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Leadership Styles: The 6 Primary Leadership Styles, Pros & Cons of Each & How to Figure Out Which is Best

by Thuy Sindell, PhD. and Milo Sindell, MS.

Leadership Styles

Leadership styles are the ways in which leaders influence, motivate & direct their people.

Each leadership style has its own distinct strengths, weakness, and appropriate application.

Understanding these 6 common leadership styles, their effectiveness & their applications can help leaders identify & develop their own personal unique leadership style that will best meet the needs of their team, people, environment, and organization.

Below we’ll explore six of the most commonly studied and discussed management styles: Commanding, Authoritative, Democratic, Affiliative, Pacesetting, and Coaching leadership styles.

In addition to the above styles of leadership, we’ll also discuss how leaders can develop their own leadership style to become great leaders with excellent communication skills.

Why Do Leadership Styles Matter?

Leadership styles matter because taking the time to understand & evaluate different approaches can help you become a more effective and inspiring leader for your organization.

Knowing which leadership style & approach to use in different situations can significantly influence the function of your team and have a huge impact on how your team operates.

Your chosen leadership style heavily impacts how your team respects you, how successful your business is, and it can make the difference between mediocrity & sustained growth for an organization.

How Many Leadership Styles Are There?

Depending on who you speak with there are as few as 3, 4, 7, on up to potentially 11 leadership styles. Per Skyline G’s methodology, there are in total 6 key leadership styles.

For this article, we’re going to focus on the 6 most common leadership styles based upon Daniel Goleman’s work that most leaders use to manage their team’s performance.

What are the 6 Most Common Types of Leadership Styles?

The 6 Most Common types of leadership styles we see instituted in our projects daily are:

  1. Commanding Leadership
  2. Authoritative Leadership
  3. Democratic Leadership
  4. Affiliative Leadership
  5. Pacesetting Leadership
  6. Coaching Leadership

These specific leadership types make up for more than 90% of the styles we see on a daily basis.

Different types of leaders utilize different types of leadership styles to handle different situations, and each situation requires analysis to know how to best proceed.

Leadership Styles

Commanding Leadership

The Commanding leadership style is characterized by leaders who make decisions unilaterally and expect immediate compliance from their team.

With the commanding leadership style, the approach is often directive and autocratic, with a focus on achieving tasks efficiently.


There are a couple of major advantages of the commanding approach:

  • Quick Decision-making - Decisions are made swiftly due to the centralized decision-making process. This swift & decisive decision-making is great for responding quickly to changing circumstances, capitalizing on opportunities and can be particularly effective in crisis situations where a clear, confident leader is necessary to restore order and stability.
  • Clarity - Directives are clear, minimizing confusion among team members.
  • Task Completion - This style can be effective in situations requiring urgent action.


There are also some potential drawbacks to the democratic approach:

  • Low Morale & Engagement - One of the biggest challenges is that the commanding style can lead to team members feeling disempowered and undervalued, potentially resulting in a lack of motivation
  • Limited Creativity & Innovation - Blind followers are less likely to take risks, propose new ideas, and execute passionately. Creativity and diverse perspectives are often suppressed.
  • Lack of Flexibility - Adapting to changing situations might be challenging.

Leadership Styles

Authoritative Leadership

The Authoritative leadership style is characterized by a leader that provides clear direction while also involving team members in the decision-making process. This style of leadership emphasizes a strong vision and sets high standards for.


There are major advantages of the authoritative approach:

  • Vision-driven - The leader’s strong vision can inspire and motivate the team.
  • Collaboration - By including followers in the decision-making process and building strong relationships, leaders can build a more collaborative & harmonious work environment where everyone is aligned & working towards a common goal.
  • Adaptability - This style can adjust to different situations while maintaining a clear direction.
  • Highly Engaged & Motivated Workforce - People feeling inspired by their leader’s vision can lead to higher levels of creativity and innovation as followers are more likely to take risks, propose new ideas, and feel more empowered to achieve their goals.
  • Strong & Effective Teams - People are more likely to trust & collaborate to achieve common goals, leading to increased efficiency and effectiveness as team members are able to leverage their collective expertise & perspectives.


There are also some potential drawbacks to the authoritative leadership approach:

  • Over-reliance on the Leader - The leader’s presence might be necessary for team success.
  • Communication Challenges - If not managed well, the leader’s strong presence can stifle open dialogue, collaboration, and innovation.
  • Potential for Micromanagement - The balance between guidance and autonomy can be delicate.
  • Struggle to Maintain Consistency & Stability - Additionally, transformational leaders who constantly push the boundaries and pursue new and innovative approaches can lead to uncertainty and confusion among followers, who may struggle to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape.

Leadership Styles

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership, also known as a collaborative or participative leadership style, is characterized by involving followers in the decision- making processes fostering a sense of collaboration and teamwork.


