20 MIN READ
Learn About the Strengths and Weaknesses of the Way You Like to Lead
When we lead for the first time, we might adopt a style of leadership that we've experienced from someone else, or that we've heard or read about. If it seems to work, we'll likely stick with it – in effect, it becomes "our" style.
But there are many approaches available to us, and a good leader is able to adapt their style according to the situation and the people involved.
Choose the right leadership style to suit the situation.
This quiz will help you to identify the style that you naturally lean toward, and introduce you to alternative approaches that you might find it helpful to develop, and the occasions when they may be appropriate.
We've based our questions on psychologist Kurt Lewin's Leadership Styles Framework – a model developed in the 1930s that is still popular and useful today.
What's Your Leadership Style?
For each question, complete the statement by choosing one of the three options: A, B or C. Please answer according to how you would behave in reality, rather than how you think you should behave. When you're finished, please click the "Calculate My Total" button at the bottom of the test, and go on to read the guidance that follows.
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12 Statements to Answer
|1 If there is serious conflict within my team: A. I remind everyone that we have goals to meet. B. I bring my people together so that we can talk it through.C. I let them work by themselves so that they don't have to bother one another.|
|2 I trust my team members: A. Very much.B. A fair amount.C. Not at all.|
|3 Some of my people are highly skilled and motivated. They: A. Can be set free to weave their magic.B. Often hold creative planning sessions with me.C. Are subject to the same workplace strategies and processes as everyone else.|
|4 The best way for me to ensure that my team meets its goals is to: A. Lead from the front. B. Encourage participation from everyone.C. Delegate often and widely.|
|5 We have an eight-hour deadline for a project that I think requires 16 hours, so I: A. Relay the deadline and let everyone get on with it. They know what they're doing.B. Ask my team members what they feel is the fastest way to complete it. C. Issue instructions and deadlines to each team member.|
|6 Poor performance should be: A. Punished, so that it doesn't happen again. B. Talked through with the individual, so that we can learn.C. Left. It will work itself out.|
|7 I need to develop and apply a new social media strategy, so I: A. Draw up the strategy myself and then sell it to the team. B. Tell my team what the challenge is and ask for suggestions on how to meet it.C. Hand over the project to my team members and ask them to come back with a plan.|
|8 I like to: A. Let my team make the decisions.B. Make a decision but not until my team has had input.C. Make a decision but not until I have told the team my rationale.|
|9 I have a new starter in my team, so I: A. Let them discover the best way of working.B. Invite them into team collaborative meetings.C. Sit with them until they understand the processes and the quality that I expect.|
|10 I think that great leaders: A. Know best. That's why they're leaders. B. Are humble and understand that a team works best collectively.C. Give their team members plenty of space to let them get on.|
|11 When asked whether I like to serve my team, I: A. Am not sure. B. Say yes, wholeheartedly.C. Frown.|
|12 I notice that a member of my team is demotivated, so I: A. Closely manage each of their tasks to ensure that they are following procedures correctly. B. Make an extra effort to ensure that they are involved in team discussions. C. Back off, as they probably needs some space.|
Total = 0
You most commonly adopt an authoritarian or autocratic leadership style. You rarely consult your team members and, instead, tend to tell them what you want, when you want it, and how you want it done.
This style works well in a crisis, when a task must be completed quickly. However, you'll likely demoralize, demotivate and aggravate people if you use it all the time. This can translate into high absenteeism and turnover rates. You'll also miss out on a wealth of ideas, thereby stifling innovation and creativity. Read more below.
You lean toward a democratic or participative style of leadership. You tend to set the parameters for the work and have the final say on decisions, but you actively involve your team members in the process.
This style can build trust between you and your people, as they'll likely feel engaged and valued. But it's not great in a high-pressure situation that requires a fast turnaround, as itwill slow you down. And, if you dislike disagreement or conflict, you might struggle with how people respond to consultation. Read more below.
Your default leadership style is probably delegating or "laissez faire." You give your team members free rein in how they work toward their goals.
This is an ideal approach when your people are highly skilled and motivated, and when you're working with contractors and freelancers who you trust. But if a team member is inexperienced or untrustworthy, or if you lose sight of what's going on, this approach can backfire catastrophically. Read more below.
Do you believe that you can adapt your style? Harvard University professor Ron Heifetz and leadership experts David Rooke and William Torbert say that you can. So let's look in more depth at Lewin's leadership styles, their strengths and risks, and how you might become more skillful in using them.
