5 Leadership Styles for the Workplace

WHAT DETERMINES THE success or failure of a company often comes down to the effectiveness of its leadership. Yet every leader leverages their own leadership style to try to achieve the best results. Review the list below to see some of the most common types of leadership, and learn how you can apply each of the following leadership styles in management at work.

  • Authoritative leadership.
  • Coaching leadership.
  • Collaborative leadership.
  • Engaged leadership.
  • Observant leadership.

Authoritative Leadership

When you think of a typical leader, you may be picturing a traditional authoritative leader. An authoritative leader has total control and power over the team, and serves as the sole decision-maker. This is often also referred to as “top-down leadership” or “command and control leadership.”

In the office, authoritative leaders decide what steps and processes should occur and assign them to their subordinates, who complete the tasks without offering input or questioning the leader’s methods.

While authoritative leaders may have productive teams that benefit from clear instructions, quick decision-making and not needing to worry about coming up with improvements, many companies consider this type of top-down leadership to be “old school.” A problem with this leadership style is that it fails to harness the best ideas of the group as a whole, which can limit innovation.

Coaching Leadership

The coaching leadership style is a lot like it sounds. As with a sports coach, leaders who favor this type of management approach work to encourage and support each team member’s strengths so that employees can develop to their full potential. Also as on sports teams – where the final result depends not just on individual results but on teamwork – a coaching leader seeks ways to improve the entire team’s performance.

To make the most of the coaching leadership style at work rather than the playing field, you can channel your energies toward encouraging different employees to develop complementary skill sets. A focus on communication is also an important part of this leadership approach, as coaching people involves guiding them and offering constructive feedback to help them improve.

When it’s done right, a coaching leader can create a strong, loyal group of employees who work well together. In order for coaching leadership to produce results, though, the leader must be an effective teacher and have the ability to see how each individual’s assets can benefit the group as a whole.[ 

Collaborative Leadership

The style of a collaborative leader is the opposite of a traditional top-down leadership approach. While authoritative leadership relies on a corporate hierarchy headed by one authority at the top of the ladder, collaborative leaders believe that the best problem-solving is accomplished by a team.

Many leaders who apply this style at work rely on information sharing and brainstorming techniques to elicit ideas from team members. Collaborative leaders are also more transparent about decision-making. Their goal is to ensure that everyone not only has a seat at the table, but a voice that’s heard and encouraged in the meeting.

Benefits of collaborative leadership include the potential for greater innovation, as well as higher engagement and motivation from employees since their opinions are valued. A possible disadvantage of collaborative leadership is that teams may get bogged down if so much emphasis is placed on building consensus that it hampers a leader’s decision-making ability.

Engaged Leadership


Engaged leaders prioritize connecting with their employees to understand what’s important to each individual on their team.

A manager who uses the engaged leadership style at work may prioritize recognition for team members to show them that they are valued. When a leader cares about engagement, another common strategy is to ask people questions – both about work and their interests outside of the professional arena – and listen closely to what they say.

Engaged leaders often create engaged employees, since people feel heard and valued by managers who practice this style of leadership. One possible disadvantage is that if the line between a boss and a friend becomes blurred, it may make it more difficult for an engaged leader to tow the line when it comes to making difficult decisions as a manager

Observant Leadership

Leaders who have a high level of emotional intelligence may make strong, observant leaders. This leadership style requires a manager to look beyond the surface level to become aware of underlying patterns.

At work, this may mean being able to notice someone’s actual potential even if their skills aren’t fully developed yet. This also involves understanding how someone is feeling based on watching their body language rather than only hearing their words.

Observant leaders can help others recognize their own latent talents and strengths and can foster strong relationships with their employees by understanding others.

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