Types of Leadership – Classification and characteristics of each

We explain what types of leadership exist and the characteristics of authoritarian, charismatic, bureaucratic, democratic leadership and more.

Types of charismatic leadership
Charismatic leadership seeks group motivation.

What types of leadership are there?

When we speak of leadership, we mean the ability to lead others towards the fulfillment of a common goal, that is, the ability to organize a group through the management of its human resources. This implies convening, guiding or managing, but also delegating, encouraging and promoting others.

Leadership is a highly desired capacity in the corporate, political and administrative world, given that the management of companies and work organizations is an area subject to great demand and in continuous adaptation to the technological, social and cultural environments of the time.

There are, therefore, different ways of exercising leadership, depending on the ways in which the leader or leader connects with others and manages their efforts. Next we will see which are the most common types and what are their respective characteristics.

Authoritarian leadership

The authoritarian leader is one who exercises his authority in a despotic, tyrannical or simply inflexible way. It is the traditional model of unquestionable authority, in which only the leader can make the decisions of the organization, and these are final and definitive, without consulting them with the group, or allowing the latter to question them.

In that sense, it is a model that does not make others feel included and is often inefficient when it comes to motivating them, in addition to centralizing all decision-making power on the leader, which can cause delays and bottlenecks, or simply submit vital decisions to the whims of the manager.

An example of this type of leadership is the one that occurs in the militia or military organizations, in which each rung of the hierarchy is rigidly defined, and an order received must be obeyed without question. A model that is probably suitable for the battlefield, but not so much for other types of situations.

Charismatic leadership

A charismatic leader is one who “falls in love” with others with his personality, that is, instead of imposing his will, as in the previous case, seduces those around you and motivates them to adopt your point of view. It is a driving mode that is also largely dependent on the leader, although with much greater capacity to motivate those around him.

The big problem with this type of leadership is that leaders end up believing more in themselves than in group work, and it makes them dependent on their presence, and the organization can collapse if the leader is not available.

An example of this type of leadership occurs very often in politics, where party leaders and candidates for public office dedicate their efforts and their charisma to winning the popular vote. Once in power, however, the leadership model can change, when the charismatic leader has other methods at his disposal to lead the collective.

Bureaucratic leadership

The bureaucratic leader is a traditionalist, someone who always play by the rules and follow the customary methodseven when they prove to be ineffective.

It has the virtue of being a predictable leadership model, that does everything according to “the manual”, but that demonstrates a strong rejection of change, innovation, and exceptions. His leadership is not necessarily autocratic or charismatic, but very often reaches power because the rules establish it.

An example of this type of leadership is that which reigns in public or state institutions, whose structure is rigid and its functioning is regular, customary, repetitive. Bureaucratic leaders pay more attention to paperwork, the system, and compliance with the rules, than to the specific cases that need to be resolved. It is something that we have all experienced when doing a paperwork.

Democratic or participatory leadership

The democratic or participatory leader is the one who listens the most and takes into account the opinion of others, that is, who understands himself as a spokesperson and a companion for the processes carried out by the members of the organization. Instead of being a group leader, he is a facilitator, a companion, someone to whom power is delegated so that he can exercise it to facilitate processes and optimize results.

This means that is a flexible leadership model, which pays more attention to the particulars and to each case, than to the regularity or structure of the system, which can often lead to problems. However, it is a typically effective leadership model, insofar as it can transform itself to meet the needs that are presented to the group.

An example of participatory leadership is that of a coach or personal trainer with his group of exercisers. The latter delegate authority to him because they trust his knowledge, but also because they expect him to take their needs into account and adapt the training plan to each individual’s unique achievements, rather than meeting a group goal.

Leadership ‘Laissez-faire’

Leader laissez-faire (from the French “let go”) is characterized by having a very free rein, that is, by let the organization manage itself as much as possible, intervening only in extreme cases, urgent or that merit some kind of authority.

For the rest, the leader lets each one make decisions and apply their own criteria, appearing only to correct or to warn of future danger. It is the least intrusive model of leadership possible, the one that relies the most on the autonomy of the group.

An example of this type of leadership can be found in the CEOs of young companies or “startups”, who, lacking an established method yet, and generally being made up of young and ambitious individuals, take advantage of individual efforts allowing them to workers carry out their work in the way that best suits them, always within certain established parameters.

Strategic leadership

The strategic leader is a planner, a person endowed with a vision for the organization and a method to achieve it. This means that he is a leader who takes advantage of opportunities, without neglecting the stability of the organization.

His vision is usually focused on growth, drive and motivation, for which he can use models that are more or less participatory, more or less bureaucratic and more or less charismatic, as needed. However, these leaders They tend to be more committed to the big picture, than to the individuals.

An example of strategic leadership is that expected of an investment director of a company or business group, capable of planning investment models applicable to the entire organization, drawing alliances and continually evaluating its resources, without dealing instead with the issues of day to day.

Transactional leadership

A transactional leader is one who does not see the organization, as much as its transactions, that is, who engages with subordinates through setting specific goals, in the short term, whose fulfillment rewards with some type of bonuses.

In this way, it is a leadership model that is based on individual or group motivation, and somehow in fostering a certain spirit of competition. The downside is that it fosters a short-term culture in the group, which aspires to immediate reward and is less committed to the further vision of the company.

An example of transactional leadership is the sales area managers, who encourage the fight for commission among their employees: whoever sells the most in a given month will receive a given bonus. Many “employee of the month” campaigns pursue this logic.

Transformational leadership

A transformational leader is a leader committed to change and improvement, who is always looking to innovate, grow and improve in all possible aspects: labor, strategic, administrative, etc.

They are ideal leaders for growth or transition phasessuch as business mergers, renovations, integrations or remodels, as they are continually pushing the organization out of its comfort zone. Their drawback occurs when the organization is slow to reach the critical mass necessary for change, or when the latter takes much longer than it should, since they are not particularly patient or stable leaders.

An example of transformational leadership can be found in business coaches who are called (via outsourcing) to supervise critical moments of a company, such as those mentioned in the previous paragraph.