The Pros & Cons of 10 Common Leadership Styles

March 15, 2024


Emily May

Whether you’re a veteran leader or just stepped into your first managerial role, a comprehensive understanding of various leadership styles–the good and the not-so-good–will serve you well.

The ability to pull from a wide range of approaches can act as your lifeline when developing a signature leadership style, adapting to organizational changes, identifying negative management patterns, and discovering new ways to promote safety, happiness, and productivity in your team.

This article explores the significance of leadership styles, the pros and cons of ten common approaches, and tips for developing your unique leadership personality.

What is a Leadership Style?

A leadership style is a leader's approach to motivating, organizing, and communicating with their team. It encompasses their attitude, behavior, and decision-making process, which heavily influences organizational culture and employee performance.

With many techniques to choose from, each with distinct characteristics, strengths, and weaknesses, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all leadership style–and no two leaders are the same.

Rather than choosing a lane and sticking to it, we recommend that leaders continue to learn about existing and emerging leadership styles to develop a well-rounded point of view.

Why Leadership Styles are Make-Or-Break in the Workplace

The way leaders choose to execute organizational procedures has a significant impact on both internal and external outcomes.

Bill Gates said, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.” When discussing leadership styles, the opportunity for excellence is ten-fold: an adaptable, effective leader can increase employee morale, engagement, productivity, and innovation–all positively contributing to the bottom line.

However, a mismatched management approach that proves incompatible with the organizational culture can have profound negative implications, including low employee motivation, team conflict, and high turnover rates.

Influential managers cultivate a strong sense of their roles as leaders while staying open to adapting their approach when necessary. In doing so, they lead individuals, teams, and organizations to success.

10 Common Styles of Management and Leadership

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1. Coaching

The coaching style is an approach that centers on the development and growth of each team member. To help employees reach their full potential, managers see themselves as coaches who guide and support teams through regular feedback, mentoring, and training.


In alignment with an agile mindset, the coaching leadership style promotes a culture of continuous learning and improvement. Opportunities to upskill and acquire new knowledge allow employers to play an active role in their team’s development and personal goals, leading to greater job satisfaction and productivity.

Moreover, employee-manager relationships in a coaching style are rooted in trust, respect, and loyalty. Regular open communication and collaboration foster a sense of feeling valued and empowered, increasing retention and happiness within their role.


Leaders who leverage coaching style must be willing to invest significant time and effort into their team members, such as providing ongoing guidance, monitoring progress, and consistently delivering constructive feedback. While this can be challenging with heavy workloads or when managing larger teams, it can be possible with a careful balance of time, resources, and organizational adoption.

2. Democratic

In a democratic leadership style, leaders collaborate with employees to make micro and macro business decisions. The team’s opinions and feedback are highly valued, creating a work environment emphasizing collaboration, teamwork, and open communication.


Democratic leaders seek to engage and empower their teams. With a stake in the decision process, employees feel a sense of ownership and responsibility toward business outcomes. Individual authority contributes to job satisfaction, increased morale, higher productivity, and innovative ideas.

The other major advantage of a democratic style is the trust that grows through regular communication streams and collaborative problem-solving. Communication barriers are nominal, and employees are comfortable expressing their thoughts and ideas.


Making business decisions can prove complex with many cooks in the kitchen. Gathering and considering feedback from all viewpoints is a lengthy process that can impede an organization’s ability to adapt quickly. However, with the proper knowledge and tools, managers can keep decisions moving effectively along checkpoints despite generous input.

Secondly, the democratic style can make reaching a consensus more challenging due to multiple perspectives, leading to a lack of direction and focus.

3. Transformational

graphic of people transforming an idea

A transformational leadership style inspires and motivates teams to work together toward organizational goals. These leaders aim to foster a positive work environment that supplies the ideal conditions for productivity, bringing the business closer to achieving identified objectives.


Transformational leaders are curious about their team members' strengths and weaknesses and find ways of working that are advantageous to their unique needs. Their guidance and support enhance employee morale and job satisfaction.

Furthermore, this leadership style promotes creativity and innovation, empowering employees to contribute their ideas and problem-solving skills.


One potential con is that transformational leadership heavily relies on a leader's time and skills. To effectively motivate their teams, transformational leaders need to invest in the ongoing mentorship of employees and develop effective ways to inspire them.

4. Autocratic

In an autocratic style workplace, managers make all decisions, exercising total control over the team and organizational operations. This approach can be described as dictatorial, as managers do not seek feedback or input from the rest of the team in most matters.


Decision-making is quick and efficient, with limited voices involved in the process. In an autocratic system, managers refrain from consulting or collaborating with the rest of the team, expediting the process.


Due to the lack of collaboration and mentorship between employees and their higher-ups, this management style has several disadvantages that can result in low morale. An autocratic leader may become overburdened with decision-making and delegating tasks, leading to potential burnout and increased stress levels.

Without the ability to weigh in on critical decisions, employees don’t feel valued for their perspectives, leading to reduced motivation, engagement, and work satisfaction. Additionally, the lack of collaborative brainstorming shuts the door to the sharing of creative ideas, impacting overall organizational innovation.

5. Transactional

A transactional leadership style is a form of management that is fixed in rewards and punishments. Based on clearly defined goals, the leader provides rewards such as bonuses or promotions for meeting or exceeding expectations and punishments such as a demotion for failing to meet expectations–similar to a contractual relationship.


Some professionals may find improved motivation and performance when working toward defined expectations and rewards.


