Types of Leadership

In the article, What Is Leadership? we learned that leadership is the act of achieving results through the impact you have on your followers. But there are many ways to do this. Put another way, there many types of leadership.

There is some overlap between different types of leadership. Furthermore, real leaders often draw on more than one type.

Here you will find a brief introduction to the most prominent types of leadership. In addition,  you will find a link to more extensive details at the end of each section.

Authentic Leadership

Authentic leadership is one of the more recent types of leadership. There are 3 core things that authentic leaders know or do.

Firstly, authentic leaders know themselves well. More specifically, they know their strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. They try to place themselves in situations where their strengths are demand. And, they actively offset their weaknesses.

Secondly, authentic leaders have strong convictions. They are clear about their values, their beliefs and their hopes for the future. They openly share these convictions with the people they lead. Most importantly, they use their convictions to guide their every action.

Finally, authentic leaders are also open and honest in their interactions with the people around them. And, they encourage others to do the same.

Because of the above, people tend to trust authentic leaders. And, trust is critical if you hope to have a positive impact on those they lead.

Read More About Authentic Leadership

Charismatic Leadership

As the name suggests, charismatic leaders use charisma to influence their followers.

But what is charisma?

The word itself is based on the Greek word kharisma, which means divine gift. Therefore, it is no surprise that early theories of charismatic leadership drew on this notion. Followers see a charismatic leader as having exceptional qualities (aka charisma).

More recent theories of charismatic leadership explain:

  • How charismatic leaders act (e.g. unconventional behaviour & use of emotional appeals)
  • The psychological processes they use to influence their followers (e.g. personal identification)

Charismatic leadership can be beneficial to:

  • The leader
  • Their followers
  • The organization they are leading

For example, it can enhance the reputation of the leader, lead to the personal development of followers, and see the organization come out of a crisis.

However, charismatic leadership can also have a negative impact on leaders, their followers and the organization they lead.

Read More About Charismatic Leadership

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership is one of the more prominent types of leadership. Many of us live in democratic societies. Therefore, we are used to being able to have a say in decisions that affect us.

Democratic leadership involves you giving those you lead some say in the decisions that you make. However, democratic leaders do not:

  • Give people a say in every decision
  • Normally use a voting system

Democratic leaders do give people a say in a variety of different ways. When doing so, they consider the specific circumstances of each decision that needs making.

Participative decision making can have several benefits. For example, it can lead to better:

  • Decisions being made (although only if done well)
  • Acceptance of decisions
  • Satisfaction levels in your workplace

It can also help nurture the decision-making skills of leaders or potential leaders who report to you.

Participative leadership is another name for democratic leadership.

Read More About Democratic Leadership

Educational Leadership

Educational leadership is one of the types of leadership that is specific to an industry. Information on educational leadership is largely targeted at school principals. However, it can be adapted and adopted by others, including assistant leaders and school supervisors.

Educational leaders often face a dilemma where they must choose between using:

  • Types of leadership in the business world (e.g. strategic leadership & transformational leadership)
  • More education-specific options, such as instructional leadership.

Research suggests that instructional leadership has more impact on student results. However, there is nothing stopping school leaders from blending the two.

There also educational leadership models for teacher leadership and student leadership.

Read More About Educational Leadership

Ethical Leadership

In one sense, ethical leadership is quite simple. However, at another level, it can be quite complex.

The Simple Version

Ethical leaders want to encourage ethical behaviour. Therefore, they nurture ethical behaviour in those they lead. And, they act as a role model by behaving ethically themselves. Ethical behaviours include:

  • Being open and honest
  • Showing integrity
  • Treating people with dignity and respect
  • Being fair

Ethical leaders also seek to prevent unethical behaviour, through supervision, checks and balances. And, they address any unethical that does occur.

Add in Complexity

Leaders often face competing demands. Ethical leaders try to balance and accommodate these competing demands. However, this is not always possible. When this happens, who matters more?

Proponents of ethical leadership emphasise putting follower needs ahead of your own. But what about the needs of your clients? Or, for that matter, the needs of your organisation and its mission. For example, as a school principal, should I put my staff’s (followers’) needs ahead of the needs of my students (clients)?

Leaders also face a dilemma when determining what is right and what is wrong. Yes, there are obvious examples of each, but there are many grey areas in between.

Read More About Ethical Leadership

Organizational Leadership

The term organizational leadership is used two distinctly different ways:

  • Leadership within an organization (leadership at all levels)
  • Leadership of an organization

To clarify, the first use of the term refers to the existence and development of leadership throughout an organization.

The second refers to a specific type of leadership that is needed at the top of an organization (e.g. CEOs, CFOs, senior executives, board members). This is the meaning the Learn 2 Lead Academy puts on the term.

Read More About Organizational Leadership

Participative Leadership

See Democratic Leadership

Servant Leadership

Servant leadership is one of the most unusual and counter-intuitive types of leadership. In traditional models, leaders lead, and followers serve. However, servant leadership turns this on its head. It was first proposed by Robert Greenleaf in 1970 and draws on the type of leadership shown in the New Testament.

As the name suggests, servant leaders serve their followers. They even put their followers needs ahead of their own. For example, a servant leader may stop what they are doing to help-out a staff member in need of assistance.

Servant leaders take a personal interest in those they lead. And, they treat everyone with the inherent dignity that they deserve. Servant leaders take notice of how the people around them are feeling, and they offer support when needed.

Servant leaders also help their followers to grow and succeed – both professionally and personally. They deliberately use strategies, such as coaching, mentoring, to nurture and develop their staff.

