Types of leadership

Did you know there are several types of leadership?

types of leadership

You've likely experienced them in previous jobs with different peer groups, managers, and team members.

Have you found some leadership styles to be more impactful than others? Let's review different leadership types to give you a foundation for developing your own personal theory.

How I Learned About Different Types of Leadership.

A Quick, Fitness Backstory.

deadliftNote: This may not be proper deadlift form. 😀

Many moons ago, I'd attended UMass Dartmouth as an undeclared business major. While I made some lifelong friendships, I didn't love what I was studying.

After some searching, I transferred to Bridgewater State College (now University) to major in Physical Education with a concentration in Exercise Science. It was a much better fit.

One thing that made it so was that everything fitness-related that I talked about daily, and informally, with friends was given formal terminology, research-supported evidence, and use cases for proper application.

My general enjoyment of fitness, to that point a hobby, was given legitimacy, and became a vehicle to a fulfilling career in the industry.

How Does That Apply To Leadership?

After nearly twenty years in the fitness industry, and as I'd returned to school at Southern New Hampshire University, earning my MBA, and in nearing the completion of my MS in Organizational Leadership, I found the same to be true.

History Was Repeating Itself.

My daily, informal conversations had turned from fitness program design to discussions about management, leadership, project management, and other business functions.

grad student studyingHitting the books. 📚

While I had a self-directed foundation in some of these areas, it wasn't until I was immersed in this learning environment that the discovery and understanding of terminology, research, and application occurred.

I could now go back and dissect the professional experiences I'd had with managers and leaders in the fitness industry and in educational technology, where I'd also worked in a sales function, to categorize the different types of leadership, and to assess their impact.

A Note On Types Of Leadership.

The types of leadership reviewed below are not exhaustive of all styles you may experience.

However, as you learn about each, they may call to mind leadership qualities you've seen in others, examples of being a leader, and they may prompt you to want to say "thank you for your leadership" to those who have provided positive impact during your career.

Situational Leadership.

This type of leadership calls for leaders to determine how to best approach a situation given the unique variables that may be present, including an employee's levels of skill and maturity.

Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership Model.

In my graduate studies, I invested a good amount of time in researching the works of Paul Hersey and Ken Blanchard and the model of leadership they'd created.

situational leadershipThe magnifying glass of situational leadership. 🔍

Raza & Sikandar (2018) describe Hersey and Blanchard's Situational Leadership model as including the following four styles:

  • Telling - A directive, task-focused approach where the employee or follower may be viewed as having low levels of maturity and task-specific skill.

  • Selling - An approach used where the employee may be seen as having the desire to learn or perform, yet does not yet have the skill set to do so.

  • Participating - A method selected when employees present with sufficient task capability, yet confidence or willingness to perform are in question.

  • Delegating - A process used in instances where a follower is willing and able to perform the tasks at hand.

It's a bit like placing employees under a magnifying glass, in each situation, to determine what style to use in providing guidance.

Here's What Stood Out.

  1. Depending upon the task, an individual employee might exist in more than one of these categories.

  2. A leader's miscategorization of an employee can lead to tension and misunderstanding.

In the first case, the leader  must be cognizant of the employee's familiarity with a task, process, or system, and should be prepared to adjust their selected style to that most fitting the individual project or circumstance.

The second has the potential to open up a can of worms, and can often be indicative of the need for greater attention to the professional development and continued training of managers and leaders or to adjustment of the systems of organizational communication.

Exemplary Leadership.

Next in our types of leadership, and drawing from the transformational leadership umbrella, exemplary leadership is characterized by the position that leadership success is not derived from luck, yet the following of a framework (Kouzes & Posner, 1995, as cited in Maraouch, 2019).

The Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership.

the five practices of exemplary leadership

A second area of my own personal theory of leadership exists in the inclusion of The 5 Practices of Exemplary Leadership as developed by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.

Jumoke Ajanaku & Lubbe (2021) describe the five practices as including the following:

  • Modeling the Way - Describes the necessity for leaders to demonstrate visible action in alignment with stated organizational objectives in order to better encourage employees to follow suit.

