University Online. https://online.stu.edu/degrees/education/what-is-situational-leadership/


Western Governors University. (2021, March 22). What Is Laissez-Faire Leadership? WGU Blog. https://www.wgu.edu/blog/what-laissez-faire-leadership2006.html


Gurdjian, P., Halbeisen, T., & Lane, K. (2014, November 25). What Differentiates Effective Leaders From Ineffective Leaders? IMD Perspectives. https://www.imd.org/reflections/leadership-styles/


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