A group of people of varying ages, races and genders sit around a wooden conference table in a wood-paneled room. The seven people at the table watch a woman standing at the head of the table. The woman is wearing a white button-up shirt and gray plaid pants. She is speaking with a smile and pointing a finger in emphasis.
There are many different ways to lead a team. Find which one is best for your personality, employees and organization. — Getty Images/monkeybusinessimages

Finding your own unique style of leadership is essential to running a successful team. However, many new managers and entrepreneurs think they need to fit the mold of a “traditional” corporate leader.

“Sticking to the traditional ‘styles’ of leadership limits us to what leadership has looked like historically, and doesn’t make enough room for the diversity of people and thought that has to emerge in order for us to tackle modern problems and reach for modern opportunities,” said Crystal Proenza, founder of Growth Mindset NYC.

If you’re new to leadership, here’s an overview of 10 common leadership styles and what they look like in action.

[Read more: 5 Ways to Be a Successful Leader, Even If You’re an Introvert]

Mindful leadership

Mindful leadership exists as a common approach managers take to better regulate their emotions in the workplace. It involves being present and addressing issues without judgment. Mindful leaders don’t project their expectations onto situations; rather, they view different challenges from every possible perspective and connect with each employee on an individual level.

Servant leadership

The opposite of traditional leadership, servant leadership positions the manager at the bottom and the employees at the top. Servant leaders work with and for their teams to accomplish business goals and empower their workers. This creates a more supportive and positive dynamic, unlocking potential and purpose in each employee.

“In my experience, making people feel valued will result in goals being met, so it’s obvious that’s what I believe is most effective,” said Proenza. “When a leader develops their team members as professionals, not just employees driven to reach a company goal, they become adaptive, are better able to inspire and lead through change and challenge.”

Laissez-faire leadership

With a more relaxed leadership style, laissez-faire leadership instills trust in employees without micromanaging them. Laissez-faire leaders rely on their workers to channel their own creativity, skills, experience and resources to get the job done. This approach helps employees feel more confident in their abilities.

Participative leadership

Participative leadership allows employees to speak up and share their ideas for the company or solutions to problems that arise. Participative leaders take a democratic approach and empower their workers to feel like an integral part of the decision-making process — and the organization as a whole. This approach evens the playing field so each level of employee has equal say in important business matters.

Delegative leadership

Similar to participative leadership, delegative leadership empowers employees to get more involved in major business decisions. Delegative leaders step back and delegate the responsibility of decision making to their workers as the leader takes the back seat to create and manage strategies. However, these leaders remain present to guide action and take initiatives following the decisions.

[Read more: 6 Tips for Adapting Your Leadership Style in the Post-COVID World]

A collaborative leadership style is effective because it's inclusive by nature.

Annie Pace Scranton, founder and president of Pace Public Relations

Transactional leadership

First coined by Max Weber, transactional leadership, or managerial leadership, has existed for decades. Transactional leaders use rewards and punishments to motivate workers. Employees work toward clearly defined goals and objectives within a business, and managers monitor how their employees fulfill their expectations.

Intentional leadership

Intentional leadership remains similar to mindful leadership. Through intentional leadership, managers become more mindful of and intentional with their words and actions in hopes their employees follow suit.

“When I led teams, I was intentional about leadership — which means I modeled the behavior I wanted to see instead of prescribing it,” said Proenza. “I wanted to have a team of empowered professionals [who] could apply their whole selves to the roles. To do that, I invested the time to get to know about their motivations and goals, then connected it to their work today and their path in the future. This helped to make their work more meaningful.”

Authoritarian leadership

Authoritarian leadership gives most — if not all — of the power to the leader. Authoritarian leaders operate like dictators, holding all the decision-making authority and requiring compliance from their employees. While this might sound like an effective approach to managing a team, it can create fear, stress and resentment between employers and their employees.

Transformational leadership

Transformational leadership prioritizes organizational collaboration over decision making and strategic planning. Transformational leaders encourage and inspire employees to work for the overall good of the business rather than to gain rewards or avoid punishments (like in transactional leadership). This approach helps develop a more connected and positive company culture in which an employee understands their purpose and value.

Collaborative leadership

Collaborative leadership ensures leaders and employees of all levels in an organization remain informed and up-to-date with decisions — and fosters unity among managers and teammates across various teams.

“The most common leadership style I've observed is a collaborative one,” said Annie Pace Scranton, founder and president of Pace Public Relations. “A collaborative leadership style is effective because it's inclusive by nature.”

Inclusivity among managers and team members allows for a more supportive and transparent workforce.

“The leader is skilled at coaching and assisting their direct report to figure out the answer for themselves,” said Scranton. “This empowers the employee and makes the relationship between manager and employee enjoyable.”

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners’ stories.

To stay on top of all the news impacting your small business, go here for all of our latest small business news and updates.

CO—is committed to helping you start, run and grow your small business. Learn more about the benefits of small business membership in the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, here.

A message from
You’re invited to join a private network of CEOs.
Discover how 45,000 CEOs are growing their businesses. Connect with verified companies on a secure private network to find new clients, raise money and find reliable solutions for any business priority.
Learn More
Published March 14, 2022