  • Inspiring a Shared Vision - If leaders have one destination in mind, and the workforce another, working efficiently as a team becomes more difficult. Communication about what success will look like is key to getting everyone headed in the same direction.

  • Challenging the Process - To accept the status quo is to allow others, as in competitors, the opportunity to catch up or surpass one's organization. Looking for ways to innovate and continue the learning process helps to mitigate that risk and creates a culture that seeks the same.

  • Enabling Others to Act - A one-person army only sounds good in theory, as if anything happens to that one person, progress stalls or ends completely. Creating an environment where employees or followers embrace action, and are not fearful of the consequences of trying, allows for greater collaboration, learning, and success.

  • Encouraging the Heart - To continue the cultivation and embrace of the shared vision, leaders and their teams benefit when the desired behaviors are celebrated and when team members are reminded of the alignment of action to purpose.

The 5 Practices In Application.

Similar to the classification of employees into the styles necessary for leadership in the Hersey Blanchard model, and where the levels of task-proficiency or maturity might differ, a leader may find their level of skill in each of these five practices to vary.

One might be comfortable in challenging the process successfully, while enabling others to act may come with some difficulty.

The good news is that, as with any skill, practice can be endured so that progress can be made.

Shared Social Identity in Leadership.

Next in our types of leadership review is shared social identity. Fransen et al. (2015) suggests that leaders might positively influence their team members by instilling confidence, not only in the individual members, yet in the group through a shared sense of identity.

A Sense of Us.

shared social identityStronger together.

Research by Alexander Haslam, Stephen Reicher, and Michael Platow has focused on Shared Social Identity as a type of leadership, characterized by the philosophy that a leader will be less impactful in their role where they are seen as an outsider by the group's members and not as part of the team (Holt, 2013).

Reicher et al. (2018) suggest that what is critical about this type of leadership is that when it is implemented appropriately, and the trust of a group has been earned, the leader is then able to better influence the coordinated and collaborative efforts of the group as a whole.

Shared Social Identity In Application.

As is true of the other types of leadership reviewed, great flexibility exists for the manner in which a leader applies this leadership theory, how they go about earning the trust of team members, and the sense of us necessary to create meaningful progress and impact.

That flexibility is part of the reason I enjoy coaching and consulting as each instance allows clients to make the practice authentically their own.

Can you think of times when you witnessed examples of being a leader, the influences those had on your identifying with the team or organization, and the progress that may have occurred as a result?

For More On Organizational Leadership.

This section of the site is an excellent foundation for developing leadership skills, understanding different types of leadership, and exploring leadership styles.

To continue your learning:

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In health,

David Bohmiller

David Bohmiller, MBA, MS (he/him/his)
Founder, CEO and Consulting Executive
Inevitabl LLC

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Fransen, K., Haslam, S. A., Steffens, N. K., Vanbeselaere, N., De Cuyper, B., & Boen, F. (2015). Believing In "Us": Exploring Leaders' Capacity to Enhance Team Confidence and Performance By Building a Sense of Shared Social Identity. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Applied, 21(1), 89-100. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1037/xap0000033

Holt, C. A. (2013). "The New Psychology of Leadership: Identity, Influence, and Power" S. A. Haslam, S. D. Reicher, M. J. Platow. Political Psychology, 34(3), 462-464. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1111/pops.12046

Jumoke Ajanaku, O., & Lubbe, W. (2021). Applying Transformational Leadership in Nursing through the Lens of Kouzes and Posner Leadership Practices. Gender & Behaviour, 19(2), 17788-17794.

Maraouch, F. (2019). Managerial Competencies and Exemplary Leadership Practices of Hotel Managers in the Lebanese Lodging Industry. Journal of Hospitality Application & Research, 14(2), 58-85.

Raza, S. A., & Sikandar, A. (2018). Impact of Leadership Style of Teacher on the Performance of Students: An Application of Hersey and Blanchard Situational Model. Bulletin of Education & Research, 40(3), 73-94.

Reicher, S. D., Haslam, S. A., & Platow, M. J. (2018). Shared Social Identity in Leadership. Current Opinion in Psychology, 23, 129-133. https://doi-org.ezproxy.snhu.edu/10.1016/j.copsyc.2018.08.006

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