Servant leadership has proven benefits for the people being served and the organization they work for.

Read More About Servant Leadership

Situational Leadership Types

A situational approach to leadership involves adjusting the type of leadership you use to match the characteristics of different situations. There are numerous different ways to determine the nature of a situation to adjust your behaviour accordingly. Three of the most prominent models are:

  • Situational Leadership® 
  • The Fielder Model
  • Normative Decision Making

Situational Leadership

Situational Leadership® is relatively easy to understand. Therefore, it has become the most popular of the situational leadership types. In this form of situational leadership, model, you decide how supportive and how directive to be. You do this based upon your followers’ competence in and commitment to achieving specific goals. However, despite its popularity, situational leadership lacks rigorous research report.

The Fielder Model

The Fielder Model is also fairly easy to understand. In this model:

  • Task orientated leadership is suited to situations that a quite favourable or unfavourable.
  • Relationship orientated leadership is suited to situations that moderately favourable

To determine how favourable a situation is, you consider your relationship with your followers, how structured the task is, and the authority that comes with your position. For example:

  • Favourable situation – a good relationship with your followers, coupled with highly routinized work and strong positional power
  • Moderately favourable situation – a poor relationship with your followers, coupled with highly routinized work and strong positional power
  • Unfavourable situation – a poor relationship with your followers, coupled with unstructured work and weak positional power

Normative Decision Making

The third approach to situational leadership is Normative Decision Making. This model outlines several different ways that you can make a decision. Therefore, you must choose how to make different decisions. Possible choices making it yourself, consulting with others, letting the group decide or letting someone else make the decision. In this model, you choose how to make a decision based on several different factors. The model helps you choose the best way to make a decision in different types of situation.

Read More About Situational Leadership Types

Strategic Leadership

Strategic leadership focuses on the big picture. It is the act of providing direction, based on an accurate understanding of the environment in which you operate.

Understanding your environment involves discerning:

  • Opportunities and threats in your organization’s external environment
  • Strengths and weaknesses in your organization’s internal environment

Armed with this information, you then provide direction through establishing a clear mission and vision for your organization. You can add further direction by developing strategic goals and the best strategies for achieving them.

However, strategic leadership does not end there. It involves implementing the strategies you have developed. You then monitor their impact and adjust accordingly.

Read More About Strategic Leadership

Team Leadership

Team leadership involves leading a small group of people who share a common purpose and some shared goals. They can include relatively permanent teams, such as a leadership team, as well as temporary teams, such as a project team.

The team leader may be a member of the team. However, may also be someone who oversees the team. In either case, their role is to ensure that the team’s goals are achieved.

This involves actions such as establishing expectations, setting group goals, assigning roles, delegating tasks, nurturing team cohesiveness, making decisions as a group, and managing conflict.

Read More About Team Leadership

Transformational Leadership & Transactional Leadership

Transformational leadership and transactional leadership are two types of leadership that you can understand best by comparing the two. The article What Is Leadership? emphasizes that leadership is all about results. It also outlines two different types of results:

  • Good results
  • Extraordinary results

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership focuses on achieving good results, but nothing out of the ordinary.

Staff do what is expected of them in exchange for personal benefits. This exchange is a transaction – hence the name, transactional leadership. Personal benefits can include pay, awards, promotions and increased autonomy.

Transactional leaders also monitor their staff. They can do this by watching them work and providing corrective feedback as needed. Alternatively, they can intervene when a problem arises or when expectations haven’t been met.

Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership focuses on achieving extraordinary results. Results that are beyond what is expected. Furthermore, it often results in followers being willing to transcend their self-interest in pursuit attaining the group’s lofty ambitions.

Transformational leaders inspire followers to grow as individuals while serving a purpose that is larger than themselves.

They stimulate people on an intellectual level. For example, they may challenge existing beliefs and encourage new ways of looking at old problems. Moreover, they get their followers to unleash the power of their minds to overcome any obstacles in their way.

Finally, transformational leaders take a personal interest in their followers. They seek to help their staff grow as people and to become better at their jobs. And, they do this through actions such as mentoring, coaching and delegating important assignments.

Read More About Transformational Leadership & Transactional Leadership

Other Types of Leadership

This article covered the most prominent types of leadership. However, there are other leadership models that you may be interested in. These include

  • Authoritative Leadership
  • Autocratic Leadership
  • Client Leadership
  • Entrepreneurial Leadership
  • Invitational Leadership
  • Relationship Orientated Leadership
  • Shared Leadership
  • Spiritual Leadership
  • Strengths-Based Leadership
  • Supportive Leadership
  • Task Orientated Leadership

Read More About These Other Types of Leadership

In Closing

This article has provided a brief overview of the many types of leadership that you can draw on in your practice. You can also access detailed information about each type of leadership by clicking the Read More About … button at the bottom of each section of this article.


Antonakis, J., & Day, D. V. (2018). The Nature of Leadership. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

DuBrin, A. J. (2016). Leadership, Research Findings, Practice, and Skills (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Goldsmith, M., Baldoni, J., & McArthur, S. (2010). The AMA Handbook of Leadership. New York, NY: American Management Association.

Lussier, R., & Achua, C. (2015). Leadership: Theory, Application & Skill Development (6th ed.). Boston, MA: Cengage Learning.

Northouse, P. G. (2018). Leadership: Theory and Practice (8th ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Yukl, G. (2013). Leadership In Organizations (8th ed.). Harlow, Essex: Pearson Education Limited.