Leadership styles of the most successful managers

Mariano Rodríguez Colombelli
Apr 24, 2017

Like anything people related, managing is emotional, unscientific, and highly subjective. Becoming an successful manager is something that takes trial and error. But there’s so much pressure to perform off the bat. We tend to emulate top leaders and managers  in hopes of “copying” and learning from their success. There’s nothing wrong with learning from the best, but all teams and managers are different. Without knowing the basics of leadership styles and when and how to apply them, it’s difficult to get a grasp on something so arbitrary. Cultivating your own combination of styles for your work will help you quickly become an effective leader and manager.

It’s important to remember:

  • Copying others won’t make you an authentically great leader.
  • Your weaknesses can become your team’s strengths.
  • Strategically embody different leadership styles for each situation.


Here are three common leadership styles and how to use them to manage your best:

1. Autocratic Leadership:

You act as an autocratic leader when you primarily come to decisions and simply turn to your team for implementation. There’s very little consulting or collaboration on an issue from others. It’s a leadership style typically seen in more bureaucratic and highly structured organizations – where, honestly, it can work well. Wal-Mart’s Sam Walton and Oracle’s Larry Ellison saw it as the best way to streamline process. However, there are some big downfalls to only using this type of leadership style or failing to recognize this as you. Without a collaborative relationship with team members, problem solving and innovation will never be your team’s strong point. However, for times of crisis when your team may be driven by fear, an autocratic stance can be beneficial. Avoid using this style of leadership aside from times of uncertainty.


2. Laissez-faire Leadership:

The exact opposite of an autocratic leadership style, laissez-faire allows your team full control. A lot of the time, this is characteristic of fast-paced and closer environments like startups. Autonomy for employees for a long time in studies has shown to have a positive effect on productivity and employee happiness. But be careful to recognize when you rely on this style too much and your team feels like there is no direction or feedback they expect from a leader. This type of leadership is best used during times when really creative work is necessary to solve problems or generate innovative ideas. Paul Allen of Microsoft was famous for using this leadership style to challenge and grow new ideas. It’s also best to take this approach to menial work so employees feel more in control to be productive in their own ways.


3. Transformational Leadership:

This is somewhere in between and usually a type of leadership style attributed to most top CEOs and visionaries. Even if it makes for a good story, it still has it’s place, pros, and cons. A transformational leader is one who sets a vision, communicates it, and then delegates tasks to team members that work towards that vision. How they get it done, is up to the team. A transformational leader is mainly a visionary rather than autocratic but provides a little more direction than a laissez-faire style. Sounds perfect right? However, there are still times throughout the rollercoaster of business your team may need other leadership styles with more or less direction to be their most productive for the task at hand.
A transformational leadership style best fits where many companies are trying to go now – perpetual change towards a vision. This is why it’s so popular. The most popular “token” transitional leader is Steve Jobs. It’s the best style to use as a basis for how your approach you and your team’s work. But we don’t all have the same challenges, company cultures, and people. Learning to use other leadership styles when necessary to guide your team through different challenges is the only way to become an effective leader. These are just a few recognizable leadership styles. The key is to be objectively self-aware and know how to use your own style and others to further your team.

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