Types of Leadership: The 5 most common types of leaders

Types of Leadership: The 5 most common types of leaders

There are different types of leadership in the workplace, and each with its advantages and disadvantages . In the world of organisations, there are rarely recipes that can be used for all jobs, companies and teams alike, given that what works and what does not depends largely on the context. However, knowing these types of leadership helps to orient oneself in these matters.

The culture of the company, the objectives pursued or the personality of the employees, among other factors, determine which leadership style best suits the company. Within some organizations, even different leadership styles coexist according to the tasks or objectives to be accomplished.

So, as everything depends on the context in which we find ourselves, if we want to maximize the possibility of having a good leader at the head of a team or organization, it is first necessary to know the types of leadership, since there is no one that is clearly superior to the others.

Types of leadership: what are the main ones?

It is important to understand that the style or type of leadership exercised by supervisors or senior managers in the company will always have consequences on workers, even if we do not realize or confuse these effects with the intrinsic personality of each person. It is very important to be clear about this, since leaders are agents who, because of their decision-making power , are in a privileged position when it comes to influencing others, for better or for worse.

The fact that we have been in the same organization for many years and have always seen the same people behaving in the same way does not mean that this range of behavior cannot be modified: varying the type of leadership can bring out very different work and relationship dynamics, and this change in mentality will involve a large part of the organization.

Good” and “bad” leadership

A positive type of leadership can improve the performance of employees, their welfare or increase the company’s profits. Conversely, a negative or disruptive style can create stress or burnout in subordinates, lower their self-esteem or cause losses to the company.

Many researchers have paid attention to this phenomenon and there are many theories about it. Below, we present the most common types of leadership .

1. Laissez-faire leadership

The type of laissez-faire leadership , also known as , is a style of non-intervention and lack of regular feedback. The name refers to the French word “let go” or “let it be”. The laissez-faire leader intervenes only when necessary and with as little control as possible. It is a non-authoritarian style based on the theory that employees with a lot of experience, training and motivation need less supervision to be productive. Because these workers are skilled and have the competencies to perform independently, they are able to accomplish tasks with very little supervision.


For some employees, autonomy is liberating, enhances creativity and helps them feel more satisfied with the work being done. This type of leadership can be used in situations where subordinates are passionate and enjoy high intrinsic motivation.

On the other hand, sometimes this type of leadership allows people who are more specialized in their work or who bring greater added value to not be constrained by formalities and excessive organizational rigidity and to do what they do best.


It should be noted that not all employees possess these characteristics . This style is not appropriate when working with employees who do not possess the above-mentioned skills. Many people are not good at assigning their own deadlines, managing their own tasks and solving problems that may arise. In other words, they have a much more passive working style where everything depends on having very specific instructions and, in situations of ambiguity, they do not have to apply common sense or tend to work less in the expectation of more information.

In these situations, projects or deadlines may not be met when group members are not properly managed or do not benefit from appropriate feedback.

Many studies seem to show that the laissez-faire type of leadership can lead to a lack of control , an increase in the company’s costs and poor productivity, sacrificing everything for the possibility of having a good working environment in the short term (in the long term the problems arising from the lack of performance make a dent in the organizational climate).

2. Autocratic leadership

The autocratic leadership allows supervisors to make decisions and set guidelines without group participation. The leader concentrates all the power and nobody challenges his decisions . It is an exercise in unidirectional leadership, the only thing that subordinates have to do is obey the guidelines set by the leader.


It can be effective in work environments where decisions need to be made quickly. It also appears to be highly effective with employees who require close monitoring of activities, as by eliminating the tendency for workers to relax, it can increase productivity and speed in tasks.


The disadvantages of the autocratic leader are obvious. He does not take into account the opinion of the workers and the employees are simply people who have to follow orders. Some employees may feel undervalued and often show little emotional commitment to the company, and may even leave the company or perform less well. This is a leadership style that is gradually being banished from leading companies.

