What are the 7 Main Leadership Styles?

What are the 7 Main Leadership Styles?

The 7 leadership styles most common in the workplace are; Autocractic, Charismatic, Transformational, Laissez-faire, Transactional, Supportive, Democratic. 

Whilst some people share certain basic characteristics which make them natural leaders, the characteristic of their leadership style may be very different.

Leadership Styles

1. Autocratic Leadership 

This leader is very clear about what needs to be done, when and how. With no opportunity for discussion or negotiation.  


An army sergeant does not discuss his decisions with his squadron. He has great power and authority. He is rigid in his demands and quick to discipline. Structure and absolute respect are the foundation of their leadership.

2. Charismatic Leadership

These leaders are exciting and appealing and sweep others along with their ideas. The main downside to this type of leadership is its reliance on a single person.


Leaders of cults are often charismatic. They sell an idea or vision and their followers. Cults are not usually viewed as positive as charismatic leaders have sometimes abused their positions of power. However, not all charismatic leaders are negative and they can be highly productive and successful leaders. 

3. Transformational Leadership

Similarly to charismatic leaders, transformational leaders are inspirational. However, unlike charismatic leaders this style of leadership is not dependent on a single individual. This style makes organisational changes which transform internal structures in order to increase motivation and productivity. These leaders can make huge changes by considering existing structures and systems and transforming them to better suit their organisation and its needs. 


Nelson Mandela used transformational leadership principles while working to abolish apartheid and enforce change in South Africa. Mandela placed great emphasis on forgiveness and transformed the movement.  

4. Laissez-faire

This type of leader is very hands off and relaxed. They do not make demands on their group but neither do they offer regular guidance. Very useful when dealing with highly skilled experts who require little direction and only the lightest hint of structure from a leader. In all other situations this style can lead to an overall lack of motivation, confusion, lack of responsibility, mistakes and a lack of progress.


Co-founder of Apple Steve Jobs was known for his laissez-faire leadership style. He is quoted as saying,“It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.” 

5. Transactional Leadership

Once an employee accepts a job with this style of leadership they must obey their leader. This style is very straight forward and has a clearly defined structure. It is limited by its inability to encourage creativity in employees. Focused on completing tasks they do not deviate into other possibilities which may be productive. 


Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, is said to prefer a task-orientated and goal focused style. 

6. Supportive Leader

Good at delegating tasks and making sure employees have the tools, knowledge and skills they need to their job. By listening and being attentive to their team they work through problems and issues as they arise.


Sports coaches can often be supportive leaders. They take a holistic approach to working with their team and know that they can get the very best out of them by making them feel valued and empowered. 

7. Democratic Leadership

This style encourages shared responsibility, delegation and consultation. They promote equality and encourage their team to become part of decision making processes. In turn, this makes the group members feel involved and valued and results in greater motivation and freedom of creativity.


Mahatma Gandhi worked to liberate India while also bridging internal divisions. He is famously quoted as saying, “Honest disagreement is a good sign of progress.”.


Knowing and understanding the 7 main leadership styles will help you, your team and your organisation. Awareness of the different types of leadership styles and qualities can transform your leadership skills, improve communication skills and improve overall management and teamwork. 

Engage in Learning’s Leadership Pathway courses introduces learners to styles and approaches to leadership. They will assist with identifying strengths and weaknesses and show how teams can work together to achieve the best outcomes. 

Our online Leadership Pathways courses can be found here