5 Leadership Styles – Their Pros, Cons, And How You Can Implement Them

“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” 

A quote from the distinguished activist Martin Luther King Junior, emphasizes the role of a leader as a catalyst for change. A qualified leader searches not for something already in existence, but instead, tries to create it from what’s available.

Time and again, they demonstrate how it’s not about what is available to you but about what you make of it. What you make of the resources available, what you make of the energy within you, and that of those who choose to tread your path.

This relationship a leader has with their followers is unique and has immense transformative potential; both for the leader and the follower. As a leader, then, it is important for you to be able to connect to your followers.

In order to inspire them on a cardinal level, you need to be able to relate to them. While this may be essential, for anyone, to function as a resonating leader, how one decides to go about this, to establish that relationship with their followers will vary. From one leader to another and depending on what one aims to establish.

The different styles of leadership leaders engage in will govern the dynamics of the relationship between the leaders and the followers. Each style has distinctive characteristics and also determines the pace at which the relationship progresses and flourishes.

On the basis of this relationship, five styles of leadership – Autocratic, Democratic, Delegative, Transformational, and Transactional – have been identified. Each has its own attributes and its own sets of pros and cons. Here is a brief look into each of these.

Autocratic leadership

The word autocracy roughly translates to ‘self-power’. As the name suggests, autocratic leadership is the type of leadership where the leader expects the entire power and authority to reside in them. 

How can you implement this style of leadership?

  • Remember to establish a clear division between yourself, the leader, and the followers. 
  • The leader usually takes little or no input from the others with respect to making decisions and performing functions, thus, the final decision-making power lies within the leader.
  • The leader concerns themselves with passing orders and commands which the followers are expected to adhere to and follow. Hence, the leader establishes control over the followers.
  • The leader expresses clear expectations and defines outcomes and the team has to follow through.

Pros: The complete limitation of power and decision-making authority makes the autocratic style of leadership extremely beneficial when dealing with situations that are time-constrained. Quick decision making is possible, as there is no deliberation that takes place during the process. The time efficiency that accompanies this style of leadership offers the space for speedy, optimal growth of the team. 

Cons: There is a high chance that the members of the team don’t feel heard. This may undermine the cohesion within the group. The decisions, taken by the leader, too, may lack a sense of objectivity since it comes from only one person. Possible decisions and outcomes are not explored during the process of decision making, which may result in rather lackluster solutions in some cases.

Example: Former US President, Donald Trump, has an autocratic style of leadership in governing the Trump Organization. Choosing to carry the entire weight of it as the sole or principal owner, he took on the responsibility of being the key decision-maker for the conglomerate. He consistently sets high expectations for all his employees and would immediately depose anyone falling short of these expectations. 

Democratic Leadership

The word democracy roughly translates to ‘people power. Subsequently, the democratic style of leadership, also known as the participative style, encourages active participation from the team members, unlike the autocratic style. In some respects, this style may be the most effective style of leadership, for this reason.

How can you implement this style of leadership?

  • As a democratic leader, it is important for you to offer guidance to your team members/ followers and not command them. 
  • While offering guidance, make sure to encourage involved participation from the members and to offer their input. Hence, offer guidance after consulting with all others. 
  • Although you motivate inputs from others, remember that the final decision-making power resides in you.  

Pros: The major advantage of democratic leadership is that it allows for the involvement of all the team members. This promotes group cohesion and makes them feel important. Members are motivated to be creative and a wide range of inputs can be cultivated, when compared to the decisions being made by one. 

Cons: However, the downfall that comes along with this is that the processes of making decisions can be stretched out for long periods. Arising dissent needs to be adequately addressed and a consensus needs to be arrived at after proper deliberation.

Example: Indra Nooyi, the CEO of PepsiCo, is a leader known for her participative style of leadership. She is actively involved and shows interest in the personal lives of her employees, putting forward the stand that she cares for them.  