There are a couple of major advantages of the democratic leadership style:

  • Builds Trust & Engagement with the Team - By involving team members in the decision-making process, democratic leaders create a sense of ownership & accountability and increase their followers’ motivation & commitment to achieving common goals.
  • Taps into the Collective Wisdom of the Team - By tapping into the collective wisdom & leveraging the expertise & perspectives of many individuals and their unique backgrounds, democratic leaders can make more informed & effective decisions leading to improved problem-solving, better decision-making & more innovative solutions.


However, there are also some potential drawbacks to the democratic approach:

  • Slow & Cumbersome Decision-Making - Considering the opinions and perspectives of many individuals can lead to delays & reduce the speed and agility of decision-making.
  • Indecision - Leaders may struggle to reach a consensus among followers with differing opinions and perspectives. This can lead to conflict and undermine the effectiveness of the team.

While democratic leadership can cultivate outstanding teams and group engagement, it presents a unique set of freedoms, responsibilities, and complexities.

Leadership Styles

Affiliative Leadership (Affiliative – friendly and harmony)

The Affiliative leadership style is characterized by a leaders that prioritizes building strong relationships and creating a harmonious work environment. This style emphasizes empathy and collaboration.


There are a couple of major advantages of the affiliative approach:

  • Builds Trust & High Levels of Trust & Collaboration - By prioritizing their followers’ needs and working to build strong relationships with them, leaders can build a more collaborative and harmonious work environment, where everyone is working towards a common goal. Team members feel valued and connected to the leader.
  • Builds Trust & Engagement with the Team - By involving team members in the decision-making process, democratic leaders can create a sense of ownership & accountability, and increase their followers’ motivation & commitment to achieving common goals.
  • Team cohesion - The focus on relationships fosters a positive and supportive atmosphere.
  • Reduce Stress & Burnout - that it reduces stress and burnout among followers as they are not constantly being micromanaged or directed by their leaders, alleviating tension, leading to increased job satisfaction, work-life balance and motivation, and can help to retain high-performing employees.


There are also some potential drawbacks to the affiliative approach:

  • Mediocrity Acceptance - Performance issues might be overlooked to maintain harmony.
  • Goal Alignment Challenges - Prioritizing relationships could lead to misaligned goals.
  • Task accomplishment lag - The emphasis on relationships might delay task completion.

Additionally, affiliative leaders’ focus on rules and procedures can be seen as bureaucratic and stifling, resulting in low morale and a lack of creativity & innovation as followers are less likely to take risks or propose new ideas.

Whether the pros of the bureaucratic approach outweigh the cons will depend entirely on the particular situation and the needs of the organization and its followers.

Leadership Styles

Pacesetting leadership (Pacesetting – move aside I’ll do it myself)

The Pacesetting leadership style is characterized by leaders who sets high- performance standards and expects their team members to follow their example. They are the type of leaders to say “move aside - I’ll do it myself” and expect you to follow their lead.


There are a couple of major advantages of the Pacesetting leadership approach:

  • High Performance - This style can drive exceptional results through setting a strong example.
  • Efficiency - Focus on performance can lead to streamlined processes.
  • Initiative - Team members are encouraged to take ownership of their work.


However, there are also some potential drawbacks to the Laissez-Faire approach:

  • Burnout risk - Continuous high expectations might lead to burnout among team members.
  • Demotivation - Team members who can’t keep up might become discouraged.
  • Lack of Coaching - Development and guidance might be neglected in favor of immediate results.

Leadership Styles

Coaching Leadership

The Coaching Leadership style is characterized by leaders focusing on developing team members’ skills and abilities. This approach involves providing guidance, feedback, and support to help individuals reach their potential.


There are a couple of major advantages of the Coaching Leadership approach:

  • Skill Enhancement - Team members receive personalized guidance to improve their capabilities.
  • Employee Growth - This style contributes to individual and team development.
  • Long-term Focus - Building skills and capacities can lead to sustained success.


  • Time-intensive - Coaching requires substantial time and effort from the leader.
  • Short-term Sacrifices - Skill development might slow down immediate task completion.
  • Resistance - Not all team members might be receptive to coaching.

Whether the pros of the coaching leadership style outweigh the cons will depend on the particular situation and needs of the organization and its followers and understanding the strengths and limitations and context to maximize its benefits and minimize its drawbacks.

How to Practice Your Leadership Style

Practicing and developing your own unique leadership style involves developing a deeper understanding of your own strengths & weaknesses, and continuously refining & adapting your approach to achieve the best possible personal results. Below are some tips on how to practice and develop your personal leadership style:


You need to take time to reflect on your leadership style. Think about what’s working well and what can be improved. Ask for honest feedback from your followers & colleagues to gain a broader perspective on your leadership approach and where you need to improve.

Set Goals

It’s critical to take the time to identify the specific goals & objectives you want to achieve and develop a plan for how you can achieve these goals. Developing this plan will help you stay focused and measure your progress over time.

Practice Active Listening

The most effective leaders are great listeners. By actively listening to your followers and colleagues, you can better understand their perspectives, needs, and concerns, and respond in a way that is supportive and effective.

