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Leadership styles overview: 9 examples + advantages and disadvantages

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There are different theories as to which leadership styles are suitable for which goal. It is undisputed that the leadership style with which a boss leads his employees makes a decisive contribution to motivation, the working atmosphere and the success of a company. “The fish stinks from the head,” is a saying. In addition, the type of leadership style says a lot about the self-image and the human image of a manager. We will show you which leadership styles there are and what are typical management tasks ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Definition and meaning: what are leadership styles?

According to Gabler's business lexicon, a management style generally describes the behavior of superiors towards their employees. Another definition says that the leadership style is a basic attitude and personal attitude of a manager. The behavioral patterns towards individuals or a team are based on this. However, these can be completely different. Some of them need clear announcements, precise guidelines and now and then a reminder. Others, above all, need freedom. Or as a bon mot puts it so beautifully: "Every employee has the right to be managed individually."

It is therefore difficult to speak of “right” or “wrong” when it comes to leadership styles. Or to ask which leadership style is the best. That ultimately depends on the situation, the person, their way of working and personality as well as the desired result. The scope for decision-making also plays a role. This applies to managers as well as employees (see graphic):

Examples: What leadership styles are there?

With leadership styles and the types of leadership Numerous scientists have already worked - above all researchers from psychology and sociology. The field is huge: there are classic leadership styles, modern leadership styles, authoritarian and cooperative leadership styles. Everyone has their own advantages and disadvantages, which depend on the manager, the employees and the company.

Most leadership styles can be divided into two groups:

  • Traded styles after the sociologist Max Weber
  • Classic styles after the psychologist Kurt Lewin

While Weber investigated the question of why people let themselves be led (authoritarian) at all, Lewin wanted to know how different styles affect a group. Both agree, however, that wrong management styles have negative consequences that put an enormous strain on employee motivation and the working atmosphere.

In the following, we will introduce you to the various leadership styles that you encounter particularly frequently in your professional life. The style descriptions are ideal and seldom appear in this pure form. A mix of different types of leadership is more likely.

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Management styles according to Max Weber

There are different models of leadership styles that keep popping up. The leadership styles developed by Max Weber, a German sociologist, are a classic. He divided into four types:

The autocratic leadership style

  • characteristic
    An autocrat is an autocratic ruler and this leadership style is designed accordingly. The leader makes decisions alone and independently of others. It issues orders that are to be obeyed. There is a strict hierarchy.
  • advantage
    There are situations in which decisions have to be made quickly, in which discussions would be counterproductive. From an employee's point of view, an autocratic management style can be a relief because there is no responsibility and decisions are taken away.
  • disadvantage
    A nightmare for people with a mind of their own and a creative approach. You have no say in this. Own opinions are not heard, instead everything has to be accepted without criticism.

The patriarchal leadership style

  • characteristic
    This leadership style is similar to the autocratic leadership style. Here, too, the boss's approach is that of a single ruler. In contrast to the autocrat, the patriarch sees himself as a "father" in a figurative sense. He also makes his decisions alone. However, the self-image is characterized by a sense of responsibility and care for the employees. His position is legitimized by age, knowledge and experience.
  • advantage
    There are clear guidelines according to which a decision-maker has to act.
  • disadvantage
    Here, too, there is no scope for creative thinking and new ideas. What the boss says will be done.

The charismatic leadership style

  • characteristic
    Someone with charisma has a charisma that makes other people do things for that person with ease. Such a manager is often characterized by a high power motive and strong self-confidence. Because of her eloquence, she can paint appealing visions for others.
  • advantage
    Those who are led are prepared to make great sacrifices of their own accord.
  • disadvantage
    Employees managed in this way are easier to exploit and may recognize too late if they are caught by a fraudster.

The bureaucratic management style

  • characteristic
    This leadership style is independent of people because the manager exercises his or her powers for a limited period of time and can be exchanged at any time. She receives the position qua office or due to the length of her tenure with the company. There are clear guidelines, regulations and service instructions that are set out in writing. These specifications regulate the workflow.
  • advantage
    Power is not made possible here by a single person, but by structures. This means that employees are not dependent on the will of any one person. This means that fewer injustices due to personal sympathies or antipathies are possible.
  • disadvantage
    The rigid regulations hardly allow flexibility and prompt reaction in crisis situations. The guidelines also severely limit the initiative and independence of employees or the team. This significantly reduces motivation.

