What Are the Different Organizational Leadership Styles?

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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 14 September 2019
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Business managers and others in leadership positions rely on a variety of organizational leadership styles to help them motivate staff and meet the goals of the organization. While leadership skills and techniques can be improved or modified through training, the basic characteristics of these organizational leadership styles remain the same. Most business resources define three primary organizational leadership styles, including autocratic, democratic, and delegative techniques. Some also add a fourth style, known as situational, which incorporates elements of all three of the basic leadership styles used in business.

Autocratic organizational leadership styles are characterized as dictatorships, where leaders rule with an iron hand. While this style allows the organization to make fast decisions and react quickly to changing markets, it also suffers from some potential drawbacks. The firm does not benefit from shared intelligence and creativity, as all decisions are made by the leader. This style can be highly motivating for some managers, who recognize that they will receive all the credit, or blame, resulting from the activities and direction of the organization.


Democratic leadership styles are quite different from autocratic ones. Leaders with a democratic style encourage participation and input from all members of the team. They benefit from shared intelligence and different view points, leading to enhanced creativity and ideas. Employees often enjoy this type of culture, and believe they are valued for their contributions. One drawback to this style is that it can result in slow decision making, and it can be difficult to give recognition or blame to any specific individual.

The most laid-back of all the organizational leadership styles belongs to those with a delegative or laissez-faire attitude. Those with a delegative style assign various tasks to employees then step away and let these employees make all required decisions. This style works best in organizations with highly-motivated workers who can be trusted to put forth their best efforts. Ultimately, the leader is responsible for any problems that arise, and may get much of the credit for good results.

Those with a situational leadership style rely on techniques from all three of the basic organizational leadership styles. They are capable of adapting their technique to each individual situation, and changing their style as its needed. They know when an autocratic leader will be most effective, and when employees should be granted greater input and authority. Some companies may train leaders to adopt this style in times of transition, or to help them deal with multiple groups of employees.


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