Strengths and Weaknesses of the 5 Common Leadership Styles

To get the most out of executive coaching, individuals need to set goals for themselves that they can work toward under the guidance of their coach. One of the areas that many executives seek help in is leadership; with improved leadership skills, they can stand out to other executives and advance their careers even further. Exceptional leadership results in engaged and satisfied employees who are more productive and ultimately increase the company’s bottom line. For that reason, great leaders tend to get a lot of attention.

Managers become great leaders only when they understand the various leadership styles and the benefits and drawbacks of each. By examining these different styles, individuals can identify their default approach to leadership, as well as its inherent problems, if any. Equipped with this knowledge, executives can then create specific goals for altering their leadership style—and thus becoming a more effective leader.

Most people do not fall entirely into a single category; they instead exhibit traits from many. The best leaders, in fact, tend to use multiple styles to balance out the strengths and weaknesses of each individual approach. The following is an outline of some of the most common management styles, along with the advantages and disadvantages of each:


whiteboard-849810_1280The laissez-faire leader gives employees the tools they need to accomplish their goals and then lets them work toward those goals on their own. These leaders tend to delegate responsibility while investing total decision-making power in employees after giving them general direction. Though this style may seem dissimilar to leadership, it gives employees autonomy and demonstrates the trust placed in them. In addition, the approach frees up time for the leader to take on other tasks. Employees who respond to this style typically emerge as strong leaders themselves.

However, some employees require more direction and may struggle in such an environment. Generally, a laissez-faire approach works best with employees who are self-motivated, as it can fail to imbue a sense of accountability in those who are not, which may make productivity wane.


A hands-on style, authoritarian leadership involves constant direction and specific instructions. These leaders tend to give commands and balk if employees want to deviate from them. This style proves ideal in a crisis situation, when people may freeze under the pressure. It also tends to get a lot of work done.

However, the approach can stifle creativity and result in lack of morale. Additionally, employees may tend to work out of fear rather than respect. This type of environment does not usually create future leaders since individuals are not given autonomy.


coachingThe coaching approach to leadership focuses on identifying and amplifying the individual strengths of each employee. These leaders tend to provide individualized attention to each member of the team, helping each one reach their full potential. This approach to leadership facilitates an organic approach to knowledge transfer and has the potential to create excellent future leaders. In addition, employees tend to feel empowered and motivated by the individualized attention.

On the other hand, some employees may become more dependent on the leader. Other employees can view coaching as micromanaging and come to resent these types of leaders. Moreover, the time constraints of coaching take away from time that an executive could be handling other matters. The model also becomes untenable in large teams and organizations.


Leaders who fall into the charismatic category tend to charm people and connect with them easily. This connection can be used to motivate people to achieve goals. Often, these leaders charm people by recognizing and praising their strengths, which can lead to long-lasting business relationships. Charismatic leaders are generally regarded as friendly and approachable. These individuals typically have the ability to repair relationships after schisms.

On the downside, charismatic leaders sometimes lack follow-through and struggle with execution. These individuals can miss out on technical details because they focus so heavily on the human side of the equation.


Image courtesy Carla Yashiro | Flickr

The transformational leader is all about process improvement and lives under the motto, “I can do it better.” People such as Larry Page and Mark Zuckerberg fall into this category. These leaders tend to have a lot of success because they keep their organizations on the cutting edge of their respective industries by challenging the status quo. Transformational leaders can usually spot flaws in a design or unnecessary bumps in a process very quickly.

While some employees are inspired by this approach to leadership, people who are resistant to change can begin to feel anxious or insecure in their job, which hinders their ability to perform. Also, some employees may perceive these leaders as risk-takers rather than visionaries.

Transformational leaders also need to be careful of burnout, in themselves as well as the employees who struggle to keep pace. With this approach to business leadership, the stakes are high and individuals can lose a lot if another leader has a better idea, so leaders tend to push both themselves and their employees hard.