Management styles according to Kurt Lewin

The classification of different leadership styles according to Kurt Lewin is the second classic among the models. The German psychologist divided the styles into three categories: the authoritarian leadership, the democratic leadership and laissez-faire leadership. These categories have been supplemented over time and are presented as follows:

The authoritarian or hierarchical leadership style

  • characteristic
    The manager gives instructions that are to be followed. She knows the right answers for all problems, criticism is not welcome. The solutions are therefore given by them. No value is placed on the needs and problems of employees. The main focus is on the success of the project.
  • advantage
    From the employer's point of view, decisions are made quickly, the competencies are clearly regulated and the entire work process remains under control.
  • disadvantage
    The entire responsibility rests with one person. If she feels overwhelmed, wrong decisions can be made. If such a decision maker fails unexpectedly, it can lead to chaotic conditions.

The authoritarian style largely corresponds to Weber's autocratic style, which means that the advantages and disadvantages for employees are also comparable.

The democratic or cooperative leadership style

  • characteristic
    This style is characterized by the collaboration between managers and employees or teams. Delegating tasks and responsibility to motivate employees are essential functions of the manager. Since communication is open, constructive criticism is also possible.
  • advantage
    The exchange promotes initiative and creativity among employees. Since the responsibility is distributed over several areas, a surprising failure can be better cushioned. The employees work more independently and are more likely to identify with the company.
  • disadvantage
    Because the team is involved, the decision-making process can take longer. There is increased competition between employees, which can cause problems.

The laissez-faire management style

  • characteristic
    “Laissez-faire” literally means “let it be done”. With this management style, employees therefore have a wide range of freedom of action. You design your own tasks, the supervisor hardly or not at all intervenes. But that also means: He neither helps with problems, nor punishes in case of mistakes.
  • advantage
    The employees can develop completely, which promotes creativity, independence and self-fulfillment.
  • disadvantage
    On the other hand, there is a lack of planning and a lack of control. In addition to chaotic conditions, there can be competition wrangling and rivalries. It is a group dynamic process that with larger groups the desire for a leader increases. This can lead to the exclusion of individuals.

Finding a leadership style: superiors and their 5 roles

The different leadership styles show how a manager behaves in the company and what advantages and disadvantages this has. But superiors rarely have to fulfill only one role in order to lead a team successfully.

If you want to cut a good figure in the executive chair, you have to perform several roles, meet different expectations and respond specifically to employees. A successful leadership style therefore usually finds a balance between these 5 different roles:

  • Motivator
    Persistent motivation comes primarily from within. Superiors also do their part. Good and successful executives manage to stimulate their team again and again, to motivate them and, when it comes down to it, to perform at their best. Without pressure, but through goals and self-demonstrated commitment.
  • mentor
    Bosses should not only see employees as workers who are assigned tasks, but should encourage them in their development. Superiors often have more work experience and industry knowledge, which the team can benefit from. But only if the manager lets the group participate and is ready to be empathetic and support employees.
  • Moderator
    Superiors act as a mouthpiece in all directions. This applies, for example, to conflict management within the team when different opinions clash. But also in a mediating role between the company management and the employees.
  • coordinator
    One of the core tasks in the management position is to maintain an overview, to take responsibility, to lead projects and to distribute tasks in such a way and to ensure that deadlines are adhered to. In the role of coordinator, the boss is responsible for all organizational things so that work runs smoothly.
  • inspector
    What's going well? Where are the problems? How are the results? Where is there potential for innovation and improvement? Every manager takes on a control function to ensure long-term success. From this role as an inspector, goals can in turn be derived that are implemented by the other roles.

Glossary: ​​Types of Executives

lead through processes, structure, rules and planning.

lead through a vision, initiatives and innovations.

lead through power and hierarchy qua office.

Experts |
lead through their specialist knowledge, competence and experience.

The situational leadership style: a modern approach

Hardly any company today can still be run in an autocratic, authoritarian manner. Such leadership styles are now considered outdated and no longer up-to-date. At the same time, management experts agree that some situations (crises, for example) require clear, sometimes strictly hierarchical management in order to achieve successful results. A modern approach has been derived from this: the situational leadership style.