3. Democratic leadership

Usually called participatory leadership , this type of leadership is characterized by creating enthusiasm among the workers by prioritizing the participation of the whole group . The leader promotes dialogue among his followers to take into account the opinions of the group, but the final decision is made by the superior.


This type of leader wins over the team because the employees contribute to the decision process. Therefore, employees often feel as part of the company and of the changes that may occur in the organization, improving their affiliation and commitment to the company, as well as their productivity and capacity for innovation. In this way, for example, it gives more incentives to stay in the organization, thus facilitating talent retention.


While there is some consensus that this type of leadership has many advantages, some researchers believe that it also has its disadvantages. For example, disagreements between two or more parts of the group often cannot be overcome or the path to achieving a goal is slower than for other leadership styles. In addition, this type of leadership requires the leader to possess great ability to maintain the motivation and collaboration of those who follow him, as well as full confidence in himself. Otherwise, the balance of a set of individuals could be broken .

4. Transactional Leadership

The transactional leadership is based on transactions, i.e. on processes of exchange between leaders and their followers . The followers receive rewards for their work performance and the leader benefits because they accomplish the tasks.


It is a goal-oriented type of leadership and therefore followers are motivated with rewards for the results achieved. The transactional leader creates clear structures, where it is well defined what he requires from his subordinates and the rewards they will receive. For this reason, this type of leadership focuses on objective aspects and easily recognizable units of analysis, with which it is relatively simple to operate.


The follower profile of the transactional leader is a rational individual, motivated by money and other benefits or rewards, whose behavior is quite predictable . Transactional leaders are focused on the present and are very good at making the organization function smoothly and efficiently. However, although transactional leadership involves following certain rules and works very well in moments of stability , in today’s changing world, where the success of companies often depends on continuous change, there are more effective leadership styles.

5. Transformational Leadership

Transformer leaders employ high levels of communication to achieve objectives and provide a vision of change that they manage to convey to employees. They are committed to generating a shared and transversal vision of what the company in which they work should be.


This is one of the types of leadership that brings greater flexibility to the operation of companies. In this way, leaders who work on the basis of this philosophy motivate and increase the productivity and efficiency of the group. They have a very broad vision of the work to be done, thanks to which they lead change within the organization and are able to change the expectations, perceptions and motivations of the team .

When these leaders and their followers work together, they reach a higher level of morale and motivation. The key is in the impact they have on the followers, since these leaders gain the trust, respect and admiration of the followers .



Transformational leadership, instead of analyzing and controlling specific transactions using rules, instructions and incentives, focuses on intangible qualities, such as vision, shared values and ideas , in order to create relationships, to give more meaning to independent activities and to offer a shared vision that allows to work together with followers in the process of change.

This emphasis on the work climate can become counterproductive in crisis situations where you have to react quickly to a crisis that can bring the organization down in the short term, in a matter of weeks.

At the same time, however, there are not many contexts in which it is better to sacrifice long-term prosperity for short-term results. That means that many companies and organizations that veto the entry of new leaders based on transformational leadership thus assume a high opportunity cost: they grow less than they could; and this is something that in many cases they are not even able to detect.

Bibliographic references:

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  • Daft, R. L. (2002). The experience of leadership . Cengage learning. Third edition.
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  • Graen, G. B.; Novak, M. A.; Sommerkamp, P. (1982). The effects of leader-member exchange and job design on productivity and satisfaction: Testing a dual attachment model. Organizational Behavior and Human Performance. 30 (1): pp. 109 – 131.
  • Gutiérrez Valdebenito, O. (2015). Leadership studies of men and women. Revista Política y Estrategia N° 126, 13-35.
  • Nye, J. C. (2011). The qualities of the leader. Barcelona: Paidós.
  • Zaccaro, S.J. & Klimoski, R.J. (2001), The Nature of Organizational Leadership: Understanding the Performance Imperatives Confronting Today’s Leaders. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass

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