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The 10 Most Common Leadership Styles and How to Know and Develop Your Leadership Style

Leadership influences our way of work and relationships with people. This article shares the 10 most common leadership styles and a few insights on how to know the kind of leader you are and develop your style.

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Leadership influences our way of work and relationships with people. This article shares the 10 most common leadership styles and a few insights on how to know the kind of leader you are and develop your style.

Photo credit: katemangostar

You may be wondering, “Why do I need to learn leadership styles?” Great leaders harness their personalities in order to achieve the desired result. They also utilize different leadership styles as and when required. Knowing the different leadership styles helps you understand which best suits your personality. Therefore, you become more aware of how to use your strengths to connect with the team, be effective, and meet your targets within the organization.  

Let's take a look at the most common leadership styles:

1. The autocratic leader

This leadership style is best illustrated as “I know what is best and therefore I make the decisions.” Good examples of this leadership style are some of the popular African presidents. It takes a shorter time to make decisions with this style and the leaders often get what they want with this style.

2. The democratic leader

Leaders who lead by this style are most interested in the collective participation of the team. They value the input of people at different levels and agreement in decision-making.

3. The Laissez-faire aka hands-off leader

This leadership style is about letting people be. People who lead this way may be perceived as stand-offish, but their biggest interest is allowing individuals to thrive with no interference. It works well for highly-motivated individuals and leadership at high levels of management.

4. The affiliate or servant leader

This is the opposite of autocratic leadership, instead of the leader's needs coming first, the follower's needs come first. Leaders with this leadership style are more interested in creating emotional bonds and trust with the team as they work. They will often empathize with the team's needs and struggles.

5. The pacesetter

This is probably the most intense leadership style; its best description is “keep up.” With it, the leader sets high expectations and from then on it’s a race to the finish line. It is great for highly gifted individuals and high achievers.

6. The coach

A leader who is also a coach motivates and guides the team to high-performance output. Leaders set high goals, build the skills of the team, and delegate the tasks to the team. Social media has been a great amplifier of this leadership style.

7. The transactional leader

As the name suggests, it is about a give-and-take relationship. The leader will give and expect the follower to deliver a performance in return. With this leadership, there is a risk of punishment from the leader in case the follower doesn’t do their part.

8. The transformer

The leader is all about effecting change. They want to challenge the status quo and emphasize it through communication and transparency. This leadership style is more focused on developing the people's leadership skills, perceptions, and values surrounding them. Many CEOs are known to lead this way.

9. The visionary or charismatic leader

This approach is about uniting and inspiring the team towards a shared vision. Good examples of this type of leader are Dr. Martin Luther King and former South African president Nelson Mandela. Though it is similar to transformational leadership, visionary leadership has less focus on developing people and the details involved but instead focuses on inspiring the masses.

10. The bureaucrat

As the name suggests, it is all about using “by the book” procedures and historical methods to lead. The catchphrase here is “people did it like this and therefore we should do it.” It is what is most used with government organizations. It is tedious, especially in a corrupt system but can be fair in a merit-based environment.


How do you know what kind of leader you are?

No one is only one type of leader, we apply ourselves based on our goals, priority of the task at hand, personality, and the leadership styles we have experienced. Here are a few pointers to know the kind of leader you are.


  • For example in stressful situations or relaxed situations, do you involve the team or take authority over how decisions are made?

  • What are your personal goals, and how do they affect the way you lead? A go-getter and high achiever will most likely gravitate towards coach or autocracy leadership because results are important.

  • Based on the 16-personality tests, architects like Elon Musk are autocrats, and pacesetters, empaths, are often servant leaders or democratic.

  • According to the International Institute for Management Development (IMD) website, in order to know and develop your leadership style, you may need to self-manage your personality traits a bit more. For example, by building your emotional intelligence, being either more or less extroverted depending on what is needed.  

Hope you found this an insightful read, check out our other resourceful articles on leadership:


Written by

Anita Kamba

A Ugandan Civil Engineering Professional working with a Ugandan government corporation. I am also a social media content creator and writer. Most of my creative work is influenced by personal experiences and those of people around me.

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