Leadership Styles: 13 Principles They Teach Us About Leadership

Leadership Styles 13 Principles They Teach Us About Leadership

When it comes to the topic of leadership, leadership styles are a common search on the internet.

And, while what is presented is often not 100% accurate, there are leadership principles we can learn from the concept of leadership styles.

(If you haven’t read our article, 4 Truths About Leadership Styles (That Most Articles Get Wrong), I recommend reading that along with this article. It will help you see some incorrect information given about leadership styles and how we should view them instead. )

In this article, we will dive into the various leadership styles and explore the principles of leadership we can learn from them.

1. An effective leader takes charge – Autocratic Leadership Style

Involving others in decision-making is generally a good practice for good leadership.

However, involving them in every decision isn’t always the wisest choice. There are times as a leader when you just need to make the call. It may be a time of crisis, or it may be a time issue, or it may be something that really doesn’t need discussion (or some other situation).

Whatever it is, you as the leader just need to make the call.

If a crisis happens, you can’t always go around and gather input. You sometimes must be quick and decisive. If you have built relationships in the past and involved others at the right times, then when these times come up, your team will respect, follow, and trust you.

Also note, if you always involve a lot of people in decision-making, it can bog the process down and make it unproductive. There’s a balance you must maintain.

Ultimately, no matter how the decision is made, as the leader, the ownership of the decision falls on you. If it fails, you take ownership. Getting other people’s input isn’t a way or excuse to pass the blame.

There are times as a leader that you just need to make the call. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

2. Good leaders involve others in plans and decisions – Diplomatic Leadership Style

While there are times that you must take command and make decisions, generally you want to get input or involve others in the decision-making process.

You still may make the decision (or you might make it a group decision), but involving others leads to team buy-in and ownership of the decision. If you make all the plans and decisions and gather no input from your team, just telling them what to do, their buy-in and ownership are going to be much lower, if any.

Involving others leads to team buy-in and ownership of the decision. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

At the same time, be careful of going overboard such as always wanting 100% consensus on every decision. That can bog down decision-making and slow the process incredibly.

And don’t use this as an excuse to not decide for yourself. Whatever decision is made, you are still the one responsible for that decision as a leader.

3. A good leader delegates tasks – Delegative Leadership Style

Leadership Styles - Delegative leadership.

If you are always doing everything, you aren’t a good leader. If you are solving everyone’s problems for them, you aren’t a good leader.

Part of leadership is delegation.

It’s your job to provide the goal and vision of what your team is trying to accomplish. You then guide, empower, and lead your team toward that goal.

If you are doing it all yourself, you aren’t leading anyone.

Your job as a leader

Focus on your job as a leader. What are the tasks only you can do? Focus on those. Delegate as many of the others to your team.

Even if it is a job you may like, if it is keeping you from other more important tasks you should be doing, or is a task someone else can do just as well or better, pass it on.

Delegation doesn’t mean “hands-off”

This also doesn’t mean you are hands-off. Some “leaders” use this as an excuse to pass on tasks to not have to worry about any of it anymore. That’s also not leading.

You do pass on tasks and projects. You empower others in those tasks. You give guidance and expectations. You check to ensure that they are being accomplished.  But you don’t just ignore them when you delegate.

Your level of involvement in the delegation

Your level of involvement will depend on the person you delegate to. If the person is new and inexperienced, you are likely to provide more checks and oversight. If it is someone more experienced and who always does a great job, then you likely will have a different form of oversight.

You can still be involved – in the right ways and right times

Delegation also doesn’t mean that you do nothing or don’t get involved.

      • There may be times when you need to jump in and help. Do it.
      • There may be tasks that only you can do. Do it.
      • There may be too much work for your team to do. Help out.

Just don’t get so bogged down in the details that you fail to see the bigger picture or fail your responsibilities as a leader.

Also Read: The definitive guide to delegation

4. Good leaders coach and mentor those under them – Coaching Leadership Style

Good leaders raise up other leaders. They hire those better than them in various tasks because they are focused on the vision, the goal, and the good of the team.

