The Pros and Cons of Different Leadership Styles

What are the pros and cons of different leadership styles

In 2005, leadership expert John Maxwell identified influence as the true measure of leadership.

The role of a leader is, ultimately, to influence team members to accomplish a given task while fostering team cohesion and motivation.

In 1939, social scientist Kurt Lewin applied his theories to organizational development and identified three leadership styles: authoritarian, participative/democratic and laissez-faire.

Each style has its own pros and cons.

Therefore, an awareness of each leadership style assists the manager in adopting the right approach according to the context of a given situation.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of democratic/participative leadership

In theory, the advantages of democratic leadership are obvious to subordinates.

Most people prefer to work within a leadership structure that encourages thoughtful discussion and rewards collaborative processes.

In reality, not all organizations lend themselves to the democratic leadership style.

Executives, board members, trustees and investors have expectations centered on productivity.

For them, the participative leadership style may seem inappropriate.

In some companies and organizations, where internal processes are highly focused, strictly controlled and often perfected, other leadership styles, like autocratic, are a better fit.

It’s up to leaders to determine the best style for working groups within their companies and institutions.

pro vs con

Democratic leadership pros

Employees have increased job satisfaction and a sense of empowerment.

Relationships are built on mutual trust between labor and management.

Absenteeism is lower among employees with a stronger commitment to performance.

Productivity increases as a result of a solutions-centric workforce that has input.

Creativity and innovation increase among employees through team collaboration.

Democratic leadership cons

Leaders can become overly dependent on the expertise and experience of subordinates.

Collaboration can consume valuable time getting input from people who aren’t in agreement.

Fast, incisive decisions may be difficult or even impossible, resulting in missed deadlines.

Relying on consensus from people who are misinformed or lack accurate data can be costly.

Leaders can become burdened by the challenge of overseeing experts on collaborative teams.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of laissez-faire leadership

One criticism of the laissez-faire leadership style is that it tends to favor success-oriented people rather than those who solve society’s most pressing problems.

In other words, laissez-faire leadership tends to serve the needs of the people who most benefit from it.

This can be counterintuitive to the objectives of corporate responsibility.

Other management models, like servant leadership, focus on good corporate citizenship.

The objective is to serve the needs of customers, communities and disenfranchised groups.

However, if you look at laissez-faire leadership as a management style rather than as an economic philosophy, it can be used effectively to initiate positive change in the same way that transformative and servant leadership styles do.

Such as, a laissez-faire leader who oversees the R&D division for a pharmaceutical company or biotech firm may surround themselves with highly qualified experts charged with developing new drugs to treat or cure cancer.

A team led by a laissez-faire leader does not make the manager’s objectives any less worthy than a similar group led by a democratic or autocratic leader.

Pros and Cons

Laissez-faire leadership pros

Laissez-faire leadership styles tend to work best near the top of organizational hierarchies, where executives build teams of experts such as directors and give them wide latitude to run their departments.

Teams focused on research and development, conceptual or creative projects require autonomy.

A laissez-faire leadership style delegates decision-making to managers and senior staff with expertise in their fields.

A positive laissez-faire leadership style:

Allows experts to function productively and challenges them to take personal responsibility for their achievements and failures.

Motivates people to perform optimally and gives them latitude to make correct decisions that might not be supported in a more structured environment.

Reinforces successful performance and leads to a higher retention of experts who thrive in creative environments that support autonomous decision-making.

Laissez-faire leadership cons

When laissez-faire leadership is used inappropriately in organizations, projects or settings, it can create more problems than it resolves.

If groups or team members lack sufficient skills, experience or motivation to complete projects, the organization suffers.

A mismatched laissez-faire leadership style:

Results in a lack of accountability for organizations, groups or teams and failure to achieve goals.

Demonstrates a failure to properly advise, coach or educate people, which leads to low performance.

Leads to ineffective time management by teams, resulting in ambiguous objectives and missed deadlines.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of autocratic leadership

The autocratic leadership style has many variations.

It can range from strict authoritarian military leaders, as exemplified by Napoleon and Patton, to modern manufacturing department directors.

At its worst, autocratic leadership can be stifling, overbearing and demoralizing.

At its best, the autocratic style is liberating for people who work well with clear directives under leaders who understand exactly what people do and why their roles are important.

For anyone placed in a position that requires an autocratic leadership style, it’s helpful to identify pitfalls that can cause staff to question whether it is the right approach.

Pros vs Cons

Autocratic leadership pros

Effective when decisions must come quickly, without time to consult others.

Prevents businesses or projects from becoming stagnant because of poor organization or lack of leadership.

Keeps individuals, groups or teams from missing important deadlines.

During stressful periods, autocratic leaders can be more effective, and their teams appreciate their leadership.

Autocratic leadership cons

Invites potential abuse by overly powerful personalities.

Can stifle staff and discourage team creativity.

Modern employees may not react well to authoritarian leadership.

Can discourage open communication between leaders and subordinates.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of relations-oriented leadership

Leaders who use the relations-oriented style need to always remind themselves of the task at hand.