Authoritarian, Autocratic Leadership
This approach is helpful when your team needs to follow a process "to the letter," to manage a significant risk. It's also effective when you need to be hands-on with people who miss deadlines, in departments where conflict is an issue, or in teams that rely on quick decisions being made.
But you need to be aware that relying on control and punishment to maintain standards will likely drive people away. Similarly, if you always demand that your team works at top speed, you can end up exhausting everyone.
Instead, you can show respect for team members by providing the rationale for your decisions. And they will more likely comply with your expectations if you take the trouble to explain Why the Rules Are There.
You can improve your ability to "lead from the front" by Planning for a Crisis, Thinking on Your Feet, and making good decisions under pressure. But be sure to balance these skills with an awareness of their potential negative impact on creativity, ideas gathering, motivation, and trust within the team.
Being too autocratic can also mean that you'll find it hard to stand back from the detail and take a wider, more strategic view.
Did you achieve your leadership role thanks to your technical expertise? If so, you'll likely be used to getting things right, adding value, and having people's respect. But your soft skills might be lacking, so don't be afraid to listen and collaborate more.
Democratic, Participative Leadership
With this approach, you set goals, guide team discussions, and make the final decision. But you also acknowledge that your people can have valuable insight into a problem or process, so you actively consult them. As a result, you'll likely gain creative input and fresh ideas that you wouldn't have come up with if you were working alone.
You might wonder how to manage differing opinions in the team, once you've invited participation in this way. Your goal is to build a culture in which people can have healthy debates with one another. So:
- Set an example by being open and flexible yourself.
- Make mutual respecta priority, to ensure everyone's participation.
- Learn some Conflict Resolution skills.
- Read our article on Managing Emotion in Your Team.
Be aware that processes could become dangerously slow if you involve your team members in every decision. You'll need to judge carefully whether you need to adopt a more autocratic approach, even if it's only briefly.
The Delegating, "Laissez Faire" Leader
"Laissez faire" is a French phrase adopted into English that means, "Let (people) do (as they choose)." It describes a policy of leaving situations to run their own course, without interfering.
By adopting this style of leadership, you empower your team to make decisions and to organize its own processes, with little or no guidance. The danger of this approach is that situations can collapse into chaos if your people have low motivation or poor skills. It can work, however, if they are experienced, knowledgeable, confident, creative, and driven, or if deadlines are flexible and processes are simple.
Be in no doubt, though, that as the leader you will still be held accountable for the outcome! So you might want to organize team decision making processes to support your people while you take a "hands off" approach. Just be sure to delegate the right task to the right person, as a mismatch could mean that the whole team fails.
Avoid becoming too remote, even with a high-performing, highly autonomous team. Change can occur at any time in business, so your organization's requirements for your team might shift after your initial brief. If this happens, stay in touch with your people, and communicate clearly and promptly. Remember, you can offer your support without becoming a micromanager!
Consistently excellent and long-lasting teams tend to have transformational leaders. These leaders have high expectations for, and set a fine example to, their people. And they inspire them to reach for the seemingly impossible.
We have numerous resources on leadership styles and approaches in our Leadership Skills toolkit. You might find the following articles helpful:
- Eric Flamholtz and Yvonne Randle's Leadership Style Matrix.
- The Blake-Mouton Managerial Grid.
- Robert House's Path-Goal Theory.
- Goleman et al's Six Emotional Leadership Styles.
- Tannenbaum and Schmidt's Leadership Continuum.
- Rath and Conchie's Strengths-Based Leadership.
- Greenleaf's Servant Leadership.
- Collins' Level 5 Leadership.
We all tend toward one leadership style more than another, due to our personal preferences, abilities, role models, and more.
But one approach doesn't fit all scenarios: some situations and people call for a fast, firm, top-down approach, while others flourish with shared responsibilities and the freedom to plan, decide and act.
You and your team will likely perform better if you develop a wide set of styles to apply as appropriate.
Kurt Lewin's model expresses this range of styles in relatively simple terms, from Authoritarian or Autocratic, through Democratic or Participative, to Delegating or "Laissez Faire."
Transformational leadership is the best approach for most situations.
This assessment has not been validated and is intended for illustrative purposes only. It is just one of many that help you evaluate your abilities in a wide range of important career skills. Click here for other self-tests.
Example Answer #1:
“I would describe my leadership style as direct, and leading by example. I enjoy delegating tasks and taking the lead on projects, but I also like to stay involved and inspire my team by showing that I'm working hands-on to help them, too.
