7 Kinds of Leadership

Everyone has seen different kinds of leaders.  Everyone has probably served under different kinds of leaders.  But what makes leaders different from one another?  What are the different characteristics of distinct leadership styles?  In my reading, I’ve come across 7 different kinds of leaders and leadership styles:


Autocratic (Commanding) Leadership
The autocratic leader leads by fear or intimidation.  Military leaders are autocratic leaders.  This is probably the most-often used form of leadership—“do what I say because I’m your boss.”  In some studies, this has been found to be the least effective form of leadership, and causes the most discontentment.

Bureaucratic Leadership
The bureaucratic leader is concerned with making sure the rules are followed.  Many mid-level managers would fall into this category.  They are just there to make sure that the rules are followed, and the policies implemented.  These managers’ authority is gained with their title.  They don’t typically gain it by influencing others.

Coaching Leadership
This is a very rare form of leadership, in which the leader acts as a one-on-one coach for their employees, developing them as individuals, and then fitting them into the organization as their skills progress.  I read a post from MichaelHyatt.com recently in which the most important question a leader will ever be asked is “Are you for me, against me, or for yourself?”

Delegative (Laissez-Faire) Leadership
The delegative leader is one that tries to minimize their involvement in decision-making, instead giving their followers more freedom and decision-making power.  This can be a good thing, if you have innovative and competent followers, but can be disastrous if they’re not.

Democratic (Affiliative) Leadership
The democratic leader strives to enable their followers to contribute to the decision-making process.  They try to combine the collective strengths of their team for the good of the organization.  A democratic leader recognizes that they do not know everything, but someone on their team might be better informed than them on certain topics.  This leadership style also emphasizes the importance of teamwork.

Pacesetting (Servant) Leadership
This is the “lead by example” approach to leadership.  The pacesetting leader sets high goals and standards for himself, and holds others to the same standard.  When combined with the humility of a servant (Philippians 2:5-7), this can be a powerful form of leadership.  If done with pride, instead of humility, this form of leadership can lead to low morale.

Visionary (Charismatic) Leadership
In the book, “Primal Leadership,” author Daniel Goleman says, “Visionary leaders articulate where a group is going, but not how it will get there—setting people free to innovate, experiment, take calculated risks.”  Visionary leadership is sometimes combined with charismatic leadership, the ability to energize your followers.  The downfall of this kind of leadership is if your followers are not innovators, and need more direction than merely a vision.

Question: What type of leader are you?  What type of leader do you follow?

  • Andrew

    These are nice archetypes – I’m interested to know what sources you used to come up with them?