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What Leadership Styles Are There?

No question was addressed and analysed more frequently than the question of the best management style. However, this also proves that one cannot find a quick and generally valid answer to this question. In research, there are basically four stages of development: The property theory, the behavior theory, the situation theory, as well as the new leadership theory. This text only gives a rough overview of the different styles, but due to the wealth of information and models it cannot create a complete picture.

Property Theory of Leadership - The larger-than-life Leader

It all started with the property theory of leadership. Unique leaders were sought, who all possess innate qualities and character traits. They tried to build up a list with the most important characteristics of this particular group, but could not find a consensus about what the most important characteristics are. Many characteristics, such as professional competence, self-confidence, high energy level to name just a few, have been gathered together, but it was never possible to agree on essential characteristics. At the very latest, when you were about to make a list, a new leader stood out who did not have any of these qualities and yet was able to build a highly successful business.

Behavioral theory -

For this very reason, the field of vision of the researchers was broadened and from now on, in addition to the characteristics of the leader, referred to his behaviour towards his employees. Behavioural theory divides leadership into four different styles, which differ according to the degree of participation and decision-making of those involved:

Authoritarian leadership
The superior alone decides on the project, while the lower-level employees have to execute the decision.

Cooperative leadership
The superior informs subordinates of his intended decisions and gives them the opportunity to comment on them before the final decision has been taken.

Democratic leadership
In this context, democratic decisions will be made within the group as to how further action is to be taken, with each person in the company having equal decision-making rights irrespective of the hierarchical level.

Laissez-fair leadership
The group decides completely independently of the superior.

Behavioural theory is divided into two orientation variables: Employee orientation and task orientation. A high level of employee orientation emphasises interpersonal relationships and accepts individuality, while a high level of employee orientation is a key factor in the development of a company.

If you would like to know which interaction of these two orientation variables applies to you, you can do this quite simply with the Managerial Grid after Mouton and Blake.

Situation theory

The next stage of development now describes the situational leadership style. This shows that no leadership style is optimal for all company situations. Thus, for example, in a crisis situation a rather authoritarian leadership style becomes important in order to defuse the delicate situation in the shortest possible time, while a democratic leadership style makes the company more innovative by collecting the collective thoughts of the employees. In addition, the leadership style must be adapted to the maturity level of the individual employee. Employees who have been with the company for some time are more likely to be seen as partners and thus participate democratically in decision-making, while new employees are less likely to be self-reliant at the outset because they first have to familiarise themselves with the new situation. The aim here is to promote the ability and willingness of the employees.

New leadership theories

The latest and most up-to-date approach relates to how a leader can motivate employees. The leader is characterized by a high degree of charisma and conveys the "why" of the company. The employees are inspired by communicating a credible and daily lived company vision. Here it is important that the leader acts as a role model in this transformational approach and challenges the status quo of the company at all times.

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