Study notes

Leadership Styles

  • Levels: AS, A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

Leaders exercise their authority in different ways. In doing so, they are said to exhibit a “leadership style”

Leadership styles are essentially about:

  • The way that the functions of leadership are carried out
  • The way that a leader behaves

There has been substantial research into the types and effectiveness of various leadership styles, with the four most common generally accepted to be:

The key features of each of these leadership styles can be summarised as follows:

Authoritarian Leadership

  • Autocratic leaders hold onto as much power and decision-making as possible
  • Focus of power is with the manager
  • Communication is top-down & one-way
  • Formal systems of command & control
  • Minimal consultation
  • Use of rewards & penalties
  • Very little delegation
  • McGregor Theory X approach
  • Most likely to be used when subordinates are unskilled, not trusted and their ideas are not valued

Paternalistic Leadership

  • Leader decides what is best for employees
  • Links with Mayo – addressing employee needs
  • Akin to a parent/child relationship – where the leader is seen as a “father-figure”
  • Still little delegation
  • A softer form of authoritarian leadership, which often results in better employee motivation and lower staff turnover
  • Typical paternalistic leader explains the specific reason as to why he has taken certain actions

Democratic Leadership

  • Focus of power is more with the group as a whole
  • Leadership functions are shared within the group
  • Employees have greater involvement in decision-making – but potentially this slows-down decision-making
  • Emphasis on delegation and consultation – but the leader still has the final say
  • Perhaps the most popular leadership style because of the positive emotional connotations of acting democratically
  • A potential trade-off between speed of decision-making and better motivation and morale?
  • Likely to be most effective when used with skilled, free-thinking and experienced subordinates

Laissez-faire Leadership

  • Laissez-faire means to “leave alone”
  • Leader has little input into day-to-day decision-making
  • Conscious decision to delegate power
  • Managers / employees have freedom to do what they think is best
  • Often criticised for resulting in poor role definition for managers
  • Effective when staff are ready and willing to take on responsibility, they are motivated, and can be trusted to do their jobs
  • Importantly, laissez-faire is not the same as abdication

As a generalisation, in most business sectors there has been a gradual shift away from autocratic leadership. Possible reasons for this include:

  • Changes in society’s values
  • Better educated workforce
  • Focus on need for soft HR skills
  • Changing workplace organisation
  • Greater workplace legislation
  • Pressure for greater employee involvement

Which leadership style is most effective?

The answer, as so often in business, is that it depends on the circumstances.

Whilst there has been a move away from autocratic leadership styles, there will always be situations where that style might be most appropriate - for example when a business is facing a battle to survive and quick / tough decision are required.


Advertise your vacancies with tutor2u

Much cheaper & more effective than TES or the Guardian. Reach the audience you really want to apply for your teaching vacancy by posting directly to our website and related social media audiences.

Find our more ›

Advertise your teaching jobs with tutor2u