Be Open to Feedback

Encourage your followers to provide constructive, honest feedback on your leadership style, and most importantly - be open to hearing what they have to say. Use this feedback to improve and refine your approach.

Continuously Learn & Adapt

Leadership is a continuous learning process. Stay up-to-date on the latest trends and best practices in leadership, and be willing to try new approaches and adapt your style as needed.

By consistently reflecting on, practicing & refining your leadership style, you can become a more effective leader, and create a work environment that is supportive, productive, and motivating for your followers.

Leadership Styles

What is the Most Effective Leadership Style?

There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

What will be the most effective leadership style will vary and depend entirely on the organizations unique situation, team, goals and resources, etc. Different leadership styles can be effective in different circumstances.

For example: an authoritarian or directive style may be effective in a crisis situation where quick decisions are needed, while a more participative or democratic style may be more effective in building consensus & commitment among team members.

Ultimately, the most effective leadership styles balance the needs of the team and the organization’s unique challenges.

The most effective leaders demonstrate situational leadership and use a combination of different leadership styles and switch between them as needed to achieve the goals, objectives & desired results of the organization.

Leadership Styles

What is Your Leadership Style?

With so many styles of management and leadership - what is your natural inherent leadership style?

Leadership Style Assessment

As a CEO or leader, it’s critical that you understand your leadership style and the impact it can have on employees. Understanding your own unique style of leadership can be the difference between success and failure for your team because, after all, you are responsible for setting the tone of an organization — from motivating and driving innovation to lead by example.

That being said, it can be difficult to understand what kind of leader you truly are without some outside guidance.

As a leader, how do you determine what kind of leader you are? How do you evaluate your own unique leadership skills? A leadership style assessment.

A leadership style assessment is one tool that many executives have used to gain insights into their preferred way of leading teams, motivating people, and making decisions.

A leadership assessment can provide key insights into specific traits — such as adaptability and communication ability — which will help you create the ideal environment for employee success and organizational growth.

By focusing on both individual strengths and development areas, a leadership assessment can help pinpoint areas where improvements need to be made in order to gain better results from team members.

Why Is it Important to Understand Your Leadership Style?

At some point or another, it’s likely every executive has faced a situation where their regular approach didn’t work out as they’d hoped and found themselves searching for an alternative.

As an executive, it’s important to understand your own personal leadership style and how it impacts others.

Leading and motivating your team is absolutely essential to creating a winning workplace culture, and your own natural leadership style may not be what your team needs - so when it comes to leading a team, simply having the right skills isn’t enough; understanding when and how your personal approach needs to adjust to best suit the needs of your team is key.

By getting in tune with what motivates your team members individually and collectively, you can put yourself in a better position to yield the best results from your team and deliver successful outcomes more consistently.

Leadership Styles

How to Choose the Right Leadership Style for You

Choosing the right leadership style to utilize depends on a variety of factors. Some considerations that can help leaders determine the most appropriate leadership style are:


Different situations require different approaches. In a crisis situation, autocratic leadership may be more effective in ensuring quick decisions are made. In a more stable environment, a democratic leadership style may be more appropriate to foster collaboration & buy-in from followers.


The characteristics and needs of the people play an important role in determining the best leadership style. Say the followers are highly skilled and experienced, a more laissez-faire style may be effective. However, if followers are less experienced, a more directive approach may be needed to achieve the same outcome.


The goals of the organization play a major role in determining the right leadership style to be implemented. If the goal is to develop & inspire people, a transformational leadership style is more appropriate than an autocratic style. If the goal is to maintain stability and order - bureaucratic leadership may be the way to go.

Ultimately, the most effective & influential leaders understand how to adjust their approach depending on the needs of each situation and its people. An agile and adaptive leadership style is the hallmark of a great leader. By being flexible, responsive & truly leading their people - leaders will be able to create an environment that drives growth & success.

Leadership Styles

Can You Change Your Leadership Style?

As an executive, leading a team is one of the most important tasks you will ever take on.

It’s not only critical that you are able to determine and adjust your individual leadership style to best fit the needs of your team and each individual team member, but also truly understand what it takes to bring out the best in each person and make them feel valued.

It is indeed possible for you to change your leadership style. By understanding your team’s needs and your own personal leadership style, with a little practice, you can certainly change your leadership style to better accommodate the needs of your team members.

Becoming a Better Leader

Becoming a better leader requires self-awareness and a dedication to lifelong learning. Updating & practicing to improve your leadership skills is essential in today’s rapidly evolving workplace environments.

Fortunately, there are many resources available to help you improve your leadership skills.

Coaching leadership teams is key to building a strong bench full of all-star, future visionary leaders.

Whether you are a natural commanding leader, authoritative leader, democratic leader, affiliative leader, pacesetting leader, or coaching leader, if you want to learn more about becoming a better, more well-rounded leader with coaching focused on your specific situational responsibilities, Contact us Today. We would be happy to discuss our leadership development programs with you and answer any questions you have.

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