Human beings have experienced uncountable instances of leadership for as long as they have existed. Various leaders have gone down on record both from the ancient world (BC) to the past twenty centuries (AD). Leadership is a highly valued commodity which is always sought-after both during times of prosperity but most importantly during times of crises (Northouse, 2009).
Leaders are needed in virtually all human engagements like politics, religion, work, and other social encounters since it affects people’s social, personal, as well as professional well being. Leadership can be defined as the process of providing direction, implementing a program of action, and motivating people to achieve desired goals (Chang, 2005).
This implies that corporations, organizations, businesses, government agencies, educational institutions, and religious groupings are constantly searching for proper leadership that will ensure the achievement of various objectives. According to Northouse, there have been varied attempts to provide a universal understanding of the concept of leadership and the various styles (2009).
The essay seeks to discuss the four major styles of leadership; autocratic, bureaucratic, Laissez-faire, and democratic. Their respective description will help highlight their different disadvantages and advantages. It will then conclude that different situations call for different styles of leadership and their application depends on the leader’s judgment.
Autocratic style of leadership is considered one of the most classical of all. It is also known as authoritarian leadership since the leader gives orders to the led. The leader in this case is responsible for decisions that need to be made and no one else is expected object.
It is characterized by dictatorship tendencies since the leader wields all the powers (Northouse, 2009). This style has been found to be appropriate in situations when; the leader has all the knowledge necessary to accomplish a task, there is limited time left, trainings are conducted, the leader feels threatened by the followers, other styles have failed and also when the ones being led are highly motivated in the task at hand.
In an organization, for instance, autocratic managers will not allow the employees to air their opinions or ask any questions but to take orders. Some leaders of some states still use this style of leadership, for instance in Zimbabwe and North Korea (Chang, 2005).
Such leaders succeed by creating motivational environments where there are rewards for the obedient as well as punishments for those who fail to obey (Cruz, 2010). Organizations which embrace this style, according to recent research, have recorded a higher employee turnover coupled with frequent absenteeism.
The second style of leadership is the democratic, which is also commonly known as participative style of leadership. The followers are fully engaged in the decision-making process and are aware of the latest developments that affect them in one way or another (Cruz, 2010).
Such a leader takes input from the members before making the final decision so as to take everyone’s opinion into consideration. The trust that the leader gives to the followers raises their morale in the task and as a result, they exhibit a spirit of teamwork and cooperation. This style has been found to yield high quality and quantity outcome if used over a long period of time.
It is also most useful when used by leaders in advanced or developed societies when recommending significant changes, or when solving deep rooted problems. US president, Barrack Obama tends to use this style when it comes to the need for policy change like the recent Healthcare Bill, as well as resolving foreign tensions and conflicts (Northouse, 2009). In organizations, such leaders encourage workers to set the goals, motivate them by promotions as well as periodic recognition.
However, this style, just like the others is not successful in all situations particularly when there is not enough time left to make key decisions and when the leader thinks this style is raising more threats than it seeks to solve (Northouse, 2009). Unlike autocratic style of leadership, a democratic leader may have positive rapport or relationship with the followers.
Laissez-Faire style of leadership is the third one and it is also commonly called “free reign” or “hands-off” style. In this style, the leader gives as much freedom as possible to the followers to make their individual decisions (Cruz, 2010). The followers are empowered to set the goals, resolve arising issues, and decide as par their own discretion.
This style can be very successful when the led are experts, highly educated and experienced in whatever task is being done, are highly motivated to work on their own, and when the leader thinks the followers are trustworthy as far as performance is concerned(Northouse, 2009).
There are situations, however, when such a style may not be very effective. For instance when the followers are motivated by the management availability, need guidance in the course of action, and when the leader is incompetent and hence trying to cover up for the weakness by delegating all responsibilities.
The last in this case is the bureaucratic style of leadership. The leader leads by the already laid down procedures or policies. This is almost similar to authoritarian style only that the leader in this case quotes what is provided “by the book” (Chang, 2005). When a given procedure is not within the leader’s jurisdiction, he or she refers to a higher authority in line. Such a style creates more of an enforcer than a leader.
All police officers worldwide can be considered to be practicing this style of leadership since they embrace a Down-Up style of management. It is appropriate when what is to be performed is a routine and when the task is delicate with strict procedures (Cruz, 2010). However, this style is inappropriate in times of change, when creativity is required and also when the style has been rejected by the followers.
The essay has discussed the four major styles of leadership and their unique appropriateness as well as inappropriateness. From the discussion, we can conclude that no single style is appropriate in all situations of leadership. Instead, the leader should evaluate every situation and adopt the best style at a time or combine all of them in proper proportions.
Chang, H. J. (2005). Factors that affect followers’ perceptions of leader’s performance (3rd ed.). Lynn University
Cruz, R. (2010). Styles of Leadership. eSSORTMENT, Your Resource for Knowledge. Retrieved on March 31, 2010 from
Northouse, P. G. (2009). Leadership: Theory and practice (5th ed.). SAGE