What is Your Leadership Style?

Not sure about the key characteristics that belong to different leadership styles? Read on as we explain each leadership style and what their benefits are.

So, what is a leadership style exactly? If we’re getting down to it, a leadership style describes the particular way you carry out your leadership role and interact with others. This has a lot to do with your strengths, personality, and the way you communicate.

The key to improving your own leadership style comes from knowing how you lead, what areas you’re strongest in, and what areas need to be managed or worked on.

While leadership styles aren’t black and white (they’re often influenced by personality, behavioural traits, depth of experience and more), here are five examples of well-known leadership styles.

Leadership Styles

1. Authentic Leadership

Those who lead authentically generally have a positive impact on those around them. According to research done by the Harvard Business Review, a large proportion of employees believe that authentic leadership contributes to:

  • Closer connections with colleagues
  • Openness and transparency
  • A sense of meaning in their work
  • Higher levels of trust.

So, what are the main characteristics of an authentic leadership style?

They Practise What They Preach

Authentic leaders say what they mean and follow through on what they’ve promised. They know that a leader who talks the talk but doesn’t walk the walk isn’t going to gain trust, and an authentic leader’s currency is trust.

They’re Always Looking to Better Themselves

Learning from mistakes and understanding how to do better is a key attribute of authentic leaders. They don’t pretend to have all the answers, but they’ll seek them out. This approach helps to facilitate honest communication in teams – as these leaders role model the idea that there’s always room to improve, no matter who you are in the business.

They’re Driven by The Big Picture

While a lot of busy work happens in the day to day, authentic leaders don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. They can course correct and steer their team members towards a goal, facilitating open conversations when things don’t go to plan.

They’re on a Mission to Inspire Others

An authentic leader understands what motivates and drives each of their team members. They take the time to get to know each individual – who they are and how they work – to maximise their strengths and get the best out of them.

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2. Servant Leadership

Those who opt for a servant leadership style turn the idea of ‘managing those beneath you’ on its head. Instead, the goal of a servant leader is to serve those in their charge. It breaks the traditional power model and means leaders are more likely to ask questions and offer support instead of ‘commanding and controlling’ team members.

Adopting a servant leadership style generally leads to:

  • Empowered teams who don’t feel micro-managed
  • Team members who feel supported
  • Communication that flows easily
  • Shared responsibility.

Leaders who choose this leadership style are:

Focussed on Employee Development

They continually check in, asking those in their charge for their thoughts, ideas and perspectives. They put in extra effort to leverage the strengths of team members, to help them reach their career goals.

Comfortable with Delegating

A servant leader will step back and allow others in their team to take full ownership of their work and results. They signal trust by offering autonomy but are well known for always being there to support, when they are needed.

Known for Their Sense of Humility

Servant leaders don’t think they’re better than anyone else just because they hold a leadership position. They are slow to judge and prefer an open and honest communication style – speaking to team members on their level – to help them learn and take constructive action.

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3. Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership refers to leaders who inspire those in their charge to reach the highest levels of performance. They empower teams to contribute to building a positive workplace culture and find purpose in their work. Basically, these leaders have quit micro-managing and, instead, offer team members the autonomy to manage their own projects, workloads and results.

This is achieved through role modelling and trust and leads to:

  • Greater productivity
  • Original, creative solutions
  • Ownership over results
  • Positive workplace culture.

The main characteristics of those who take on a transformational leadership style are:

They Encourage Personal Motivation

Transformational leaders foster an environment that helps team members tap into their intrinsic motivations – to find meaning in the work they’re doing. In connecting people to their motivations, leaders elicit higher levels of performance and work quality.

They Value Authenticity and Open Communication

Transformational leaders believe that team members have the right to self-manage their work, as long as the work is of high quality and completed on time. Being authentic and maintaining open communication are key for transformational leaders.

They ‘Get Out of the Way’

While transformational leaders are on hand to provide mentorship and coaching, they allow (and strongly encourage) team members to make their own decisions and take ownership of their work and results.

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2. Charismatic Leadership

If you’ve had a charismatic leader, you’ll know that these visionaries have the ability to inspire, influence and captivate others. They have mastered the art of storytelling and are compelling communicators. Charismatic leaders will spend a lot of time and energy getting the best work out of their team members, making the impossible seem possible.

This highly effective approach often results in:

  • Inspired people across all levels
  • A shared belief in the vision
  • Energy and motivation
  • A sense of belonging.

These characteristics are typical of someone with a charismatic leadership style:

They’re Emotive and Empathetic

To get the most out of their team members, charismatic leaders ‘read the room’ and tap into people’s emotions to understand what drives them. They are also likely empathetic, navigating sensitive issues as they arise.

They’re Strong Communicators

With a charismatic leader, you know what you’re going to get. They’re well spoken and have a way with words that can engage all levels of business. When they speak, people listen.

They’re Usually Risk Takers

Out of the box thinkers, charismatic leaders will test ideas until something sticks. They aren’t afraid of taking the team on a road-trip to inspire new thinking or trial an intern’s suggestion – they like pioneering new ideas and ways of doing things.


5. Situational Leadership

Those who adopt a situational leadership approach manage in a way that’s appropriate for each situation they’re in. The style can look different, depending on the task or project, team member issue, or broader business circumstance. Situational leaders tap into coaching, delegating, supporting and directing styles – turning them on and off when needed.

Situational leadership is said to:

  • Offer increased empowerment to employees
  • Foster a democratic environment
  • Promote flexibility
  • Improve productivity.

Those who adopt a situational leadership style usually have the following characteristics:

They Work with Flexibility

Situational leaders lean into flexibility, using a style that’s going to best serve their team and the task at hand. For example, they know that when the team is struggling to move into action, a ‘directing or delegating’ style would be best but if they’re supporting a high performer to stretch, a ‘coaching or supporting’ style would be more appropriate.

They’re Active Listeners

As situations throw different challenges their way, this type of leader is patient, actively listens, and takes time to understand their team’s pain points.

They have a Sense of Direction

Situational leaders have a good gauge of what the ‘bigger picture’ looks like at all times. Their clear sense of direction helps to keep everyone on track – as they can guide the team to the end goal, no matter the situation.

Learn More on Leadership

At Thinka, we’ve made it our mission to train leaders and teams, and bring about positive change in Australian organisations. Explore more on leadership by selecting the links below…

Leadership Definition

Get clear on what defines leadership, so you know what it takes to become or grow a leader.

Leadership Qualities

Learn more about the qualities that make up a great leader. How many do you or your team demonstrate?

Leadership Skills

Leadership skills can be learned. Find out more about what human (soft) skills build a successful leader.

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