What are the Different Leadership Styles and Which One is Yours?

  • Leadership qualities are the most important qualities a manager should have, according to a very big number of researchers.
  • The success of any project highly depends on the leadership and management styles of the project manager or responsible.
  • Find out more about the different leadership styles and you might find a leadership trait that would help you, in particular, to run your business projects better.

different leadership styles

A key role of a manager, according to Henry Mintzberg, is leadership: motivating subordinates and unifying effort. In 2010, Mintzberg co-authored and published a gem of a book with Bruce Ahlstrand & Joseph Lampel "Management: It’s Not What You Think!" A collection of short, sometimes funny articles on management, leadership styles and stereotypes. Often tongue-in-cheek and irreverent, it makes for some light, yet serious, reading. As the authors remind us, “If you want to uncover someone’s flaws, marry them or else work for them. Their flaws will quickly become apparent.”

Different leadership styles in successful project realisations

As Project Leaders, your team members will pick up on some of your flaws. Some team members might even like you well enough to point out your flaws to you. Such team members you want to keep close, chances are they want you to excel and the project to succeed. The key is not to take such criticism personally and to regularly humble yourself by remembering that the project is bigger than you. In fact, it’s not about you!

Having said that though, as Project Leader, your leadership styles do have an impact on how well, or badly, your project is delivered. One of the seminal research findings on leadership styles dates back to 1939. Kurt Lewin led a group of researchers, and published their findings in the Journal of Social Psychology[1].

Lewin is widely considered the ‘father’ of modern social psychology. One of his most famous quotes is, “there is nothing so practical as a good theory.” In this study by Lewin, Lippit and White, schoolchildren were grouped into one of three ‘leadership styles’ groups: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. Their key findings are summarised in the diagram below:

Democratic leadership style is the superior

Their main finding was that the democratic leadership style is superior to the authoritarian and laissez-faire styles. Interestingly, when the researchers asked the leaders to change their leadership and management styles, the effect of each style remained largely consistent. This result indicates that your team members are reacting to how you treat them, and not reacting to you personally. Clearly, it is definitely not about you. Team members will work with you, or turn you mental, depending on how you treat them.

As Simon Sinek said, “When leaders care less about their people, their people will be careless.”

So, with that being said, what's your leadership style? How has it been working for you? Do you see the above leadership styles in others, and how has it worked for them?


Dayo Sowunmi II

Co-Founder at The Anode Group

Project Leader, Human Rights supporter, Speaker, Author and Entrepreneur. I have successfully led small and large teams including multi-million dollar initiatives globally, consistently adding value for partners and clients. My work on the people-side of leadership has received acclaim and published in several international publications. I recently published a book, Leadership Is Mental, offering fun and fresh ways to lead, mind-read and motivate your team, and how to look after yourself.

The Anode Group

Consulting and strategy


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Lina Barfoot

Lina Barfoot , Editor at SavvySME

Great article. Interesting discussion on different styles of management, it must be difficult to change your style though if it's not quite what you want it to be? would be very interesting to hear how you might change your management style if it's lacking.

Dayo Sowunmi II

Dayo Sowunmi II , Co-Founder at The Anode Group

Thanks Lina. The key to potentially changing one's leadership style is to first identify which style/s one has, and then figuring out how the team responds and performs with the style of leadership. If I find that I lack the appropriate style to lead a successful team, some soul-searching and introspection tends to help. I reassess my actions, noting that "it's not about me", humble myself and try my hardest to lead in a way that best supports my team. Happy to discuss further offline. Cheers