11 Leadership Styles, Their Pitfalls, and Finding Balance

There are many styles of leadership that are equally effective, but understanding which one suits you best is the key to building a thriving culture and business. 

It’s all about knowing the behavior and communication styles that come naturally to you. They form the basis of who you are and how you inherently prefer to work. Knowing your own style as well as that of your team members helps you create just the right balance for success. You’ll be able to create an enviable people-centric culture, optimize performance, and set an example people will want to follow.

Know Yourself

Self-awareness is what will allow you to capitalize on your own unique strengths. So, rather than trying to fit into a pre-defined leadership mold, you have to determine what style already comes naturally to you and build on it. The fact is, there is not one leadership style that fits all, and yours is the only one that will drive you to the best outcome for you and your organization.

Think about it. If you are analytical by nature, how productive do you think you would be if you modeled yourself after a very successful, but spontaneous, leader? You could be successful, but I promise you that your stress level would be through the roof as you tried to make quick decisions without the level of planning you are comfortable with. And, you would probably be less than inspired as you faced another day out of sync with your nature. By leading according to what comes instinctively to you, you’ll be able to grow as a leader because your foundation will be strong.

Know Your People

A leader who can create a successful organization will not only understand their own natural behavior and how to manage it, but they will invest time gaining insight into the behaviors of their employees or team members. So, after you learn about your own style, you need to invest in knowing your people. Performance will be highest when each person’s talents are known and valued, and they can be placed where they fit best in the organization. When this balance is achieved, the culture they create looks like this:

  • There is a shared vision.
  • Everyone feels valued.
  • There are high levels of personal confidence.
  • Everyone has a can-do attitude.
  • Teams collectively look for solutions.
  • The leaders listen to other ideas and suggestions.
  • The individuals feel motivated.
  • Attrition is low.
  • There are clear goals, and everyone knows where they fit in delivering them.
  • Success is shared.
  • Trust goes both ways.
  • There are measurable outcomes that demonstrate the culture of the organization.

Leadership Styles

Let’s look at the broad strokes of eleven leadership styles. They are all valid, tried-and-true styles that can lead any organization to success. Keep in mind, however, that they all have potential pitfalls unless they are balanced by the right team members.

  1. The Fast-Paced Leader
    A leader who is fast paced, logical, challenging, and tends to be critical may well deliver results, but can damage the talent they are responsible for leading. This style of leadership births a culture of stress, staff turnover, and unwillingness to want to work under their leadership.

  2. The Analytical Leader
    The analytical, systematic, rigid, work by the rules style of leadership may be a gatekeeper in terms of the processes of the organization, but can shut down innovation, spontaneity, and the kind of creative approach to decision-making required when things go wrong. This inflexible and rigid style of leadership does not inspire a culture of shared goals, thoughts, and ideas.

  3. The Skeptical Leader
    In today’s rapidly changing market, businesses need innovation to survive. A skeptical leader who is not open to ideas, continually questions, is guarded, and fails to build trust with their teams, will not create the kind of innovative culture that breeds success. Finding a successful balance between trust and a healthy skepticism that protects the business is tough.

  4. The Competitive Leader
    Similarly, a leader whose focus is solely on results, who is very competitive, and always wants to be the one who set the agenda, can push teams too hard to achieve goals. If these leaders see targets slipping away, they can become manipulative and assume a driven style of leading that causes teams to crash and burn. This approach leads to a toxic culture – very difficult to recover from.

  5. The People’s Leader
    Leaders who are highly people-focused and expressive, can inspire passion and purpose, but if this style of leadership is not based on a foundation of a clearly articulated vision and mission, the culture they create is one of chaos and confusion – but fun. Leaders such as this need strong boundaries and need to learn to focus on one goal at a time.

  6. The Risk-Taking Leader
    Some leaders are comfortable with taking risks. They know their limitations and are comfortable with managing failure. However, when risk-taking leads to over-confidence, leaders will cut corners placing the business in jeopardy. Further, team members assume the culture of risk extends to them. This can lead to outlier behavior as they take inappropriate risk that undermines the organization.

  7. The Creative Leader
    The highly creative leader embraces new ideas, can be quite abstract in their thinking, and open to imaginative approaches to decision-making. However, such creative ideas need to have value, they can’t be random as this leads to a culture of “anything goes.” Creativity in leadership works when it’s part of a culture that is sensitive to teams, colleagues, and the overall needs of the business.

  8. The Cooperative Leader
    Not many organizations survive on a cooperative style of decision-making. When a leader is seen to be compliant, others very quickly take advantage of them. They may well be able to communicate the vision and encourage input from teams, but without their own understanding of how to be behaviorally smart, this style of leadership results in the loudest voice getting their way. Further, it can lead to a culture of frustration as the leader seeks everyone’s opinion before making a call.

  9. The Reserved Leader
    Generally, the reserved, reflective leader tends to be a loner. They do not have an open-door policy and can be withdrawn. This style of leadership breeds a culture of suspicion and can lead to more outgoing team members driving the culture and making decisions that are inappropriate. However, when the leader understands the importance of building relationships, this style of leader is likely to be much more accurate in their instructions. They prefer to get things right first time and will reflect and focus on this.

  10. The Patient Leader
    When a leader is overly understanding and tolerant, there will always be others who will take advantage of this. A culture of leniency will prevail, and mistakes will be repeated, leading to frustration and discontent from team members. Generally, this leader tries to create a culture of stability, believing that everyone will function more effectively within the environment. This approach only works when everyone has knowledge of each other’s preferred environment for working, otherwise the culture will be too relaxed.

  11. The Spontaneous Leader
    Spontaneity challenges many people who prefer leadership to be structured and predictable. A spontaneous leader creates a culture of impulsiveness and lack of planning and forethought. Spontaneity panics some people and can lead to disruption and stress in the workplace.

Embrace Your Own Leadership Style

After taking a look at the list, did you find a style that resonates with you? Do you have a team that balances you? Understand, no one will fit neatly into one of these carefully defined boxes. The nuances of your inherent behaviors coupled with your life experience will give your leadership style its own flare and flavor. That’s the beauty of it and why you should embrace it.

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