While the qualities of a good leader can be fairly consistent, there are a multitude of different ways to apply those qualities. For example, you may care about your employees and want to protect them, but how you protect them could differ. Leaders using one style may dictate that something is no longer allowed and ban anyone from doing it. On the other hand, others may sit down with their team and explain why they shouldn’t do something, and others may choose to ignore it as they trust their team wouldn’t do it anyway. All 3 care for their team, but the manner in which they go about protecting them differs greatly. Truly great leaders understand that all 3 of the above approaches may be needed in different circumstances. Adaptability and flexibility based on the circumstances are key.

Autocratic Leadership

This may surprise some, but there are times when acting like an all-powerful dictator can be a good thing for your team and business. Don’t get me wrong, if you behave like this all of the time, you are going to be an absolutely awful leader who will have high attrition among staff. But there are times when it is a necessity. Those times are usually in a crisis or when there is a severe time constraint by which a decision has to be made. But in the modern world, that is pretty much the only time top down leadership is accepted without question.

Anyone who has been in the military knows that one of the most fatal mistakes from a leader in crisis can be delay or indecision. Hold your ground, push forward or retreat a decision needs to be made, because if you stand around and spend a few hours discussing it, everyone dies. However, this style should be used at an absolute minimum as it will cause staff to hate the leader. Its fine to use it in an emergency as most people are looking for someone to take charge. But if that same military leader was giving orders about how to put their socks on and eat breakfast there will be a revolt.

Consultative Leadership

A consultative leader still takes ownership and accountability for the decisions but engages in two-way dialogue with their team. Before a decision is made, they will often have a discussion with their team to see what everyone thinks and understand the ideas they may have. Its key benefits are that it can engage and involve employees and make them feel like their voice is heard. After all, the leader is showing that they trust and value their opinions.

It’s also a key sign that the leader has confidence in the team and their abilities and doesn’t need to rule them with an iron fist. As long as they get the required results, it doesn’t matter what methods are used. The downside is usually that it can delay the implementation of changes and generally slows down the decision-making process. This isn’t always a bad thing, as it means that everyone is bought in to the overall goal, but when a quick decision is needed, it can be a problem. 

Persuasive Leadership

A persuasive leadership style can be quite similar to an autocratic style in that it is one central leader that holds the power and makes the decisions. The key difference though, is that in an autocratic style people are rewarded or punished based on whether or not they did what they were told. A persuasive style does not rely on this same “do this or else” mantra. Instead a persuasive leader will take the time to take questions from the team and persuade them that it’s the right course of action.

This kind of leader is typically humble, hard working and confident. They will lead from the front and do the work themselves and set the example of what needs to be done. There are two big downsides to this though. The first is that the leader often ends up spending more time doing the job, than actually leading. The second is that they can often lose credibility when a bad decision has been made. Think about all of those leaders who sit there and try and tell you that something you know is not good, was actually an amazing idea. Those are persuasive leaders.

Participative Leadership

The final style of leadership is what is known as participative leadership. This style of leadership allows for authority and decision making to be spread throughout the organization. This type of leadership provides complete empowerment to employees and makes them feel they are actively contributing to the company. It allows for employees to be motivated because they want to achieve, essentially internally motivated and not externally motivated. This type of leadership is extremely common in high performing organizations where intellectual capability is required.  The downside to this style comes when leadership abdicate responsibility for outcomes. If you let everyone essentially decide and do what they want all the time without a central joined up strategy, the company will end up directionless and without purpose.