See what your team believes your top skills are. Consider asking a mentor about their views on your strengths and weaknesses. Alternatively, you could take a leadership skill assessment that clearly articulates your strengths. Then, write them down in an online document and see how your skills change over time.What is the best style of leadership and why? ›
Democratic leadership is one of the most effective leadership styles. This is because it allows lower-level employees to exercise the authority they'll need to use wisely in future positions.What 3 words would best describe your leadership style? ›
Personally, I use these three words to define leadership and keep focused on terms that allow for personal leadership traits to be effective: Vision. Direction. Support.What is the most common leadership style? ›
- Transformational Leadership.
- Delegative Leadership.
- Authoritative Leadership.
- Transactional Leadership.
- Participative Leadership.
Respectful: Great leaders treat their teams with respect, gaining respect in return. Transparent: Being open and honest makes work more efficient and enjoyable. Trusting: Leadership requires delegation–trusting their team to complete what they are assigned with excellence produces positive morale and mutual respect.What are the 10 common leadership styles? ›
- Autocratic Leadership.
- Transactional Leadership.
- Bureaucratic Leadership.
- Charismatic Leadership.
- Transformational Leadership.
- Coaching Leadership.
- Democratic Leadership.
- Collaborative Leadership.
Why is it important to know your leadership style? An awareness of different styles - and their strengths, weaknesses, and suitability - allows you to work in the way that best lends itself to your personality. This will bring the most benefit to the people you are leading and the organisation you are working within.What are the 3 styles of leaders what is the best for you? ›
Leadership style is a leader's approach to providing direction, implementing plans, and motivating people. In 1939, psychologist Kurt Lewin and a team of researchers determined that there were three basic leadership styles: Authoritarian (Autocratic), Participative (Democratic) and Delegative (Laissez-Faire).What is leadership by example? ›
To lead by example means to guide others through your behavior instead of your words. Your intention is to inspire others to copy your behavior. The opposite of leading by example is to say one thing and do another. The saying “do as I say, not as I do” may have worked in the past, but it has no place in today's world.
The 8 Leadership Strengths to learn:
Excellent communication skills. Effective negotiation skills. Conflict resolution skills. Collaboration skills and intercultural sensitivity.
Knowing your weaknesses allows you to understand how you can work around them. Strengths and weaknesses are part of being self-aware. When you know your strengths and weaknesses, you can create a development strategy that focuses on your specific development needs.How do you identify your strengths and weaknesses at work? ›
Talk to Others
Perhaps the best method of identifying your strengths and weaknesses is to seek the advice of others. Colleagues, peers, friends and even family members can help in assessing strengths and weaknesses.
Autocratic leadership: It is least effective because an autocratic leader takes every decision, and employees' ideas and input also matter. An autocratic leader does not take any pinion of teams. Employees, in this case, feel unappreciated, demoralized, and undervalued.What is the best leadership? ›
1. Authoritative Leadership. The authoritative leader knows the mission, is confident in working toward it, and empowers team members to take charge just as she is. The authoritative leader uses vision to drive strategy and encourages team members to use their strengths and emerge as leaders themselves.How would you describe leadership in your own words? ›
In simple words, leadership is about taking risks and challenging the status quo. Leaders motivate others to achieve something new and better. Interestingly, leaders do what they do to pursue innovation, not as an obligation. They measure success by looking at the team's achievements and learning.Can you explain some leadership styles? ›
What Are Leadership Styles? Leadership styles are classifications of how a person behaves while leading a group. Lewyn's leadership styles are authoritarian (autocratic), participative (democratic), and delegative (laissez-faire).How do you apply leadership styles in the workplace? ›
- Listen and learn. As a leader, you spend a lot of time communicating with your team. ...
- Communicate clearly. ...
- Do your best work. ...
- Take responsibility. ...
- Set a strong example. ...
- Include everyone. ...
- Strive for authenticity. ...
- Become a thought leader.
- Know yourself. Leaders understand themselves and what they offer to the organization. ...
- Know the organization. ...
- Build relationships. ...
- Create vision. ...
- Manage the day-to-day relationships and operations of your team.
Good leaders share a level of brilliance that enables them to inspire the masses toward new ideas and innovations. Examples include Mahatma Gandhi, Oprah Winfrey, and Martin Luther King Jr. Reading about exceptional leaders is beneficial because it allows you to learn positive traits and behaviors to emulate.
