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In business, there's no perfect style of leadership that works every time. An autocratic leader may take one company to the top and then fail in a different environment. Some managers are comfortable with the laissez-faire or charismatic styles of leadership, and others work best with democratic or servant approaches. Knowing the pros and cons of leadership styles helps you to better lead your team.
Autocratic Leadership Style
Autocratic leaders decide everything themselves without worrying about what subordinates think or want. This makes decisions and planning quick and simple. The disadvantages of leadership of this kind include employee resentment, paralysis when the boss is unavailable and limited creativity since only one person provides ideas.
Outside of the military, this approach works best when jobs are routine and don't require much initiative.
Transformational Leadership Style
Transformational leaders believe in change and growth, constantly pushing employees and team members to be better. This can be a very powerful approach, but the visionary, big-picture aspect can distract the leader from the day-to-day tasks. It works best when the leader has a detail-oriented subordinate to keep him grounded.
Servant Leadership Style
Servant leaders look out for people's needs. They listen to what the team wants and favor collaboration and team building over tossing out orders. The disadvantages of leadership in this case include a reluctance to assert authority even when it's necessary. Servant leaders may also value employee satisfaction over the needs of the company.
Laissez-Faire Leadership Style
Laissez-faire leadership takes a hands-off approach. The manager sets the goals and provides necessary help and resources but trusts the team to do the job without further direction. With an experienced, committed team, the results can be amazing.
Less-experienced employees may fall behind, lose their way or be unable to handle the pressure to manage themselves. It's also harder to hold anyone accountable for problems.
Democratic Leadership Style
Democratic leaders have the final say on team decisions, but they want feedback and opinions from their subordinates before making the call. That avoids the disadvantages of leadership by autocracy, but it has its own drawbacks. If the business needs quick decision making, democratic discussion is often too slow.
Bureaucratic Leadership Style
With bureaucrats, the pros and cons of leadership and management styles both stem from the reliance on rules. The company has policies and procedures and expects employees to work within them without fail. Bureaucracy has a bad reputation, but it has its upside:
- Workers know what to expect.
- If the industry is tightly regulated, a strict set of rules reduces the risk of doing something illegal or unsafe.
- Jobs are predictable without the worry that a new manager will change everything.
The disadvantages of leadership by the rule book? It kills innovation and creativity because everything has to be done the same way.
Charismatic Leadership Style
Like transformational leadership, charismatic leadership depends heavily on having a dynamic, inspirational figure in charge. A charismatic leader inspires her followers to strive for and achieve their best. However, the team's strength depends entirely on the leader's guidance. Once she goes, the team may fall apart.
Situational Leadership Style
Situational leadership sounds like it should be free of the disadvantages of leadership styles. Situational leaders are flexible, shifting from democracy to autocracy to laissez-faire depending on the people with whom they're dealing. That makes good sense, but for managers with a natural leadership style, shifting between different modes may not be an attainable goal.
Pros and Cons of Leadership Styles
Weighing the pros and cons of leadership styles is a personal decision. What works for one manager or executive doesn't work for another, so you'll have to figure out the right style for you.
- What does your business need? If you're in a constantly changing environment, tying everyone down with bureaucracy is probably a mistake. If you need fast decisions, autocratic leadership may be the way to go.
- What does your team need? If your employees want guidance and direction, a laissez-faire approach will probably flop.
- With what are you comfortable? If it's your company, and you want a say in every decision, then democratic leadership may not suit you.
Even if you adopt an autocratic style, you can avoid being a tyrant. Tell your employees why you run things the way you do and give them the reasons for your decisions. This may go a long way toward easing their stress from being managed.
Fraser Sherman has written about every aspect of business: how to start one, how to keep one in the black, the best business structure, the details of financial statements. He's also run a couple of small businesses of his own. He lives in Durham NC with his awesome wife and two wonderful dogs. His website is frasersherman.com