It takes into account the various strengths and weaknesses of the employees and at the same time assumes different "levels of maturity": A career starter or new employee must be trained and instructed differently than someone who has worked in the company for years.

This results in four levels of situational leadership:

  • Conduct
    The manager gives precise instructions and controls the work processes of the employee.
  • To convince
    The employee is training what has already been learned, but still needs support.
  • Participate
    The employee's competencies are more pronounced, but motivation is required to make their own decisions.
  • Delegate
    If the employee's competence and motivation are high enough, the manager can hand over tasks and responsibility.

The advantage of this leadership style is that it is flexible and adapts to the needs of the respective employee.

The directional leadership style

The directional leadership style is a subspecies of the situational leadership style and was developed by Robert R. Blake and Jane Mouton (see: "The Managerial Grid"). The management style using the “behavior grid” distinguishes between two different approaches, each of which focuses on different areas.

  • Task orientation
    It is also referred to as "factual orientation". Everything here revolves around clearly defined tasks, concrete targets and leadership by the supervisor. He takes on a higher-level position, sometimes puts pressure on to achieve goals and places great value on good team performance overall.
  • Person orientation
    Also called "relationship orientation". As the term suggests, the focus here is on the personal level between boss and employee. The hierarchy is noticeably flatter, it is more likely to be communicated on a common level in order to find the best solution for every problem that occurs together.

In practice, there are mostly mixed forms of both orientations.

Group-related management style according to Horst-Joachim Rahn

The Ludwigshafen university professor Horst-Joachim Rahn in turn developed the model of group-related leadership styles and personnel management. It takes into account that every employee works differently and therefore has individual needs - including leadership. Accordingly, the team members are not treated the same, but rather differently depending on their behavior, working methods and reputation in the group. In addition, the dynamics within the group must be taken into account, which, however, demands a lot of observation and mental flexibility from the managers.

In this context, Rahn mentions the following leadership styles:

  • Encouraging leadership style
    Inefficient and lazy colleagues should be activated by clear goals, structures and guidelines. At the same time, these must be measurable in order to control performance and generate a sense of achievement.
  • Braking leadership style
    In every team there are a few colleagues who step out of line. Lateral thinkers as well as troublemakers. Both must not pollute or disturb the climate. That is why it is important to slow them down and show them their limits.
  • Encouraging leadership style
    Some employees are just shy or struggle with personal problems. Above all, they need encouragement and help in order to survive the difficult time or to dare to step out of the snail shell.
  • Promotional leadership style
    You can let particularly high-performing team members run as far as possible. Above all, they are encouraged and motivated by freedoms and greater responsibility.
  • Integrating leadership style
    If small groups form within the team, some colleagues can get sidelined. These outsiders need to be integrated and reintegrated more strongly into the group.
  • Appreciative leadership style
    And then there are the “good souls” of the group. They have a particularly positive effect on the working atmosphere and have a balancing effect on stress. But that is not something that can be taken for granted. Therefore, they should be regularly commended and rewarded for their contribution.

Such an individual management style, which finds the right approach for every employee, can of course be very beneficial - but in practice it is difficult to implement. On the one hand, every team member must be correctly analyzed and assessed. On the other hand, the supervisor must be able to implement all the different leadership styles, combine them and alternate them in a short time.

Leadership styles overview: which one is the best?

Even if there is actually no “right” or “wrong” when it comes to leadership styles, many people wonder whether there is such a thing as the best leadership style. Unfortunately, no. Can't do it either. It is true that “promoting and challenging” is generally one of the management tasks. Just as any good leader will try to get the best out of employees and co-workers. To do this, every leader needs a good knowledge of human nature and a sure instinct. But how it works is different for everyone and depends on how you feel on the day or the situation.

For the success of an employer and its attractiveness (see: Employer Branding) it is essential that supervisors and managers lead their team in such a way that they can do their work optimally. The result is usually a combination of carrot and stick. Sometimes motivating and collaborative, sometimes coordinating or directing, sometimes directing and controlling. The most crucial point is the recognition and appreciation in the job. Employees don't just want to be a cog, they want to feel that they belong and recognize a purpose in their work. Then they are also motivated to perform at their best.

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