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Benefits and Drawbacks of Major Leadership Styles

Michael Chuley

Aug 3, 2022·5 min read

In the 1930s, Psychologist Kurt Lewin described the three major styles of leadership as autocratic, democratic, and laissez-faire (Mindtools, n.d.). Since Lewin, several additional styles and theories have been identified and developed by management experts. Liebler and McConnel (2022) describe leadership style as the way in which a manager interacts with their subordinates. The authors list autocratic, bureaucratic, participative (democratic), lasissez-faire, and paternalistic as predominant leadership styles (Liebler and McConnel, 2022). According to Liebler and McConnel (2022), while managers may switch between different leadership styles based on the situation, one style emerges as their main mode of interaction. I agree. While there are several leadership styles, as a leader, I often find myself settling in on one style most of the time. This paper will further discuss each style and the benefits and drawbacks of each (see Table 1 for a summary).

Leaders that display an autocratic leadership style tend to have significant control over staff, rarely consider suggestions, and do not share power (TEC, n.d.). Benefits of this style are an environment that is well structured, has prioritized taskings, and staff rewarded for compliance (Giltinane, 2013). This style serves well when quick, solo decision making is appropriate, theres no need for team input, the workforce is well motivated, and team agreement isnt necessary for success (Giltinane, 2013). However, since this manager tends to lead with an iron fist (which is good in organizations such as the military), a lack of creativity may occur since strategic direction only comes from one individual (TEC, n.d.). As mentioned, this leadership style is beneficial in the military or where authority must come from one individual in a quick, clear, and concise manner.

The laissez-faire leader employs a hands-off approach, which provides minimal direction and control (TEC, n.d.). This style is effective in creative jobs or very experienced workplace, but one must monitor their subordinates performance and effectively communicate expectations (TEC, n.d.). Drawbacks of this style includes an absence of control, coordination, and often lack of productivity (Mindtools, n.d.). According to Giltinane (2013), laissez-faire leaders give team members much freedom which can lead to high job satisfaction, but it can be detrimental if staff do not manage their time, lack information, or self-motivation.

Participative (democratic) leadership style tends to have leaders ask input before final decision-making, which often leads to higher levels of job satisfaction and better creativity. The drawback of this style is that decisions tend to be slower and the leader tends to have less control (Giltinane, 2013). Democratic leaders encourage creativity and engagement; therefore, team members tend to have high job satisfaction and productivity (Giltinane, 2013). According to Giltinane (2013), this style allows the leader to receive ideas from his/her workforce and gives subordinates a sense of confidence, purpose and value. Again, the downside of this style is that the more people involved ion the decision-making the longer it takes to decide. This style works great in the technology field where input is needed to make innovative products and the company has more time to make decisions.

Bureaucratic leadership is a style which is valuable in highly regulated environments that have strict adherence to rules, health, and safety (Giltinane, 2013). The issue with such a style is that it can stifle innovation, and creativity (Giltinane, 2013). Some bureaucrats are so policy and protocol driven that they freeze in a situation where no regulation exists (Liebler and McConnell, 2022). This style is beneficial in the regulatory environment such as pharmaceutical quality assurance or agencies such as the Food & Drug Administration.

Some managers utilize a father-knows-best leadership style known as paternalistic leadership (Liebler and McConnell, 2022). According to Liebler and McConnell (2022), this leadership style treats employees as children telling them what to do and how to do it. In this style research has found that there is high employee loyalty, low absenteeism, high morale, and open communication (Lombardo, 2022). Lombardo (2022) notes that disadvantages of such a style include employee dissatisfaction when the manager makes bad decisions, poor staff motivation if loyalty is absent, and if roles are not well-defined power struggles may ensue. Often governments may employ this type of governing when providing merit goods không lấy phí of charge or reduce cost with subsidies (Lombardo, 2022).

Most of the time I interact with my employees in the democratic leadership style. Recently I have created an onboarding and orientation program that was distributed nationally for all incoming advanced practice providers. When developing this program, I went through brainstorming sessions in my workgroup that I developed. I constantly asked for input and put a team together that encompassed a wide range of expertise from the field and headquarters. While the process took longer due to their input, the overall product was more complete and served the field better. The product, piloted two facilities, was further polished from feedback obtained by the field. When looking for innovation, creativity, and buy-in, the democratic leadership style should be considered.

In sum, leadership style is crucial in the work environment. The leader and his or her style will guide subordinates and their productivity. A successful manager will know the various styles and when it is appropriate to apply one over another. The manager must use a style, adjust, and be prepared to switch when the environment changes. Day to day I may be in democratic mode, however, when a decision needs to be made according to strict policy, I go into autocratic mode. Future studies could include gender and leadership style along with DISC assessment and correlated leadership style.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Leadership Styles


Giltinane, C. (2013). Leadership styles and theories. Nursing Standard, 27(4), 3539.

Retrieved from ://.mindtools/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm

TEC. (n.d.). 9 common leadership styles: Which type of leader are you? Retrieved from ://

Liebler, J. G., & McConnell, C. R. (2022). Management principles for health professionals (Seventh edition). Burlington, MA: Jones & Bartlett Learning.

Lombardo, C. R. (n.d.). 17 Advantages and disadvantages of paternalistic leadership | Connect US. Retrieved from ://

Mindtools. (n.d.). Leadership styles: choosing the right approach for the situation. Retrieved from ://.mindtools/pages/article/newLDR_84.htm


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