15 Types of Leadership – Apply the Best One

No matter if you are leading thousands of people or none, leadership skills are required in every stage of life. However, you must pick the appropriate types of leadership styles depending on the situation, environment, and people you are leading. There are several types of leadership styles. In this article, we have listed the top 15 common leadership styles and when to apply each of them. Read now, and apply the best one that fits your situation.

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Top 15 Common Types of Leadership

There are several leadership styles. We have listed the top 15 common types of leadership styles in this article. Below is a summary table showing each leadership, and common characteristics of that leadership style.

Types of Leadership Style
Transformational Leadership A model of integrity and fairness. Encourages people. Ensures people look beyond their self-interest.
Servant Leadership Focusing on people’s needs before thinking about yourself.
Autocratic Leadership Leaders or managers have full control and authority to make all decisions with limited input or participation from the team members or others.
Laissez-Faire Leadership Laissez-faire leaders do not step in; they create the environment for maximum participation, and let the people make many of the decisions.
Transactional Leadership Supports that people are doing things only in exchange for material benefits.
Charismatic Leadership Affects people by persuasiveness, emotions, or charm that others find compelling.
Participative Leadership Allows group discussion in decision-making processes, evaluating different ideas and perspectives, and looking for a consensus and team buy-in.
Bureaucratic Leadership Forces people to follow rules, standards, and policies.
Situational Leadership Applies four different styles of leadership depending on the maturity of the follower and environment.
Emerging Leadership Growing young leaders and building tomorrow’s leaders.
Global Leadership Growing cross-cultural leading experience and improving skills to work in diverse environments.
Authentic Leadership Inspiring people through trust and integrity.
Ethical Leadership Doing the right things no matter the situation and conditions even if it will cause the company to lose money.
HR Leadership Creating human resources management strategies such as how to acquire talents, how to develop talents, how to improve motivation and commitment in the workplace, and how to minimize staff turnover.
Solopreneurship Initiating and growing an organization alone until a certain stage.

The first step for defining leadership is looking at the dictionary. The dictionary defines leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization, the state or position of being a leader, or the leaders of an organization, country, etc.

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However, the word “leadership” refers to different types of leadership images in people’s minds. For example: a political leader tries to accomplish a passionate, personal cause, an explorer removes the roadblocks in a jungle for the followers to go through, or an executive or global leader develops strategies to win the market.

Leaders’ mission is to ensure themselves and their followers do the right things. Leaders set goals, inspire their followers, and help them through the way to reach the goals. While leaders set goals, they have to be flexible and use their team leadership skills to guide the followers in the right direction.

Leaders should be agile and adaptive to follow the fast-paced business environment. Business conditions may change rapidly. So, leaders must be agile, easy to apply different types of leadership styles, and flexible and able to adapt to changing conditions. Agility refers to the ability to think and understand quickly. Adaptability refers to the quality of being able to adjust to new conditions and flexibility refers to adapting to changing circumstances and expectations of the workplace.

Watch “Types of Leadership” YouTube Playlist

We have a five-video playlist on YouTube defining top 5 types of leadership styles. Watch now.

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Now, let’s define each leadership style one by one.

Types of Leadership #1- Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership term was first brought by the Leadership expert James MacGregor Burns in his book “Leadership” in 1978. Mac Gregor focused on defining leadership particularly transformational leadership in his book. Since then, this concept evolved and become one of the most phenomenal leadership styles adopted by leaders around the globe.

Transformational leaders are a model of integrity and fairness. In these types of leadership, leaders set clear goals for their teams and also they have high expectations. Transformational leadership encourages others and provides support and recognition. Transformational leaders get people to look beyond their self-interest.

You can read more in our transformational leadership article.

Types of Leadership #2- Servant Leadership

First, Robert K. Greenleaf coined the phrase “servant leadership” in his 1970 essay, “The Servant as a Leader”. However, it’s an approach that people have used for centuries.

As a servant leader, you’re a “servant first” – before thinking of yourself, you focus on the needs of others, especially team members. In these types of leadership, you are aware of other people’s self-interests, give them the assistance they need to meet their business and personal goals, include them in decisions where appropriate, and build a sense of community within your team. This results in higher engagement, more integrity, and better relationships with team members and other stakeholders. It can also lead to increased innovation.

Nelson Mandela, Jack Welch, and Ken Blanchard are famous servant leaders. You can read more in our Servant Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #3- Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership, also known as authoritarian leadership, is a leadership style where leaders or managers have full control and authority to make all decisions with limited input or participation from the team members or others. Autocratic leaders make decisions on their own using their intuition, experience, moral values, and insights. They take no input or limited input from the others.

Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Napoleon Bonaparte are famous autocratic leaders. You can read more in our Autocratic Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #4- Laissez-Faire Leadership

The term “laissez-faire” is French for “leave it be” and it exactly fits with the style of leadership. The laissez-faire leadership style was first coined by Kurt Lewin in the 1930s. He developed a framework based on a leader’s behavior.

Laissez-faire (Delegative) leaders do not step in; they create the environment for maximum participation, and let the people make many of the decisions. This type of leadership style works when there are competent resources in the team, people are motiva,ted and require minimum supervision.

Delegative or laissez-faire leadership is a very hands-off management approach. When you use this style, you allow team members to set their own goals and deadlines, and you let them determine how to do their work.

Steve Jobs, Warren Buffet and John F. Kennedy are famous laissez-faire leaders. You can read more in our Laissez-Faire Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #5- Transactional Leadership

The transactional leadership style is all about motivating people with rewards and punishment. This management theory defines leadership as people doing things only in exchange for material benefits. There are seven characteristics of this leadership style such as rewards and penalties, realizing short-term goals, resistance to change, favoring hierarchy, and micromanagement. Three examples where transactional leadership can be applied are sales teams, operational teams, and real estate brokerage teams.

The top benefits of transactional leadership are maintaining the status quo, supporting repetitive work, being cost-effective, realizing short-term goals, and fostering quick resolution under crises and problems. The top flaws of this leadership style are hindering creativity and innovation, limiting relationship building, blocking personal initiatives, creating high pressure and stress, and high staff turnover.

Bill Gates and Howard Shultz are two famous transactional leaders. You can read more in our Transactional Leadership article.

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Leadership Style #6- Charismatic Leadership

Charismatic leadership affects people by persuasiveness, emotions, or charm that others find compelling. Charismatic leaders affect people with their leadership skills and encourage and motivate them toward reaching a goal. There are several traits of charismatic leadership. We have listed the top 11 traits in this article.

Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, and Winston Churchill are just a few to name from famous charismatic leaders. In these types of leadership, a charismatic leader motivates people without material rewards, fosters teamwork, and can influence several people. However, there are flaws in this leadership style as well. Charismatic leadership focuses on the self-interests and ambitions of the leader rather than individuals and charismatic leaders are believers in their own ideas rather than accepting different ideas. Another disadvantage is, that charismatic leaders have a very strong personality that may suppress other leaders to grow in their periphery.

You can read more in our Charismatic Leadership article.

Leadership Style #7- Participative Leadership

The participative leadership style allows group discussion in decision-making processes, evaluating different ideas and perspectives, and looking for a consensus and team buy-in. This increases morale, motivation, and performance as the team members feel their ideas are important. Also, creative and innovative ideas emerge under participative leadership.

Participative leadership can be applied when there is no high pressure when deadlines are not critical, and if the team is experienced. Some examples of where these types of leadership are suitable are universities, technology companies, and creative agencies. If there are tight deadlines, if there is an emergency, or if the tasks are operational, a participative leadership style is not appropriate.

Benefits of the participative leadership are employee retention, higher morale, and creativity. Flaws are a slower decision-making process, inapplicable in inexperienced teams, and leadership existence may be questioned.

Bill Gates and Jim Lents are famous participative leaders to name a few from several famous leaders believing in participative leadership. You can read more in our Participative Leadership article.

Leadership Style #8- Bureaucratic Leadership

Bureaucratic leadership is a management style that forces people to follow rules, standards, and policies. This leadership style is very similar to autocratic leadership where the leader makes a decision, and all members have to follow.

The top three benefits of this leadership style are stability and sustainability, clear roles and responsibilities, and smooth working through processes and regulations. In these types of leadership, the top three flaws are limited creativity and innovation, limited personal growth, and resistance to change.

McDonald’s management under Steve Easterbrook’s management, Japanese National Railroads management under Shinji Sogo, and International Telephone and Telegraph (ITT) Corporation’s management under Harold Geneen are examples defining the leadership style of bureaucratic leadership. You can read more in our Bureaucratic Leadership article.

Leadership Style #9- Situational Leadership

Hersey and Blanchard developed the Situational Leadership theory in the 1970s. Since then, their theory defining leadership has been widely adopted by several leaders focusing on short-term goals.

The situational leadership theory focuses on four different types of behaviors, Directing (S1), Coaching (S2), Supporting (S3), and Delegating (S4). In these types of leadership, the model supports different styles for different maturity and performance levels as well. If the resources are less experienced and there are tight deadlines, a Directing (S1) type of leadership is suitable. If the resources are experienced and motivated, if the work requires creativity and innovation, a Delegating (S4) type of leadership is more suitable.

