No one’s leadership philosophy is set in stone. For me, leadership, or the leadership style, always starts with the person himself. A person’s values, personality, goals, work experience, perspective, etc., lay the foundation for their personal leadership philosophy. As we evolve and change with age and work/life experience, so does how we experience and see leadership. Along the way, we all, each in our way, get influences from places like – home, school, colleagues, supervisors, different corporate cultures, books,  training courses, media, and from the rapidly changing world in general. Few people in their fifties think about leadership as they did in their twenties.

In my mind, different leadership styles reflect the values and perceptions of leadership, which then, on a practical level, manifest themselves as a particular way of acting and doing. No single leadership style is hardly ever predominant or used alone by anyone, but in practice, leadership is always a mixture of several different leadership styles. Behavioural scientists and researchers often go deeper into this subject to better understand how everything works because how leadership is implemented on the practical level depends not only on the leader himself but also on many other factors, both inside and outside the company.

However, here the starting point is only a general and superficial presentation of the most common leadership styles. In my opinion, the headers of the various leadership styles rather well  illuminate the content of the leadership style. Most people also tend to recognize the “nature” of the most common leadership styles by the very name, but few can list the leadership styles themselves and tell what they entail. When one sees a list of different leadership styles, it is also immediately apparent to the reader that there is no single only “right” leadership style but that different styles mainly describe different alternative leadership methods that, on the practical level, merge, with different people and in different situations in different ways.

Leadership styles also reflect values, things and actions that are considered important. Some leadership styles are entirely different, while others have so many similar elements that it is sometimes difficult to distinguish them from each other properly. However, classifying different leadership methods into “different styles” perhaps brings out more clearly the values, methods, themes, and focus areas of different leadership styles. This makes it easier to understand them and analyze their content, actions, and consequences than if the issues were dealt with under the same or just a few headings.

Each manager “combines” different leadership styles in accordance with their leadership philosophy. The manager is a bit like a chef who puts different spices in different soups according to his preferences, always aiming to achieve the best possible result.

When you want a quick overview of different leadership styles, e.g., a leader wanting to analyze their leadership, a list of the most common leadership styles, briefly describing how the leadership style works and its strengths and weaknesses is a good starting point. You can tentatively mirror your values and leadership ideas with the list. Everyone can search the internet for more detailed descriptions if needed, and numerous books go deeper into the topic.

Which management styles you get when searching for “the most common leadership styles” can vary depending on how you ask and who answers, but pretty much the same leadership styles are usually mentioned. The same applies to their content. When the same leadership styles are presented, the same things tend to be said, but they may be presented in slightly different ways and emphases, depending on the presenter. Different management styles are not absolute and unambiguous truths, but there are different views on them, just as on all other things. There are no countless leadership styles. The 16 leadership styles presented below cover the most common leadership styles well. If we increase the number of different styles, there is a risk that the styles will be broken down into too small parts. The list here is this long for illustrative purposes. One could perhaps manage equally well with a smaller number.

Since ChatGPT is so topical, I’m just out of curiosity using the list it made, which I’ve modified to reflect my opinion. Of course, I also checked the result from other sources, but no matter where you ask about it, you get the same list, more or less.