Weak leaders don’t. They don’t raise up others because that means competition for them. They may try to keep others from succeeding (and may manipulate or cause chaos) for fear that a person will replace them or make them look bad. They are focused on making themselves look good, not on the goal, vision, or team.

As a leader, you should be coaching and mentoring your staff. Some may not need it as much, and they may be rocking, but if there is some way you can help them grow or help them get better and improve in their career, do it.

Others may be inexperienced and need more guidance. Do so. Lead them and teach them and coach them. Help them become the best they can be.

When your team and its individual members win, you win – and your company wins.

Good leaders raise up other leaders. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

5. Great leaders cast vision and powerful goals – Pacesetting Leadership Style

Leadership Styles - Great leaders cast vision and powerful goals.

The “pacesetting leadership style” can be negative (setting hard goals and pushing your people to their limits), but the overall concept from it is wise.

As leaders, we should cast vision and goals. What are we aiming toward? Where are we trying to get?

While there can be dangers in some kinds of goals (for example quota goals and others can lead to unethical behavior to accomplish those goals), the right kind of goals (and having good values and boundaries that are more important than the goals to back them up) can help your team have the motivation and move the company forward.

You may cast the vision of the whole company or team, or you may be passing on an overall goal from higher up. Either way, help the team have ownership of the goal.

If possible, let the team help create the goal. That can create ownership for them.

Even if you can’t, have each person set their own goals and actions they will take to reach the overarching goal.

For example, if trying to increase traffic to your website, a team member’s goal/action could be to post an extra blog or video per week or 3 extra social media posts per day.

Those are tangible actions that are likely to lead to the overall goal being accomplished. Measure it, and if those actions aren’t working, try something else!

6. Good leaders build relationships with their teams – Affiliative Leadership Style

Good leadership isn’t built on telling people what to do or on positional authority. While you may have a position that gives you some level of authority, if you don’t build relationships and use influence, your level of effectiveness will be highly limited.

Build relationships with your team. Care about them and their dreams and goals.

When you build those relationships, you gain influence. When you have influence, you can accomplish so much more than if you tried to act based only on your position.

Relationships and influence are key.

7. Everyone should follow standards and expectations – Bureaucratic Leadership Style

As a business gets bigger, certain processes need to be standardized for efficiency and effectiveness. That’s okay.

What happens too often, though, is that there is a problem, and instead of facing the problem, a new rule is created that affects everyone, hurts productivity or morale, and the person who caused the “problem” in the first place is never really dealt with. It’s a “passive-aggressive” approach to dealing with the problem that doesn’t really work.

I’ve seen that happen way too much in government and educational institutions.

Another issue that happens is that a new standard or process guide needs to happen; however, the person who makes the rule isn’t directly affected. They create one that “feels” good to them, but they don’t get input from those who actually do the work.

This, of course, creates issues.

Instead, if there is a problem, deal with the problem. Don’t punish everyone with new rules just because you don’t want to have to face dealing with someone who did something wrong. Being passive about it IS NOT OK.

Secondly, if something needs to be standardized, work with those directly affected to create the policy. You want to make sure any rule or guideline created benefits and increases productivity, not hurt it.

And lastly, don’t create rules for rules’ sake. The goal is for your organization to reach its goals and vision – not to create rules that people have to follow. Rules are there to help the people. Rules are for the people, not the people for the rules.

Also Read: Answered: 25 Leadership Styles Questions You Wanted to Know

8. Good leaders have good emotional intelligence – Transformational Leadership Style

Emotional intelligence includes self-awareness, self-management, motivation, empathy, and social skills. In fact, Daniel Goleman in his article “What Makes a Leader” on HBR and in the book “HBR’s 10 Must Read on Leadership” states that “the most effective leaders are alike in one crucial way: They all have a high degree of what has come to be known as emotional intelligence…”

He goes on to say that “emotional intelligence proved to be twice as important as the others (technical skills, IQ) for jobs at all levels” and “the higher the rank of a person considered to be a star performer, the more emotional intelligence capabilities showed up as the reason for his or her effectiveness.”

If you don’t have much emotional intelligence, you need it.