Delegative Leadership:

Delegative Leadership is also known as ‘Laissez-Faire’ Leadership. The term Laissez-Faire roughly translates to ‘Let it go. Let it be.’ This happens to be the underlying principle of this type of leadership, which offers maximum freedom to the followers. It delegates the initiative to its followers. 

How can you implement this style of leadership?

  • As a leader exhibiting the delegating style of leadership, you are required to offer little or no guidance to your team members.
  • Give up decision-making control, completely to the members of your team. Take responsibility and authority only where required and allow your team to lead at other times. 
  • Have an attitude of trust and reliance on your employees, and avoid micromanaging the functioning of your team. 

Pros: By allowing the team members to take the lead, their creativity and potential come to the forefront, allowing for a great opportunity for personal development. When all members are competent and qualified, this offers a high functioning potential for the group as a whole.

Cons: The primary downfall of the Delegative style of leadership, however, has to be how there is a high possibility for conflicts to arise. Cohesion within the team may be hard to achieve, and the efficiency of functioning, as a result, may be undermined. 

Example: The co-founder of Apple Computer, Inc., Steve Jobs was a leader who exercised the Laissez-Faire style of Leadership. He was known for offering instructions to his employees but allowing them to figure out the best way to go ahead with it.  

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is the style of leadership, wherein the leader motivates and inspires their followers with their vision and encourages them to work for it and achieve these goals. 

How can you implement this style of leadership?

  • As a transformational leader, you need to be passionate and energetic about your work and your vision, in order to inspire your followers to feel the same way. 
  • Give adequate importance to offering positive directions to groups and acting as the role model for the followers.
  • Along with working on group goals, you also need to enable the members of the group to work to their fullest potential. 

Pros: Research indicates the transformational style of leadership promotes high satisfaction among the employees and also results in high-performance output. It focuses on the relationship that exists between the employees, and the leader and works, to ensure a positive one transpires. 

Cons: In the case, the leader does not resonate with the employees, the entire dynamics may be at risk since the functioning relies entirely on how the leader can harness inspiration and motivation within the followers to get them to achieve. 

Example: Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook CEO spends adequate time motivating the employees, through processes of goal setting, offering incentives, and providing opportunities for their growth. He is also said to devote exclusive time to developing activities that promote team building, which embodies the relationship aspect of the transformational leadership style.

Transactional Leadership

In the transactional leadership style, the relationship between the leader and the follower is viewed as a transaction. In most cases, as in the case of an employer-employee situation, this transaction is characterized by tasks done by the employee while the employer offers monetary compensation.

How can you implement this style of leadership?

  • Clearly state the tasks to be done by your team members and elucidate on them. Offer them the direct support, guidance, and direction that they may require. 
  • Evaluate the work done by them and compare it with the expectations you had set. Based on this, modify the transaction and offer appropriate reinforcements. 

Pros: The relationship between the leader and the followers is clearly defined, with additional clarity present in the form of the exact tasks and work to be done, that is listed out.    

Cons: With the followers being directed by the leader entirely, the opportunity for them to grow and explore their ideas, becomes unavailable. As a result, both creativity and productivity get hindered.  

Example: Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla Motors and SpaceX, is said to exhibit a transactional style of leadership. Musk is known for setting specific short-term goals, on achieving which the employees are offered incentives. The employees, in turn, are driven to achieve these goals, thus, completing the two-way transaction in place. This transactional style may have powered his venture into the success it is immersed in, today. 


A leader is someone who looks out for his followers. A leader is someone who has the best interest of the people who do the same for him. Whatever goals a leader envisages and whatever style of leadership a leader adopts, the leader’s vision will not come to fruition, unless the followers truly believe in it.

The followers truly need to believe in the leader and what the leader stands for. This is a monumental task for the leader, to instill that belief, but once established, this can be the scaffolding on top of which all future endeavors of this relationship will thrive and prosper.   

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