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Which Leadership Styles Questionnaire?

Which Leadership Styles Questionnaire?

There are many leadership style questionnaires available to take these days and both would-be and experienced leaders could be forgiven for being somewhat overwhelmed by the choices available. However, although they will often have different labels for the leadership style or styles that an individual may prefer the most in their output reports, most questionnaires will indicate a style based on several of the ones described below. Please note that some of these styles are somewhat overlapping. For example, the first five are the so-called “push” leadership styles, the subsequent six styles are the so-called “pull” leadership styles and the last three are based on a particular expert’s approach.

The Command and Control Leader

This is the familiar “military” style leadership model – often used, especially in times of crisis (which is why it is used in readiness for war) but not always effective when softer or more subtle approaches may be needed. This is because this style rarely involves praise and frequently employs direct and “unvarnished” communication approaches and even criticism (and can therefore lead to lower morale and job satisfaction. Some leadership writers and thinkers suggest that this style is only effective in crisis, emergency or turnaround situations.

The Pacesetting Leader

This leadership style aims to be a role-model for excellence and self-direction. If this style were summed up in one phrase, it would be “Do as I do”. This style therefore tends to works best when the team is reasonably mature, quite motivated and both knowledgeable and skilled. One major perceived drawback of this style however, especially when used excessively is that it can overwhelm some team members and even limit free-thinking.

The Authoritative Leader

This style of leadership mobilizes a team toward a common vision (focusing on particular targets) thereby specifying the “what” and leaving the “how” up to individuals. The authoritative style is often most effective when the team needs a new or very different direction.  Authoritative leaders can often inspire quite a lot of excitement and enthusiasm for new team vision and mission but this may not last (especially as the team matures).

The Coercive Leader

The coercive leader demands discipline and compliance. The coercive style is consequently most effective in times of crisis, emergency, turnaround or on projects that require quick results. This style can also quite effectively manage a problem individual on a team (especially when every other approach has failed). However, this style “takes no prisoners” and can therefore ride rough-shod over individuals and even alienate the whole team if they do not agree with the overall direction in which they are being led.

The Autocratic Leader

In this style, the leader makes most if not all decisions and closely manages subordinates to complete a task or project. An autocratic leader is directive and may not be open to questioning. The assumption is that individuals need strong guidance to accomplish any task properly or well without being told exactly what to do, how to do it and when it should be done. The autocratic leadership style is typically most effective when tasks are clear, deadlines are tight and there are a great many people involved in the overall work.

The Affiliative Leader

This leadership style works to create strong emotional ties between individuals on a team so as to create strong bonds and even a sense of belonging to the team and even the wider organization. The affiliative style therefore tends to work best either when work or projects are predictable and when work is “even” or in times of high stress, or when the team needs to learn to work together more effectively. However, a reliance on only this style of praise and nurturing can sometimes overly tolerate mediocre performance.

The Coaching Leader

The prime focus of this leadership style is to develop individuals on the team. The coaching style tends to work best when the leader wants to help individuals to build new behavior or competencies which help them to contribute at a higher level on the team. One common approach in the coaching leadership style is “managing by walking around”. This is most effective when leaders expect their subordinates to complete a task on their own with help when difficult situations arise. The leader can then act as a coach on an as-needed basis in order for the person to archive their goals.

The Democratic Leader

This leader style aims to build consensus through individual participation. The democratic style is often most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, project or goal. It also works well when there is lots of time available for consensus decision-making to occur. However, this style may not be very effective in an emergency situation, turnaround or when time is of the essence. It is also potentially problem when fast or difficult decisions have to be made.

The Teamwork Leader

This leadership style seeks to motivate team members and encourages them to work together in collaborative ways and come up with creative solutions to problems more quickly than they might individually. A teamwork oriented leadership style is clearly ideal to get people working together and even to bring about more self-direction. However, not all tasks can or should be performed collaboratively.

The “Laissez-faire” Leader

This leadership style (which is also sometimes referred to as a “free-resign” style) is used most often by leaders when individuals are well-able to accomplish a task or project with little or no help. With laissez-faire leadership, individuals make many decisions and perform many tasks without any input from the leader. This approach therefore works best when individuals are knowledgeable about tasks and motivated to complete them.

The Participatory Leader

This leader ship style typically coordinates the contributions of a few individuals to work together or small groups to collaborate on a given task or project. To do this all individuals on a team are given lots of input on what should be done in the future (and particular on how) and are then encourage to work together with as much or little of the leader’s participation as they feel they need.

The Transactional Leader

This style (first described by Max Weber in the 1940’s) focuses leadership effort on motivating followers through a system of rewards (recognizing good performance) and sanctions or minor punishments (when some individuals do not meet acceptable performance levels). Transactional leaders therefore mainly concentrate their efforts on increasing the efficiency of established work routines and procedures and are most concerned with following existing rules and approaches than with making new changes.

The Charismatic Leader

This style seeks to inspire enthusiasm in team members and to create a compelling vision for the future that every individual can get behind. The downside to this style however is that the leader is very central to all efforts and success. This can create the risk that a project or even an entire organization might collapse if the leader leaves. As such, charismatic leadership usually needs a long-term commitment for it to succeed.

The Servant Leader

This style (first described by Robert Greenleaf in the 1970s) leads simply by meeting the needs of the team (in a similar way to the democratic leadership style). Servant leaders therefore often lead by example but are also generous in their time to guide others to achieve success. Advocates for the servant leadership model suggest that it’s a good way to move ahead in a world where values are increasingly important, and where servant leaders can achieve power because of their values, ideals, and ethics.

Apart from overlapping at times, every one of these leadership styles are rarely “all encompassing” in one individual leader (and perhaps nor should they be). In other words, each style is likely to create problems if used exclusively and it is therefore better to deploy several contrasting styles according the skills and maturity of the people being led, the task at hand, the overall type and scope of work or project circumstances encountered at any one time.

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About Dr. Jon Warner

Dr. Jon Warner is a prolific author, management consultant and executive coach with over 25 years experience. He has an MBA and a PhD in Organizational Psychology. Jon can be reached at

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About the Editor and Primary Author

Jon Warner

Jon Warner is an executive coach and management consultant and in the past has been a CEO in three very different companies. Read more

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