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Truth is, if you asked us what we think the best type of leadership is, we couldn’t say. Neither could we give a definition for our own particular leadership style. Our advice is not to attempt to model yourself on any one style – doing so will only pull you in all sorts of diverse directions. We suggest you roam freely; choose your leadership style like a river finds its natural path, by starting at the source and finding the most efficient and less obstructed way to the sea.

As in ‘life’, when it comes to leadership style, there is no one single set of rules. One person’s success is another person’s ineffectuality. It all comes down to an undefined wisdom which is gleaned from an inner awareness and experience. ‘Best practice,’ so to speak, comes from observation and trying something out for yourself, in your particular environment. It’s about finding your own way and questioning constantly: is there a better way, is this beneficial to the business; is this the right thing to do at this specific time?

What the theory of leadership does is to identify some of the key characteristics that make some successful leaders excel at what they do. These observations can identify typical traits and categorise them under one particular leadership style definition or another. Each style tends to be described depending on what is being looked at. For example, a style for decision making, a style for situation handling, or a style that is useful in a task or people-orientated environment.

As a starting point, there is some value in asking yourself where you fit, in terms of your own personal preferences and current environment. Which of these leadership styles (and it’s probably more than one depending on the context) best describes your natural style or inclination? You may also like: If Nature did your business strategy

A rainbow of different styles of leadership

The following list aims to provide a guide to some of the many possibilities. Like an artist, we invite you to mix up the palette. The future is, after all, actively created with every decision, project, idea, art and invention. It’s time to discover an infinite number of colour combinations, shades and tones which can be used at any given moment on any kind of canvas.

Different leadership styles for decision making

When it comes to decision-making, we sum up the three most commonly described styles: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire.

Authoritarian leadership

This decision-making leadership style is where there is only one person in charge and he or she is completely in control of all the decisions. This style of leadership ensures that the head of the company has the only say and that all the employees undertake the work, with no questions asked. Think black and white.

Democratic leadership

A democratic leadership style is described as one where input and often consensus from multiple qualified and experienced resources is used only for the purposes of evaluation. However the final decision is made by just one. Think primary: red, blue and yellow. These colours exist on their own but can be mixed and toned up or down with the input of others.

Laissez-faire leadership

The laissez-faire style is one where the decision outcome is literally ‘a grey area’. Everyone has complete autonomy and the freedom to add their input and realise new ideas and thinking. Because of this, this style requires a highly competent and confident workforce to stay on track.

Situational leadership styles

As studied and developed by Kenneth Blanchard and Paul Hersey, situational leadership is a series of different leadership styles and characteristics which can be adopted in order to influence and affect a particular group or followers - just like a Chameleon changing its colour to adapt to its environment.

Charismatic leadership

This style is incredibly effective at attracting and inspiring people into action. Through excellent and effective communication people are highly motivated, yet grounded. There is no room for empty showmanship, a great deal of experience and credibility is required to inspire long-term respect and loyalty.

Transactional leadership

When using the transactional leadership style, goals and strategy are collaboratively determined. Tasks are then delegated within a clear chain of command, with rewards or punishment used to ensure performance and results.

Transformational leadership

The transformational style of leadership looks to involve and communicate the big picture to management and let the managers communicate and motivate the employees to do the smaller tasks.

Coaching leadership

Coaching leadership style develops a strong connection between employee’s personal goals and an organisation’s goals, which in turn cultivates a loyal, productive and motivated environment. It does require people who are ‘up for it’ and not resistant to both learning and change.

Emotional leadership Styles

In 2002, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee identified some typical emotional and different leadership styles in their book, ‘Primal Leadership’. These include: Visionary, Facilitative, Affiliative, Pacesetting and Commanding Leadership.

Visionary leadership

This style is all about inspiring others to ‘come on board’ and providing a clear idea on where they’re heading, without dictating on how they’re going to get there. Teams are given great encouragement but left to their own initiative.

Facilitative leadership

By creating a collaborative utopia from which people feel they belong and cooperate together for the greater good, this leadership style relies on extremely effective communication skills. Telling people what to do is easy, asking them what to do and getting them all to agree can be very challenging.

Affiliative leadership

Particularly effective whenever there is team tension or conflict, this leadership style promotes harmony by putting everyone first and emphasising emotional connections. It requires a great deal of empathy and the ability to resolve conflict.

Pacesetting leadership

A leadership style to get high quality results from a motivated team, Pacesetting focuses on performance and goal achievement. Everyone is expected to work to a very high standard, so whilst successful, this style can have negative effects including exhaustion, burn-out and a high turnover of staff.

Commanding leadership

The commanding leadership style is used best in critical situations, managing a crisis, or to kick-start rapid change. Using an autocratic approach, direct orders with tight control are given with an unspoken threat of disciplinary action if not undertaken correctly. Are any, or all of these, sounding too woolly, or too structured and restrictive? Are you looking for a different path to explore more meaningful ways of doing business and collaborating with your network? What it comes down to is: do you really know yourself?

The more you know about you, the more equipped you’ll become to deal with situations and the people around you. Truly knowing yourself (emotional intelligence) can provide both happiness and success for you and the company you work in. Empathy of others, good communication skills and the ability to build relationships are all part of the process. To do any of this requires taking time out of daily life, listening to your body’s stresses and emotions, and finding out why you currently think, feel and react as you do.

At HotHouse our creative leadership programmes can naturally lead us to define our own leadership style, by tuning into our environment and noticing the change around us. As quoted from Marcel Proust: “The real act of discovery consists not in finding new lands but seeing with new eyes.”