A lack of emotional intelligence will hurt you – and your team

It makes sense. If you aren’t aware or don’t regulate your emotions, you will come across negatively more frequently toward your team and others – and you won’t even be aware of it.

If you don’t have motivation, you don’t have the drive to achieve, how far are you and your team going to get?

If you don’t have empathy and social skills, you will have a hard time working with and influencing people.

A good leader has high emotional intelligence. With it, they can see more clearly where their people are and how to help them. They build greater influence and accomplish more.

With emotional intelligence, you can grow not only your team faster and better but your organization as well.

9. Good leaders serve their team members – Servant Leadership Style

I’ll be honest –  I don’t really consider servant leadership a “ leadership style”, it’s more of a practice. However, some do, so I’ll include it here.

      • Good leaders don’t serve themselves – weak leaders do. Weak leaders are about moving situations to benefit them.
      • Good leaders are about the mission and helping and serving their team in order so they can accomplish the mission.
      • Good leaders clear roadblocks, and barriers, and empower their teams to accomplish their tasks and goals.
      • Good leaders serve their teams, and by doing so, serve their organization.

10. Good leaders know not every situation or person is the same – Situational Leadership Style

Leadership styles - situational leadership.

Each situation is different and each person is different. How you handle those situations should be different as well.

This applies to much of what we’ve discussed in this article. There are times when you want to involve all that you can in a decision and times when you must make the call. Each situation is different.

There are times when you need to provide a lot of oversight over an employee and other times when you just give the expectations and requirements and let the person work. It depends on the person.

Be flexible and adjust as the situation needs.

11. Good leaders let their employees know where they are going – Visionary Leadership Style

Good leaders cast vision. They know where they are going and they show their team where they are going. They lead their team to that vision.

Now, you may be in a position where you are passed down goals of what you need to accomplish. That’s okay. You can still cast vision with your team toward that goal.

Without vision, without direction, you and your team will fall apart. ~ Thomas R. Harris Share on X

12. People skills can increase your influence as a leader – Charismatic Leadership Style

This is a partial repeat of the transformational leadership style. The more people skills you have, the greater level of empathy you show and do, and the greater level of influence and productivity you will have.

13. People respond better to autonomy, mastery, and purpose – Transactional Leadership Style

Employee Motivation - Leadership Styles

For years the established management theory was based on carrots and sticks.

To get more out of your employees, you have to offer rewards. The more money or rewards offered, the harder they work. If they go wrong, give them the stick.

That, in most cases, has been shown to be false.

In fact, Daniel Pink exposed these facts in his book Drive.

Unless it’s a routine, monotonous job, carrots, and sticks, offering cash rewards, etc., actually decreases productivity instead of increasing it.

Even in those monotonous jobs, certain aspects of what really drives people should still happen.

What really drives people? Autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Instead of trying to carrot and stick your employees (again, it doesn’t work in most cases), offer autonomy in their work, offer ways to master and grow themselves in their work and career, and offer purpose in what they do.

The transactional mentality generally does not work – but doing the above will.

Final Thoughts on Leadership Styles: 13 Principles They Teach Us About Leadership

While leadership styles, as often presented, isn’t completely accurate, we can still draw some basic leadership principles from the styles.

It’s like baseball. When you bat, you aren’t in your “batting style” and you don’t switch to your “running style” after you hit the ball. When you steal a base, you don’t go to a “base stealing style”, and you don’t have a “ball-catching style” when you are in the outfield.

They are all just part of what you do as a baseball player.

It’s the same with leadership styles. You aren’t just “one” of those. They have principles (most do) that you should be doing, period. It’s just something that you do.

And while some baseball players may have a preference for batting over fielding or stealing bases over batting, if they disregard the other parts of being a baseball player, they will fail.

It’s the same with leadership. If you disregard the different leadership principles because your “style” or “preference” is one thing, you also will fail.

Go through these leadership principles and see what you need to work on and how you can apply them to your life.

If you follow these principles, you are on your way to growing yourself as a leader and growing your team and organization.

Also Read: What Is The Best Leadership Style? (Your Question Answered)

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