Situational leadership best works when there are different levels of experience and motivation in the group. Steve Jobs, Eisenhower, and Collin Powell are known as famous situational leaders. They are also global leaders.

You can read more in our Situational Leadership article.

Leadership Style #10- Emerging Leadership

Although it is not categorized as a leadership style of behavior, it is important to refer to emerging leadership when going through types of leadership as well. Educational institutions, professional communities, or councils aim to gather promising future leaders and create a diverse group of attendees. The main purpose of an emerging leaders program is to grow the team leadership skills of the participants and help them to better lead their resources in their organizations.

Typically, attendees of an emerging leaders program have five to ten years of professional experience. In some programs, certain years of professional experience is a strict requirement while some other programs recommend having a few years of professional experience.

You can read more in our Emerging Leaders Program article.

Types of Leadership #11- Global Leadership

Globality requires working with different cultures and many big organizations have offices around the globe. With technology and advancing technologies, distances are shorter, barriers are lower and this enables us to find the optimum workforces around the world for organizations. Global leadership comes into play when there is a diverse environment and if people are coming from different cultures in a workplace. Global leaders are enhancing the cross-cultural leadership experience and improving their skills to work in diverse environments.

You can read more in our Global Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #12 – Authentic Leadership

Leadership today is very different from leadership in previous generations. The top-down approach in management is old school. No one wants to work in such an environment anymore. Values, mission, and how the individual’s interest matches with them are much more important in today’s leadership compared to the past. Individuals expect to feel as if their work matters for the organization and they would like to feel special and authentic leadership plays an important role here.

Authentic leadership creates a strong bond between leadership and team members through integrity, trust, and open communication. In these types of leadership styles, authentic leaders are easily approachable, willing to be open about the issues, frequently communicate with the team, and inform the team transparently.

You can read more in our Authentic Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #13- Ethical Leadership

Ethical leadership is doing the right things no matter the situation and conditions even if it will cause the company to lose money. Several scandals even in Fortune 500 companies like the Volkswagen emission cheat, Facebook’s Cambridge Analytica scandal, and controversies about Uber increased the importance of ethical leadership even more than before.

Volkswagen, Facebook, and Uber are just a few examples of several ethical scandals. These types of leadership, poor and unethical, examples show that when people are at powerful levels, they can be greedy, and make poor ethical choices even if it will cause their companies or even themselves to end up in court.

For ethical leaders, doing the right thing and common moral values are at the top of everything else. Ethical leadership requires being fair, and showing integrity and trust. Ethics is at the bottom of the leadership behavior of ethical leaders. Ethical leaders do the right thing even if it will cause financial losses to their organization. Research shows that ethical leadership makes it more likely that the teams will be loyal, dedicated, and ethical, in return.

You can read more in our Ethical Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #14 – HR Leadership

Human resources is a critical department in an organization. Depending on the size of the organization, the size of the Human resources department varies. For a startup that has a few employees, typically, human resources functions are done by an individual performing other functions or outsourced to a freelancer. For conglomerates, big companies, or multinational companies, the size of the Human resources department will be relatively big as well.

HR leadership is the leaders or managers creating human resources management strategies such as how to acquire talents, how to develop talents, how to improve motivation and commitment in the workplace, and how to minimize staff turnover. The workforce of an organization is its strategic competence. The better the staff, the better outputs will be produced and the organization will succeed. Therefore, HR leadership and their practices play a vital role in the success of the organization.

Read more in our HR Leadership article.

Types of Leadership #15 – Solopreneurship

Solopreneur is a term derived by combining “solo” which means done by one person alone; unaccompanied, and “preneur”, a french word that means “taker”. Actually, “preneur” is derived from the word entrepreneur.

Solopreneurs are entrepreneurs initiating a company and growing it alone until a certain stage. They perform various tasks since they are the owner and only workforce of their business. Some of the functions performed by the solopreneurs are financial management, operations, IT, content creation, marketing, and sales.

Apple started in Steve Jobs’s garage, Amazon started in Jeff Bezos’ garage, and Facebook started in a student dormitory. All have started alone and grew until a stage alone. Even if you are alone, leadership skills are important and crucial for a business’s success.

Read more in our Solopreneur Guide: 5 Irrefutable Tips to Grow Your Business Alone article.

You might be interested in reading the Blake Mouton Leadership Model as well.


There are different types of leadership styles and we have gone through the top 15 common types of leadership in this article. Each has its own benefits and flaws. No one is actually superior to another. Depending on the situation, the experience of the people, the culture, and the environment, leaders should pick the best types of leadership styles that suit them. In most of the cases, the best leaders apply several types of leadership styles depending on the situation.

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