The 3 Basic Leadership Styles and Why Democracy Wins

Business Articles

Styles of leadership take many nuanced forms depending on the leader and the constraints of the organization they work within. However, at the root of these various types of leadership are three basic styles: Dictatorial, laissez-faire and democratic.

Of the three, democracy almost always emerges as the clear winner, as it allows a healthy balance of control and autonomy amongst employees.


The dictatorial leader is firmly rooted in the traditional values of the workplace, believing that results can only come from a firm-handed approach in which employees are directed from the top down and there’s little to no room for autonomy amongst subordinates.

While employees may work extra hard under the careful gaze of the boss, as soon as their back is turned they’re far more likely to slack off, if only due to resentment. That said, this style is sometimes necessary for the short-term when a very urgent task needs completing and there’s just no time to canvass opinion amongst the team.


This style is the opposite of the dictatorial leader, where tasks are delegated and then employees are more or less completely free to complete projects without any further input. Whether or not good results are achieved is largely down to the individual behavior of employees, but with far less focus and leadership, teams are likely to be less cohesive and can easily falter when challenges arise.

While some employees may thrive on autonomy, others find it very difficult to set their own deadlines and to overcome problems without guidance. The other problem is that this style removes leaders from being accountable for any failures, as it’s easier to blame employees if they’ve been allowed to make all their own decisions. If this style does work in a particular team, the need to have a manager at all may be questioned.


This leader is modern and progressive, taking on board input from employees, whether through casual discussion during the course of projects or during organized meetings and feedback activities. Because workers feel that they have input in the work they do, they’re happier to take some instruction and direction from their manager and generally work well whether the boss is present or not.

The extent to which each individual’s opinion can be taken into account does depend largely on the size of the team and organization, and if managed poorly then employees may feel that opinion-gathering sessions are just for show.

On the whole, this is a balanced and effective leadership style which is proven to boost morale and increases cohesiveness and respect amongst peers and superiors.

While no style is perfect, the democratic model is clearly a strong template on which to base a style of leadership.

While managers should mold their direction of employees based on a combination of their own values, experiences and the needs of the company, being an inclusive and respectful leader who asks for input but directs where needed, is a surefire way of improving the overall efficacy and confidence of a business team