While tracking metrics can help reach company goals, the transactional management style has significant limitations. The leadership style doesn’t foster an environment of creativity or innovation and solely relies on adherence to predefined goals and processes. Performance as the main focal point can result in an exceedingly competitive environment, with a lack of collaboration among the team, widespread burnout, and overall dissatisfaction.

What’s more, a transactional culture is not ideal for organizational adaptation due to the lack of long-term development and collaborative problem-solving, causing businesses to fall behind their competitors.

6. Bureaucratic

In a bureaucratic organization, leadership is based on rules, procedures, and established hierarchical structures. The bureaucratic style was popularized by Max Weber, a German sociologist, who believed in the efficiency and rationality of a system grounded in stability and predictability.


The defined hierarchy and roles clearly delineate tasks and responsibilities, promoting orderly organizational processes.

Secondly, because team members are assigned projects based on expertise, this results in high specialization and efficiency across the organization.


One major drawback to the design of a bureaucratic system is the excessive ‘red tape’ that can often maintain the status quo. Leaders and teams need to push through multiple layers of approval that prevent quick decision-making and overall organizational progress and adaptability.

Consequently, the extensive procedures may result in a lack of employee autonomy and confidence, impacting workplace sentiment and motivation.

7. Laissez-Faire

cartoon of laissez faire style leadership

Unlike a hierarchical system requiring repetitive approval, a laissez-faire leadership style is a hands-off approach. Organization leaders provide minimal direction to internal teams, allowing employees to make most decisions independently. With minimal interference from their higher-ups, team members have abundant autonomy and freedom.


Given the high level of employee independence within a laissez-faire organization, teams can easily contribute new creative ideas, boosting business innovation and competitiveness in the market.

The self-governance of each team member gives rise to engagement and a positive outlook on their role and abilities.


A lack of structure and guidance is a cardinal weakness of the laissez-faire leadership style. Because employees make decisions, problem-solve, and establish processes independently, confusion and uncertainty can become commonplace–leading to decreased productivity, collaboration, and efficiency.

Additionally, the absence of strong leadership can lead to a lack of discipline within the organization. Employees may not feel responsible for their actions and projects due to minimal team oversight, leading to a lack of accountability and control.

8. Servant Leadership

As a servant leader, your number one priority is serving the team. This leadership style prioritizes team members' needs and growth, with managers aiming to support and empower their employees above all else.


Servant leaders prioritize the well-being and development of their employees, cultivating a positive work environment and psychological safety. As trust and loyalty build within the team, organizations can see benefits in employee morale, motivation, and productivity.

Another positive aspect of servant leadership is growing team members into leaders by encouraging a culture of healthy challenge and growth.


It can be challenging to balance meeting employees' needs and achieving organizational goals. Servant leadership requires a delicate balance between fostering a supportive work environment and making unpopular but necessary changes.

9. Charismatic

cartoon of charismatic style leadership

A charismatic leadership style is an approach that relies on a leader’s ability to create enthusiasm, motivation, and a sense of purpose within the organization. This type of leader leverages their personality and excellent communication skills to persuade, influence, and inspire their team.


Charismatic leaders have the ability to create a strong organizational vision and gain buy-in from their team. They promote employee engagement and commitment by rallying their team to support shared goals and objectives.

Another advantage is elevating trust and loyalty. Charismatic leaders are often seen as role models who care for their team members.


Nevertheless, a concern with charismatic leadership is the potential for the leader’s point of view to overshadow organizational decisions, goals, and objectives. For example, a leader who relies too heavily on their own intuition to make decisions and employees who become too dependent on the leader’s perspective can hinder progress, adaptability, and diversity in the workplace.

10. Situational

Situational leadership requires leaders to adjust their approach to leading based on their team members' specific needs and capabilities in any given situation. The premise of this model is to support employees per their current skill set and circumstances for optimal growth.


Flexibility is the star of the show in a situational led workplace. By adapting to the real-time needs of team members, leaders can provide the right level of guidance and support to help employees achieve their goals.

Situational leadership also fosters a collaborative environment by encouraging open communication between managers and their team members. Opportunities for coaching and feedback are abundant, with the regular assessment and evaluation of team development.


When pressed for time, leaders can find it challenging to consistently assess the skills and readiness of their team members and just accordingly.

The situational leadership style can also make it difficult for leaders to know when to be hands-on or hands-off in different situations, resulting in confusion among the team.

Quick Tips to Cultivate Your Unique Leadership Style

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  • Assess the strengths and weaknesses of your team members.
  • Evaluate cultural norms and communication preferences within your team.
  • Consider a combination of leadership styles that bolster organizational objectives.
  • Reflect on your personal strengths, weaknesses, and leadership abilities.
  • Be open to adapting your leadership approach as organizational needs change.


While it can be tempting to choose a lane, drawing from types of leadership styles provides the most well-rounded, targeted approach to your identity as a leader and mentor.

Further, understanding the strengths and weaknesses of various approaches provides leaders with the knowledge to identify negative patterns and adapt their leadership style as necessary to align with organizational needs, long-term goals, and values.

As you continue your leading and learning journey, consider earning a certificate in Leading with Agility, with in-depth teachings on leadership styles, understanding power & influence, self-awareness and self-management, and how to hone emotional intelligence in relationships.

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Leading Change, Agility in Leadership, Leading with Agility, People Development

About the author

Emily May | ICAgile, Marketing Specialist
Emily May is a Marketing Specialist at ICAgile, where she helps educate learners on their agile journey through content. With an eclectic background in communications supporting small business marketing efforts, she hopes to inspire readers to initiate more empathy, productivity, and creativity in the workplace for improved internal and external outcomes.