Democratic leadership is one of the most popular leadership styles because it involves input from the entire team and fosters employees' sense of ownership in their work.What are the 7 leadership styles and meaning? ›
The seven primary leadership styles are: (1) Autocratic, (2) Authoritative, (3) Pace-Setting, (4) Democratic, (5) Coaching, (6) Affiliative, (7) Laissez-faire.What are three examples of leadership? ›
There are multiple types of leadership styles such as Democratic, Bureaucratic, and Autocratic.What are the 3 leadership styles give an example of each? ›
There are three basic styles of leadership decision-making: authoritarian, democratic, and laissez-faire. Authoritarian leaders rule their groups, democratic leaders try to include everyone in the decision-making process, and laissez-faire leaders let the group function without much - if any - interference.How will you lead your team? ›
- 1) Focus on Leadership Development. ...
- 2) Give Them What They Need. ...
- 3) Bring Back the Good Vibes. ...
- 4) Be Decisive. ...
- 5) Encourage Your Team to Be Bold. ...
- 6) Be Transparent. ...
- 7) Adopt a Win-Win Mentality.
- Make Others Feel Safe to Speak-Up. Many times leaders intimidate their colleagues with their title and power when they walk into a room. ...
- Make Decisions. ...
- Communicate Expectations. ...
- Challenge People to Think. ...
- Be Accountable to Others. ...
- Lead by Example. ...
- Measure & Reward Performance. ...
- Provide Continuous Feedback.
Leadership is the ability of an individual or a group of individuals to influence and guide followers or other members of an organization.What are my weaknesses as a leader? ›
Leadership weaknesses are traits that a leader may have that can result in negative actions and relationships in the workplace. Traits like micromanaging, inconsistency, a lack of awareness and other similar qualities can be attributed to weaknesses in leadership skills.What is your strength best answer? ›
When answering, mention what your top strengths are, provide examples on how you've used them in the past, and finally, describe the results you've gotten. Be super specific with your answers. Don't just say “I'm good at X” - really dive deep and give the interviewer a comprehensive answer.What is your weakness best answer? ›
Answer “what is your greatest weakness” by choosing a skill that is not essential to the job you're applying to and by stressing exactly how you're practically addressing your weakness. Some skills that you can use as weaknesses include impatience, multitasking, self-criticism, and procrastination.
Leaders who work from their strengths — or as I call it, from their comfort zone — tend to be happier, more effective and more engaged. According to Gallup, they also positively impact their business's bottom line and are about six times more engaged in and out of the office.How can you use your strengths to improve your skills? ›
- Assess Subsets of Your Strengths. ...
- Find People to Cover for Your Weaknesses. ...
- Get Additional Training. ...
- Identify Strength-Enhancing Opportunities. ...
- Deliberately Practice. ...
- Communicate and Blog. ...
- Learn From Others. ...
- Be Open to Change.
- Identify your weakness. ...
- Outline a plan for professional development. ...
- Commit yourself to a timeline of goals. ...
- Establish a support network to hold you accountable. ...
- Challenge yourself to push past discomfort. ...
- Recognize change as a long-term commitment.
Put your weaknesses in a positive light
Here are three suggestions: Emphasize the positive, avoiding negative words like failure or inept. Talk about how you've transformed your weakness into a strength. Show how you recognize where you need to improve and take steps to better yourself.
- Democratic Leadership. ...
- Autocratic Leadership. ...
- Laissez-Faire Leadership. ...
- Transactional Leadership. ...
- Charismatic Leadership. ...
- Transformational Leadership. ...
- Servant Leadership. ...
- Bureaucratic Leadership.
Leading by example is a leadership style where you model the behavior you want to see in your team members. When you lead by example, you don't just push team members towards excellence—rather, you actively demonstrate that excellence.What is leadership style in simple words? ›
A leadership style refers to a leader's methods, characteristics and behaviors when directing, motivating, and managing their teams.Which leadership style is most important? ›
Democratic leadership is one of the most popular leadership styles because it involves input from the entire team and fosters employees' sense of ownership in their work.What is the best example of your leadership? ›
Taking a lead role in a school project is a great example of leadership experience. If you delegated tasks, chose the overall strategy for the project, or anything like that, that's leadership! Organizing a team presentation can also be considered leadership.How can I be a good leader example? ›
- Get your hands dirty. Do the work and know your trade. ...
- Watch what you say. Actions do speak louder than words, but words can have a direct impact on morale. ...
- Respect the chain of command. ...
- Listen to the team. ...
- Take responsibility. ...
- Let the team do their thing. ...
- Take care of yourself.