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What are the Styles of Leadership?
Since the beginning of the 20th century behavior scientists have made a concerted effort to research the workings of organizations of all types. One aim of their research has been to gain a deeper understanding of the role of leadership within organizations. Over the course of their studies, organizational scholars and leadership practitioners identified a number of leadership styles. This hub presents brief discussions of some of the leadership styles identified from the 1930s to 2012. The leadership styles that will be discussed in this article include:
- Authoritarian Autocratic
- Laissez faire
- Servant leadership
Authoritarian Autocratic Leadership
Kurt Lewin has been regarded as a pioneer in social, organizational, and applied psychology. In his studies of organizations, Lewin observed and described three management-leadership styles including authoritarian, democratic, and laissez faire. Authoritarian leadership can be characterized as a strictly autocratic, top-down leadership style wherein the leader dictates policy and work assignments without regard to the needs or ideas of the follower-subordinates. Authoritarian leadership involves maintaining absolute control over follower-subordinates.
The second leadership style identified by Lewin was democratic leadership; also described as participative leadership. Democratic leadership fosters an organizational climate that encourages follower-subordinates to participate in the formulation of policies, processes, and work assignments. Leaders and followers collaborate to make collective decisions about the direction of the organization.
The third leadership approach identified by Lewin was laissez-faire leadership. Organizational directors that adhere to a laissez-faire approach allow subordinates to determine all policies and procedures without participation from the leader. At best, laissez-faire leaders believe followers give their best when left alone.
Charisma in leaders was first discussed by Sociologist Max Weber. Weber observed that some people have such strong personalities that others assign them authority over them. Weber identified this personality trait as Charisma. Robert House (1976) expanded on Weber's ideas and defined charismatic leadership as the ability to gather followers through personality and charm rather than power ot authority. Charismatic leaders have such overpowering personalities that followers are compelled to unite for the accomplishment of a purpose beyond their natural interest or ability. One problem with this style is that followers seldom take personal ownership of the vision or goal. As such, the employee-subordinates lack intrinsic motivation to carry on the vision of the organization.
Situational leadership is a style that shifts approaches depending on the maturity level of followers. Organizational behavior researchers found that leaders spend their time between two general responsibilities - tasks and relationships. In relation to followers, Hersey and Blanchard (1969) posited that leaders relate to employees in varying degrees of the task-relationship continuum depending on the same employee's maturity and competency level. At the lowest level of maturity, the situational leader will use more task-oriented directive communication; at the highest level of maturity, the same department head will delegate responsibility to the follower.
Transactional leadership is an approach charactrerized by the assumption that people are motivated by reward and punishment. As such, the leader-follower relationship is based on contingent rewards. Transactional leaders tend to believe that social systems including the workplace operate most efficiently and effectively with a clear chain of command. To the transactional leader, the chief purpose of follower-subordinates is to carry out the orders of the manager.
Transformational leadership is a style that motivates follower-subordinates to positive change. Like charismatic leaders, transformational leader exude a quality that compels others to assign them authority. This type of leader brightens up the room whenever the enter it. They are passionate, enthusiastic, and energetic. Unlike charismatic leaders, transformational leaders inspire real change. Their employees not only jump on board; they take ownership of the vision and change their own way of thinking. Transformational leaders care not only for organizational needs and goals, but also take in to account the needs of subordinates. Albeit, the organizational objectives and goals are primary above the needs of the subordinates.
Although espoused and exemplified by historical and religious figures like Jesus of Nazareth, servant leadership is based on the writings of Robert Greenleaf (1970, 1977, 1998). Robert Greenleaf conceptualized the servant leadership style after reading a smal book called Journey to the East by Hermann Hesse. Greenleaf opined that modern organizations would work best if servants became leaders. That is, Greenleaf foresaw that a corporate director who espoused this style of leadership would see himself as a servant first and then as a leader. Moreover, Greenleaf described the servant leader as one who is follower-centered to the extent that the needs of the followers were given priority over the needs of the organization and the leader's own needs. Larry Spears, a colleague of Greenleaf, gleaned 10 characteristics of a servant leader including:
- Commitment to the growth of people
- Building community
Servant leadership may be the natural culmination of the evolutionary progression from strict command and control societies to free and fair societies that the world has witnessed from the time of the Renaissance and Reformation in the 15th and 16th centuries.