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What is a Leadership Style?

A leadership style is the way a leader relates to others, how they provide direction, how they implement and monitor plans, and how they motivate their teams and their organisation.

Kurt Lewin carried out the first major study of leadership styles in 1939, and his classification of leadership styles into Autocratic, Participative (or Democratic) and Laissez-Faire was extremely influential and is still used today. Brief descriptions of the styles identified by Lewin are included in the final section ‘Leadership Styles’. 


Using Different Leadership Styles

Tannenbaum, R and Schmidt, W (1958) saw leadership as a continuum, and recognised that the most appropriate leadership style at any time depended upon a variety of factors, such as the leader’s personality and the situation they faced.
Your leadership style should, therefore, reflect the situation you find yourself in (‘Situational Leadership’) rather than your personal preference.

An effective leader practises gradually widening the number of styles they can use. Your team will not see this as inconsistent, especially if you explain the reason for your approach and style at the time. 

Leadership Styles1.png Leadership Styles2.png



Blanchard, K. et al. (2000) Leadership and the One Minute Manager. Harper Thorsons.

Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review [online]
Available from: https://hbr.org/2000/03/leadership-that-gets-results [Accessed 19 Aug 2022]

Hourston, R. (2013) 7 Steps To A Truly Effective Leadership Style. Forbes [online]
Available from: https://www.forbes.com/sites/womensmedia/2013/04/24/7-steps-to-a-truly-effective-leadership-style/#4d03a8571ce5 [Accessed 19 Aug 2022]

Lewin, K., Lippitt, R., and White, R.K. (1939) Patterns of aggressive behaviour in experimentally created social climates. Journal of Social Psychology. 10, pp. 271–301.

Sandling, J. (2015) Leading with Style. CreateSpace.

Tannenbaum, R. and Schmidt, W. (1958) How to choose a leadership pattern. Harvard Business Review [online]
Available from: https://hbr.org/1973/05/how-to-choose-a-leadership-pattern [Accessed 19 Aug 2022]


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