Below are 16 leadership styles in a nutshell

  1. Authoritarian leader: The leader makes all decisions without the input of others. Quick decision-making, clear chain of command, and efficient management of resources. It can be effective in emergencies or situations where quick action is needed, but also demotivating, lead to a lack of employee engagement and a high turnover. It can stress the manager, who must bear all the responsibility for the decision-making.
  2. Democratic leader: The leader makes decisions through consensus-building and listens to team members’ opinions before making a decision. This can promote synergies and a sense of ownership and collaboration among team members but can also be time-consuming and lead to slower decision-making. It may be difficult to reach a consensus.
  3. Laissez-faire leader: The leader gives team members great autonomy and delegates decision-making to the team. Can be effective in highly trained teams and increase autonomy and employee empowerment. May lead to confusion and loss of direction and guidance in less experienced teams.
  4. Transformational leader: The leader inspires and motivates team members to reach their full potential. Can lead to a high level of commitment, participation, and job satisfaction but also to too much dependence on the personality and charisma of the leader.
  5. Transactional Manager: The leader uses rewards and punishments to motivate team members. Management is based on processes and strict control. Clear expectations and accountability. Can be effective in short-term situations where immediate results are needed but can also lead to a deterioration and lack of creativity and innovation.
  6. Charismatic leader: The leader inspires and motivates team members with his personality and charisma. This can lead to high levels of employee motivation and be effective in situations where a strong leader is needed to assemble a team, but it can also lead to a cult around the leader that may reflect negatively on the action.
  7. Servant Leader: The leader prioritizes the needs of team members and their development. This can lead to increased team spirit, team morale and building trust, but also to indecision and loss of focus in the organization. May struggle with making difficult decisions and perceived as weak or indecisive.
  8. Coaching Leader: The leader focuses on advising, guiding, and helping team members to develop their skills and increase their self-awareness. This can create and improve collaboration and trust but may take a lot of time and require a high level of competence from the leader. May not focus enough on immediate results or bottom-line goals.
  9. Visionary leader: The leader creates an inspiring vision and inspires team members to implement it. This can give direction, foster a culture of innovation and creativity, and create enthusiasm and a sense of purposefulness. This can also lead to team members getting too caught up in a long-term vision that may not consider changing circumstances and is perhaps not realistic or feasible.
  10. Bureaucratic leader: The leader prioritizes and requires strict rules, policies and procedures, and relies on a formal approach to decision-making, delegation of tasks and communication. This can create consistency and predictability but also lead to a lack of innovation and adaptability. Decision-making can be slow, and leaders may be hesitant to make decisions. May not adapt fast enough to changing circumstances.
  11. Participatory leader: The leader involves and encourages team members to participate in decision-making and problem-solving. It can create a sense of ownership and collaboration and lead to increased employee engagement, but it can also lead to slow decision-making and a lack of accountability.
  12. Situational Leader: The leader adapts his leadership according to the situation and the team’s needs. It can be effective in complex and changing environments but requires great flexibility and adaptability from the leader. It may be difficult to implement consistently.
  13. Ethical leader: The leader prioritizes ethical values and principles in decision-making and behaviour. The leader leads by example, acts honestly, fairly and responsibly, and builds trust with his employees, customers and stakeholders through his behaviour. May require making difficult decisions that may not be popular with all stakeholders.
  14. Strategic leader: The leader focuses on developing and implementing a long-term strategic vision and priorities innovation, collaboration, and agility to ensure that the organization can adapt to changing circumstances. If the focus is too much on achieving long-term goals, there is a risk of pipe vision, in which case you may not see short-term opportunities or risks. Can also lead to neglect of daily activities.
  15. Relationship-oriented leader: The leader focuses on building relationships and creating a positive work environment. Can increase employee engagement, enhance team performance, and create a sense of companionship, but also lead to a situation where the line between subordinates and the leader is blurred and where there is not enough focus on achieving goals. The leader may be perceived as soft.
  16. Authentic leader. The leader emphasizes genuine, self-aware, and ethical leadership, is transparent and honest and prioritizes building trust with his employees and stakeholders. Requires high levels of self-awareness and takes time because it requires a lot of investment in personal development and self-assessment. May not be suitable, e.g. crisis situations that require more straightforward management.

When talking about leadership, the terms “manager” and “leader” are often mentioned, and which some consider their own leadership style, and, of course, one might think so too. However, in many of my discussions, the terms manager and leader have been viewed more as “leadership qualities” and not classed as leadership styles.

I think a manager is rational, emphasizes efficiency, goal setting, planning, organization, direction, and control of activities, ensures that the processes are in order and that everyone is working to achieve the goal. The manager is result-oriented, demanding and strives for clear written and verbal communication so that everyone understands what to do and gives positive and negative feedback.

I believe a leader seeks to inspire people to work towards a common goal and vision and can even be charismatic. A leader is good at motivating and helping people to become better. Is transparent, a good communicator, listens to others and is open to other people’s new thoughts and ideas.  A leader has good emotional intelligence, strives to build good interpersonal relationships and shares successes and failures with others.

In certain tasks and situations, you need to be more of a manager, and in others, more of a leader, but it is probably fair to say that every executive needs both manager and leader qualities in their work.

It is sometimes said that manager = issue-oriented and that leader = people-oriented. In my opinion, although both concepts have a lot in common, they are not identical. Issue-oriented and people-oriented can, e.g. also refer only to the person’s personality characteristics, not their leadership style.

Finally, here are two concluding comments:

The influence of different cultures on leadership styles is significant. The concepts and leadership styles presented in this article may mean very different things in different cultures. What is considered good leadership in one culture can be regarded as bad leadership in another.

No leadership style in itself makes anyone a good leader, and no leadership style per se is superior, but good leadership is always based on the leader himself. The leadership style is an externally visible manifestation of that person’s leadership.

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