Characteristics of Good Managers: Styles of Leadership

Read this article. Do any of these leadership styles seem familiar to you? Maybe you had a manager who used an authoritarian leadership style, or maybe another took a more laissez-faire approach. Record some observations about the managers you had in prior jobs or your current position. What leadership style do you prefer to work with? What leadership style do you aspire to? Record your thoughts in your journal.

A leadership style is a manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people.


  • Recognize the differences between different leadership styles and attitudes


  • Leadership styles can be categorized as being authoritarian, democratic, laissez-faire, transactional, or narcissistic.
  • Authoritarian leaders keep strict control over their subordinates and keep a distinct professional relationship with their followers.
  • Leaders who embrace a democratic style of leadership guide and control and make key decisions when necessary, but otherwise share decision making with their followers, promote the interests of the group, and practice social equality.
  • Laissez-faire leadership is a "hands-off" approach.
  • Narcissistic leadership is a common form of leadership and can be either healthy or destructive.
  • Transactional leaders motivate their subordinates by using rewards and punishments.


  • narcissistic

    Obsessed with one's own self-image and ego.


  • Examples of authoritarian communicative behavior include a police officer directing traffic, a teacher ordering a student to do his or her assignment, and a supervisor instructing a subordinate to clean a work station. All of these positions require a distinct set of characteristics that give the leader the position to get things in order or get a point across.

A leadership style is the manner and approach of providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. There are many different leadership styles that can be exhibited by leaders in politics, business, or other fields.


An authoritarian or autocratic leader keeps strict, close control over followers by closely regulating the policies and procedures given to followers. To maintain emphasis on the distinction between authoritarian leaders and their followers, these types of leaders make sure to only create a distinct professional relationship. They believe direct supervision to be key in maintaining a successful environment and followership. Due to fear of followers being unproductive, authoritarian leaders keep close supervision and feel this is necessary in order for anything to be done.


The democratic leadership style consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality. This style of leadership encompasses discussion, debate and sharing of ideas, and encouragement of people to feel good about their involvement. The boundaries of democratic participation tend to be circumscribed by the organization or group needs and the instrumental value of people's attributes (skills, attitudes, etc.). The democratic style encompasses the notion that everyone, by virtue of their human status, should play a part in the group's decisions. However, the democratic style of leadership still requires guidance and control by a specific leader. The democratic style demands the leader make decisions on who should be called upon within the group and who is given the right to participate in, make, and vote on decisions.


The laissez-faire leadership style was first described by Lewin, Lippitt, and White in 1938, along with the autocratic leadership and the democratic leadership styles. The laissez-faire style is sometimes described as a "hands-off" leadership style because the leader delegates the tasks to the followers while providing little or no direction. If the leader withdraws too much, it can sometimes result in a lack of productivity, cohesiveness, and satisfaction. Lassiez-faire leaders allow followers to have complete freedom to make decisions concerning the completion of their work. It allows followers a high degree of autonomy and self-rule, while at the same time offering guidance and support when requested. The lassiez-faire leader using guided freedom provides the followers with all materials necessary to accomplish their goals but does not directly participate in decision making unless the followers request the leader's assistance. This is an effective style to use when:

  • The followers are highly skilled, experienced, and educated;
  • The followers have pride in their work and the drive to do it successfully on their own;
  • Outside experts, such as staff specialists or consultants, are being used; and
  • Followers are trustworthy and experienced.

This style should not be used when:

  • Followers feel insecure at the unavailability of a leader.
  • The leader cannot or will not provide regular feedback to their followers.


The transactional style of leadership was first described by Max Weber in 1947, and then later described by Bernard Bass in 1981. Mainly used by management, transactional leaders focus their leadership on motivating followers through a system of rewards and punishments. There are two factors which form the basis for this system: contingent reward and management by exception. Contingent reward provides rewards (materialistic or psychological) for effort and recognizes good performance. Management by exception allows the leader to maintain the status quo; the leader intervenes when subordinates do not meet acceptable performance levels and initiates corrective action to improve performance.


Narcissistic leadership is a common form of leadership. The narcissism may be healthy or destructive, although there is a continuum between the two. To critics, narcissistic leadership (especially destructive) is driven by unyielding arrogance, self-absorption, and a personal egotistic need for power and admiration. A study published in the journal, Personality and Social PsychologyBulletin, suggests that when a group is without a leader, a narcissist often takes charge; researchers found that people who score high in narcissism tend to take control of leaderless groups. Freud considered "the narcissistic type... especially suited to act as a support for others, to take on the role of leaders and to... impress others as being 'personalities'".

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Last modified: Monday, November 9, 2020, 12:37 PM