Focusing on people’s needs alone will not get projects completed on time.

Relationship-oriented leaders need to maintain a balance between the organization’s goals and individual needs.

Every private company, nonprofit foundation, government agency and educational institution must meet its goals.

Simultaneously, team members should find fulfillment in their work.

It’s the leader’s job to balance these objectives.

The main advantage of relations-oriented leadership is that it brings leaders and subordinates closer together.

In turn, team members gain a sense of belonging.

The primary disadvantage is that relationship building is time-consuming and not always appropriate in a task-oriented environment, where critiquing subordinates is frequently necessary.

Pros and Cons

Relations-oriented leadership pros

Trust is built between leaders and subordinates.

Ingenuity, creativity and fulfillment are reinforced by teams.

Camaraderie is developed between people, and it can last for decades.

Productivity is increased because people look forward to working together.

Relations-oriented leadership cons

High maintenance of relationship building is time-consuming.

Manipulation can occur when people take advantage of personal relationships.

Sensitivity to minor incidents can cause strife between team members and leaders.

Productivity can decrease as a result of people focusing too much on personal relations.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of charismatic leadership

There are many advantages to this leadership style.

Charismatic leaders are often a catalyst for social change.

They are, however, not a fit for organizations that depend on rigid structures and processes to function.

Pros and Cons

Charismatic leadership pros

Charismatic leaders inspire people to work together for a common cause.

Organizations are committed to a central mission.

Management prioritizes learning from mistakes in an effort to succeed in their mission.

Charismatic-led companies tend to be cohesive because their workers have a clear purpose.

Charismatic leadership cons

Leaders may develop tunnel vision or arrogance, undoing their previous good deeds.

Organizations can become dependent on charismatic leaders and may suffer if he or she retires, leaves the company, or dies suddenly.

Charismatic leaders sometimes become unresponsive to their subordinates or constituents.

These leaders may not learn from their mistakes, compounding them.

Charismatic leaders may believe they are above the law, committing financial or ethical violations.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of transformational leadership

Transformational leadership works well in organizations where change is needed.

Transformational leadership is not the right fit for new organizations where no structure exists.

Pros and Cons

Transformational leadership pros:

Excellent at communicating new ideas.

Good at balancing short-term vision and long-term goals.

Experience building strong coalitions and establishing mutual trust.

They have integrity and high emotional intelligence (empathy with others).

Transformational leadership cons:

Ineffective in initial stage or ad-hoc situations.

Require an existing structure to fix.

Bad fit in bureaucratic structures.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of transactional leadership

Transactional leadership works well in organizations where structure is important.

Transactional leadership is not the right fit for organizations where initiative is encouraged.

Pros Vs Cons

Transactional leadership pros:

Rewards those who are motivated by self-interest to follow instructions.

Provides an unambiguous structure for large organizations, systems requiring repetitive tasks and infinitely reproducible environments.

Achieves short-term goals quickly.

Rewards and penalties are clearly defined for workers.

Transactional leadership cons:

Rewards the worker on a practical level only, such as money or perks.

Creativity is limited since the goals and objectives are already set.

Does not reward personal initiative.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of situational leadership

Situational leadership does not work well in all circumstances.

Pros Vs Cons

Situational leadership pros:

Easy to use: When a leader has the right style, he or she knows it.

Simple: All the leader needs to do is evaluate the situation and apply the correct leadership style.

Intuitive appeal: With the right type of leader, this style is comfortable.

Leaders have permission to change management styles as they see fit.

Situational leadership cons:

This North American style of leadership does not take into consideration priorities and communication styles of other cultures.

It ignores the differences between female and male managers.

Situational leaders can divert attention away from long-term strategies and politics.

  1. Advantages and disadvantages of servant leadership

Like all styles of management, servant leadership has advantages and disadvantages.

pros and cons

Servant leadership pros

Servant leaders build strong teams.

Excel at seeing the big picture.

Build excellent relationships and rapport with workers.

Personify a style of leadership that creates a high degree of loyalty from followers.

Bind people together with trust and encourage high levels of engagement.

Define success by their service to followers.

Servant leadership cons

Seen as a long-term strategy that depends on building trust and loyalty in order to get the most from workers, which often takes time.

Not the leadership style of choice in companies that are in need of structure and a high degree of organization to survive.

Not a good style for companies that need to be turned around very fast.

John Maxwell The 5 Levels of Leadership

Here is a great article to read on: 5 Leadership Styles: Pros And Cons

Read my latest blog on: How to Develop Your Leadership Skills

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About Maria Barina

Maria Barina is a mother and grandmother who worked for the NYC Board of Education as Laboratory Specialist Bio/GS for 26yrs till the age of 56. Her husband, after 37 of marriage, passed away from Lung Cancer. She came to myEmpirePRO to seek guidance on how to get freedom that an online business can provide. Freedom to her is being able to do what she wants, when she wants to and to show others they can do the same to. Since she done that she is able to do this by working anywhere she goes and became a mobile-prenuer

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