The Complete Leadership Style Inventory – 6 of the Best to Model Yourself On

An inventory of six different leadership styles so you know which is the right one to follow

by Rod Dunne on November 17, 2011

in Entrepreneurial, Human Side

In order to be effective and successful in your leadership role, you need to map out the demands of your position, as well as the leadership requirements that come with it.

As such, you can use my leadership style inventory to identify your appropriate appropriate leadership  skills list to suit your business and match your team members to key positions that will steer the business and team members to success.

As part of the management styles in business, you should identify and enroll team members with a strong potential into leadership training programs that nurture their potential, polish their leadership skills and place them in the right position of authority.

By using my leadership style inventory below to gauge the leadership pattern as well as the various leadership styles within your organization, you can develop visionary leaders at every level of the business. Is also one of the best practices for succession planning to understand what style of leader you will need next as your company grows and differing leadership approaches are needed.

6 Major Leadership Types/Styles

Leadership & management style is crucial to the success of any organization. Therefore, understanding the various technical, social and strategic leadership styles and their applications can help you become more effective as a leader. This is true irrespective of your industry of operation. Here is a look at some of the common styles of leadership, their traits and applications.

i. Supportive leadership style

a. Key traits
This is a very crucial style for anyone occupying a formal authority and leadership position. While some members of your team could be self-motivated and passionate about their roles, others lack the initiative and personal drive. Your leader drives the various various employee motivation ideas which they think will work increasing productivity and attracting the right staff to your business. As such, you should apply this style to continuously motivate and inspire such people.

b. Best industry to apply this leadership style
Supportive leadership style is common in the sports industry where there is a great need to promote teamwork. As a coach or team leader, you can apply this leadership style to motivate members who may think of themselves as insignificant members of your team.

c. Major drawbacks to supportive leadership style
One of the major drawbacks of this style is that it fails to adequately outline the relationship between the leader and employee motivator. Without the managers support, the employee has reduced ability to work autonomously.

ii. Transactional leadership style

a. Key traits
Also referred to as managerial leadership, this style focuses on the aspects of the organization, supervision and group performance. It defines leadership around a system of rewards and punishment. it can also focus upon various ethics in business that may be paramount to the firm (e.g. social concerns for nonprofit organization leaders).

b. Best industry to apply this leadership style
This leadership style is ideal in industries where the stakes are high and there is no room for mistakes (e.g. sales, stockbroking, etc.). It is designed to encourage employees to be in charge at all times, leaving no room for mistakes that can cost the organization. As such, this style would also fit in as part of the management/directing styles in nursing too. In fact, the British health service is based on metrics/productivity based performance levels for all staff members.

c. Drawbacks to transactional leadership style
The major drawback to this style is that it does not encourage employees to be creative or active in seeking solutions to problems because of fear of failure, which leads to punishment. As such, it may hinder the team from realizing its full potential. In addition, employees may also resort to gaming the system in order to make their sales targets, goals or objectives.

iii. Delegative leadership style

a. Key traits
This is also referred to as Free Rein or Laissez faire leadership style. In this style, the leader delegates tasks and authority while assuming the overall responsibility. It can form the basis of management styles in education where the team members are highly trained and well motivated.

b. Best industry to apply this leadership style
Delegative or laissez faire leadership style is relevant in situations where the tasks are less sensitive and can be handled without exposing the organization to serious risks, even if things go wrong. Therefore, it is applicable in an environment where stakes are not very high. Some good examples of this would be in the media and creative arts (e.g. TV production, theater work, etc.).

c. Drawbacks to delegative leadership style
This style often leads to poorly defined responsibilities and lack of motivation among the team members. The solution to this is to make sure you have the right people in place from the very start or nurture an environment where people are judged on their merits (i.e. how hard they work and how successful they are). A good example of this is in the open source software development community where individuals freely contribute time and are rewarded merely on appreciation and recognition they receive from other community members.

iv. Democratic leadership style

a. Key traits
This is also referred to as a participative leadership style. It relies on the collective participation of the entire groups where both the overall leader and subordinates participate in the decision making process.

b. Best industry to apply this leadership style
Democratic or participative leadership style is applicable in a variety of fields. For instance, it can form the basis of management styles in nursing and the healthcare industry where brainstorming is necessary to produce the desired results. You can also apply in it the education sector as away of improving the quality of service delivered to students. The Democratic leadership approach is also honestly prevalent in government administrations as well as military departments.

c. Drawbacks to democratic leadership
One of the major drawbacks to this style is the sheer amount of time the entire brainstorming and decision making process takes. Since every team member’s opinion is considered, it can be a long drawn process before reaching a consensus. You’ll find that excessive bureaucracy goes hand-in-hand with democratically run teams.

v. Authoritarian leadership style

a. Key traits
This style of leadership is characterized by the leader who makes all decisions based on his judgment and ideas without involving the other team members. An authoritarian leader is under no obligation to apply the other team members’ opinions and suggestions.

b. Best industry to apply this leadership style
Authoritarian leadership style is ideal in situations where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the team, or where he has access to certain crucial information that the other team members cannot access. It is perfectly applied in the military. This style is also prevalent in small startup companies and small scale industries where an individual entrepreneur is expected to drive a clear single vision of what the startup is meant to be doing.

c. Drawbacks to authoritarian leadership
Leaders who apply, and at times abuse, this style often appear as dictatorial, bossy and controlling. This can lead to resentment among the other team members, especially when communication is poor within the team. Taking the startup industry as an example, these leaders are often essential in the early phases of building a business but once the company has reached maturity it is more common to replace the CEO with a person exhibiting more democratic or delegative leadership styles.

vi. Steve Jobs leadership style

There is no doubt that Steve Jobs was an unconventional leader and regularly tops the list of entrepreneurs that have defined the last 20 years. He was never good at consultations or consensus building. Instead, he was a “high maintenance co-worker” who expected nothing short of excellence from his staff. In addition, he would not hesitate in delivery criticism where one was due. Being a perfectionist, Steve Jobs was certainly an authoritarian leader. His style probably couldn’t be applied to a huge range of companies and seems suited to the creative and innovative nature of the Apple Corporation.

IN CONCLUSION: There are several ways of exploring your leadership style inventory. If you, as a leader, can successfully understand your natural style, and understand how you can change that style to fit different people and circumstances, then your leadership will no doubt be effective. Knowing your strengths and abilities, and leaving the other aspects of leadership to your team is another great way of becoming an effective leader.

Author Rod Dunne...

Blog owner and sole writer Rod DunneI am the owner and sole writer on This is my personal blog detailing troubleshooting tips for small businesses. Posts are based upon 2 decades in consultancy & innovation management within startups/maturing companies.

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