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Comparison of leadership styles & their impact on team performance

Different work situations call for different leadership styles.

To be effective, leaders need to be able to adapt their style to fit the situation. They should have a high attention to detail, be willing to take risks, exercise caution, show integrity and motivate others. There are three main types of leadership styles -- authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire -- and several lesser-known types. Each style has a different impact on team performance.


Authoritarian leaders dictate what needs to be done, when and how. They usually make decisions without seeking input from the rest of the group. There is also a clear division between the leader and the followers.

Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group. The impact on team performance is to inspire less creativity.

At its worst, group members will feel like they are being dictated to or controlled. It is best for situations where there is no time for group decision-making.


Studies show that democratic leadership is generally the most effective leadership style, according to

Democratic leaders guide the group, but they also encourage input and participation in decision-making. They have the final say over the process. Productivity isn't as high as it is with the authoritarian style, but the quality of the work is better.

Group members feel more motivated and empowered, because their contributions matter. Their opinions are sought. Democratic leadership inspires employees to strive for success.


Laissez-faire is French for "let it be" or "leave it alone." Leaders who practice this style offer little guidance for the group. They often do not take part in the decision-making and let the group decide what to do. These groups are usually the least productive. At its worst, employees do little without being told, are uncooperative and cannot work independently.

The laissez-faire style is best in situations where group members are highly skilled and need little supervision. However, for less skilled workers, it fosters indecision and lack of motivation.

Negative Leadership Styles

Some approaches to leadership encourage rebellion, discord and job dissatisfaction. Post-hoc leadership offers guidance after the fact or in hindsight, but little before work begins. Leaders who practice the sea gull method fly in, damage morale and fly off again.

The mushroom approach is when the leaders keep their employees in the dark. Another approach is known as the kipper style, in reference to the fish. This style is for two-faced leaders -- those who say one thing to their employees but do something different.