Different Types of Leadership Styles: Not one size fits all

One of the factors that directly determines an organization’s success, and longevity, is their leaders. The amount of time spent developing great leaders, and not just good managers, is highly correlated with employee productivity and engagement, the bottom line, and long-term success.

As a result, countless leadership development programs have been developed throughout the years to “grow” leaders. There’s always an assumption by organisations that if they put their leaders through a development program, positive results are a guarantee.

However, not all leadership development programs are regarded as positive, engaging, and welcomed by participants. Leadership programs that deviate from participants’ organizational and personal context can often lead to unsatisfactory results. Participants will show up and go through the exercises, but they’re not actively engaged and consolidating the lessons that are being presented to them. When the alignment is significantly off from their day-to-day, such one-size-fits all programmes can even cause participants to leave the exercise entirely.

But isn’t leadership development supposed to be a positive thing for all participants? Isn’t this shiny new development tool supposed to increase the level of leadership competence across the executive team? The risk is that organizations can place a larger focus on the development program itself, as opposed to their leaders. To avoid this, it is critical to first understand what makes each leader great at what they do, their understanding of leadership, and what is practical for them to implement.

The key lies in how an individual’s leadership style - there is no one-size-fits all solution.

Types of Leadership Style

Have a read through of the different types of leadership styles below. Which style do you think aligns best with how you lead? Then think about the style your manager utilises. See if you can match individuals in your circle to the types of profile listed below.

  1. Transformational Leadership

One of the industry’s most talked about leadership style, transformational leadership is defined by inspiring and motivating peers and direct reports to achieve their goals and perform beyond expectation. With transformational leadership, it’s all about charisma and enacting positive change.

Key characteristics of transformative leaders include:

  • Intellectual Stimulation: Encouraging creativity and innovation while promoting critical thinking.
  • Vision & Inspiration: formulating and articulating a clear vision for the future, being ambitious and inspiring others through passion
  • Emotional Intelligence: possessing strong empathetic skills and utilising these to appropriately respond to difficult situations.
  • Development of Direct Reports: investing in the development of their direct reports both personally and professionally – encouraging them to outperform themselves.
  1. Authentic Leadership

Authentic leadership places emphasis on transparency, self-awareness, and being genuine. It is largely defined by the leader establishing clear personal values and holding themselves accountable through honest interactions with their peers. The foundation of authentic leadership revolves around building trust and fostering authentic relationships with their direct reports.

Key characteristics of authentic leaders include:

  • Self-Awareness: clear understanding of their own values, beliefs, strengths, development areas – always leading from a place of authenticity.
  • Moral Compass: Unwavering ethical compass which they adhere to regardless of how conflicting or challenging the situation is.
  • Builds Trust: Constantly seeks to build trust with direct reports – seeks to create a psychologically safe environment.
  • Relational Transparency: Engages in open and honest communication, and importantly, are not afraid to share their true thoughts and feelings with direct reports.
  1. Sustainable Leadership

Sustainable leadership prioritizes the integration of sustainable principles and practices across all aspects of an organization. The key here is sustained long-term success and growth, while committing to address environmental, social and economical challenges in a sustainable manner. Oftentimes this results in improvements in environmental diversity, efficient stakeholder management, and highly engaged employees.

Key characteristics of sustainable leaders include:

  • Three Bottom Lines: Emphasizes the importance of not just profitability, but planet, and people.
  • Sustainable Innovation: It’s not just environmentally friendly products and services, but it’s also operations, and people, etc.
  • Stakeholder Engagement: Actively engages and seeks the opinion on various stakeholders – employees, suppliers, investors, customers, etc.
  • Social Responsibility: An advocate for ethical business practices, promotes fair labour practices, and ensures diversity and inclusion in their team.


Tailored-Fit Leadership Development

Although we’ve only touched on three leadership styles, you might’ve begun classifying individuals that you know into those categories. When it comes to leadership development, it is crucial that programs are tailored to their individual style to ensure leaders can apply the concepts and skills that align with their natural tendencies and strengths.

Our team at MultiRater Surveys suggest you follow these steps:

  1. Self & Others Assessment: Begin with leaders assessing their own leadership style and competence through 360-degree feedback tools. It is important to also include those in their team to provide their feedback. This will help leaders understand their strengths and weaknesses. It is important that the 360 assessment is customized so that it reflects the competencies that make up the leadership style.
  2. Customized Content: From the results of the 360 assessment, development programs can then be designed that caters to each participant’s leadership style. For example, transformational leaders should emphasize vision, communication, and building relationships.
  3. Individual Coaching: Data is useless without interpretation, and interpretation is meaningless without implementation. Provide one-on-one coaching sessions to help leaders learn how to apply concepts from the program to their contexts.
  1. Personal Development Plan: Each leader should create a personalized development plan that aligns with their leadership style, and organizational needs. Be sure to include metrics and timelines to measure improvements.
  2. Regular Feedback: Finally, complete the loop by establishing a regular feedback interval to evaluate the effectiveness of the leadership program. Gain further insights on improvements, and celebrate wins.

If any of the steps above resonated, and you would like to learn more about the different leadership styles and how to identify them in your organization, please contact info@multiratersurveys.com