Home Career The 7 Key Leadership Styles and How to Find Your Own

The 7 Key Leadership Styles and How to Find Your Own

by Joy Pitts
Executive Coaching Sydney

As leaders, there are many different approaches to leadership that can be used in the workplace. At first glance, some of these styles may seem more effective than others. However the truth is that each one has its own benefits and can be taken advantage of in different situations.

A great leader will not only know what their primary or preferred leadership style is, but they’ll also know when to dip into other techniques when appropriate. This list will help you to understand the ins and outs of these different styles, and allow you to be the most well-rounded leader you can be.

Autocratic style

An autocratic leader tends to hear their own voice over everyone else and puts little value into their team’s input. They generally make decisions on their own and expect everyone else to simply fall in line.

This leadership style is dated and is now widely thought to be ineffective and even demeaning. While it used to be normalised and begrudgingly accepted by employees, most people today wouldn’t stand for it and it would be an unsuccessful approach to leadership.

However, that’s not to say that it can’t be appropriate in certain situations, perhaps if you’re being forced to make a tough decision on the spot. This type of scenario should only arise occasionally.

Authoritative style

In a way, an authoritative leader is like a softer, modern version of an autocratic leader. While they are confident in their approach and have clear expectations and plans for their team, they also take the time to explain their thinking and engage with those around them.

They also allow for input and are open to other people’s ideas, and offer guidance to those who may feel overwhelmed or uncertain. A recent study showed that 57% of Australians prefer a workplace that balances strong leadership with an emphasis on team participation, reflecting the popularity of the authoritative style.

Pacesetting style

This style represents a highly motivated leader who is always at 110% and expects the same from their team members. They set the bar high and push their team to extremes in order to achieve results fast.

Although this approach can be effective in maintaining productivity, it can also be detrimental in the long run. It can lead to team members feeling burnt out and stressed, which can decrease the quality of their work and negatively impact their lives outside of work.

The pacesetting style can be used in high-pressure situations or with like-minded small teams, but should only be used in the short-term. Constantly demanding so much from your team members can lead to a high staff turnover rate and low morale.

Democratic style

Democratic leaders are very open with their team members and share any information with them that may affect their workday. They seek out their team’s opinion and take it into consideration before making any major decisions.

This leadership style is always a popular one and promotes trust and cooperation within the workplace. The more valued and respected a team member feels the more value and respect they will have for both their leader and their job, making the democratic style highly efficient.

Coaching style

A leader who uses the coaching style wants their team members to be the best they can be, and is always looking for ways to further unlock their team’s potential.

Leaders who utilise the coaching style foster an environment of constant improvement and confidence within the workplace. Having your team know that you believe in them and their talent can be very powerful and is great for morale.

Affiliative style

An affiliative leader is very involved with their team members and provides a significant amount of emotional support to them. They aim to create an honest and open workplace that respects everyone’s needs and goals.

This style is great for creating a harmonious work environment with a strong focus on teamwork and collaboration. It is especially useful during busy, stressful periods or when a conflict between co-workers needs to be resolved.

Laissez-Faire style

The laissez-faire approach to leadership sees the least amount of oversight, with team members mostly being left to their own devices and trusted to get the job done on their own.

While on one hand this approach could be seen as trusting and progressive, it can also give the impression of laziness or aloofness. While no one wants to be micromanaged, it’s important that your team has guidance and understands how to work towards the goals of the company.

That’s not to say that this style can’t still be effective if you have a strong, motivated and proactive team. However, you should always make sure you are regularly monitoring team performance and providing feedback, good or bad.

Developing leadership skills for women

Choosing your approach

Once you have an in-depth knowledge of the different leadership styles, it’s up to you to decide which is the best approach for your workplace. Developing your signature style while maintaining the ability to tap into different techniques will help you become a well-rounded and respected leader.

Executive coaching is also available for leaders who are committed to changing for the better and taking this process seriously. Executive coaching for women is also a popular option due to the unique problems women continue to face in the workplace.

Understanding the different styles

Study the 7 core leadership styles and think about the different ways you could use them. Take into consideration your team, your workplace, and your company goals. These factors should impact the approach you take and how you go about implementing these leadership styles.

Reflect on yourself

Be honest with yourself and reflect on what kind of leadership style you’ve used up until this point. Don’t be afraid to reach out to some of your colleagues for their opinions and feedback on your strengths and weaknesses.


Practice makes perfect, so start exploring different leadership styles and see what works in what situations. This may be a case of trial and error, and you could possibly make a few blunders along the way.

Don’t let this discourage you, as in the long run it will make you a better, more successful leader. Just make sure you remain authentic and believe in what you’re doing.

Don’t get complacent

Once you feel like you’ve perfected your leadership style, don’t stop there. Always be on the lookout for ways to improve and grow, especially in the face of new challenges.

Teams are ever-changing and evolving, and so are the expectations of their leaders. Keep yourself accountable and don’t be afraid to revisit this process if necessary.