From small business owners and CEOs to prime ministers and presidents, we’re seeing more and more women in leadership roles.

And here at vcita, we’re rooting for more women to rise to the top. After all, nearly 50% of our team are women, including senior management.

A recent study beautifully breaks down why women make for such exception leaders and the key qualities that define them, including:

  • More compassion and empathy
  • The ability to value the opinions of others
  • The ability to compromise
  • Fairness
  • Honesty

But despite these qualities, women in business often struggle to find their ideal approach to leadership.

That’s exactly why we put together this guide to help highlight the right leadership style for you!

6 types of leadership styles (and who they’re for)

Being a leader isn’t as simple as holding the title of “boss.”

Let’s look at the distinctly different ways you can approach leadership based on your personality. 

1. Autocratic leadership: for bosses who value control of their business

This is perhaps the easiest style to understand, but a difficult one to pull off successfully.

Autocratic leadership signifies leadership from the top. You have high expectations and specific processes in place, all of which are pretty much non-negotiable for your colleagues.

In short, it’s your way or the highway.

Ruling like an “Iron Lady” might seem like a bad idea, but doing so isn’t without its benefits. That’s because autocratic leaders are efficient. They get things done. 

If your employees lack direction or are unsure in their own decision-making, they can look to you to put them on the right path. 

Having high expectations and clear processes also means there’s less room for error and argument. If nothing else, autocratic leadership ensures that nobody steps on your toes or second-guesses your decisions. 

2. Democratic leadership: sharing the decision-making process with others

Most business owners probably think of themselves as democratic leaders already.

This leadership style requires you to involve your colleagues in the decision-making process. Rather than rule from the top-down, you make a point to gather feedback from coworkers and always take their point of view into account.

Disagreements and debates are fair game, but leading democratically encourages you to form stronger bonds with your business partners. Consistent, honest communication is key to making this leadership style work.

Perhaps the biggest downside to democratic leadership is that it can be time-consuming. The more feedback and input you require from others, the more time you spend talking rather than acting. Similarly, you need a strong enough personality (think: Wonder Woman) to address your critics and defend your decisions with confidence.

Simply put, democratic leadership is probably the “safest” style for the average business owner when done right. Everyone gets a say and nobody feels left out. It’s a sort of win-win.

3. Transactional leadership: where goals and expectations define you

A transactional leader uses specific goals and rewards to motivate employees.

Maybe you expect your employees to hit a certain number of sales or clients booked per week. Perhaps you have an “employee of the month” program set up to light a fire under your team.

Either way, your expectations are crystal clear. Those who meet them are in good standing, while those lagging behind might need some guidance and motivation. This leadership style can seem kind of rigid but is great for identifying who’s crushing it and who needs a helping hand.

Transactional leadership is also useful for those who are non-confrontational. By basing your expectations and goals on the performance of others, your comments or criticism isn’t personal: it’s purely professional.

4. Laissez-faire leadership: letting go so you can focus on your strengths

Laissez-faire literally translates to “leave alone” (or “let you do”).

Leaders with this mindset mostly mind their own business (literally) and encourage their colleagues to do the same. You have a hand in major decisions related to hiring or your services, but don’t micromanage your employees on a day-to-day basis.

Although a hands-off leadership style might seem counterproductive, it can be effective in some situations.

How so? Let’s say you have a partnership or small team, each member of which has a totally different specialty (think: marketing, sales, legalese, etc). If you each have strong personalities and specialized knowledge, trying to influence each other’s decisions or processes might be downright counterproductive. 

The concept here is simple: everyone stays in their lane and more gets done in the process.

Making this leadership style work means that your colleagues have an intense sense of accountability. Likewise, you need to be able to trust the skills of your employees and be willing to relinquish some serious control of your business. 

But when done right, however, this approach results in stress-free productivity. 

5. Transformative leadership: where you act as motivator-in-chief

Transformative leadership is among the most involved leadership styles, but it’s also a rewarding one.

In short, this approach revolves around motivating your employees to reach goals and fulfill your business’ vision. If you have a positive and proactive personality, this one’s for you. Through praise and progress-tracking, you help your coworkers do their jobs without totally taking the reins.

Of course, doing so requires a lot of energy. You also need to be able to balance actionable business results with motivating workers.

6. Servant leadership: blurring the line between “boss” and “employee”

Lastly, servant leadership encourages you to get in the trenches and lead right alongside your employees. 

If you don’t want to feel like a boss, this style is ideal. Some leaders thrive within the daily grind and would rather do work themselves than simply delegate all the time. 

Although servant leadership is involved, coworkers will typically respect you more and see you as more of a peer to be loved than a leader to be feared. As such, it’s important to remind employees that you are indeed a boss (even if you’re not a fan of the title).

“But how do I know which leadership style is right now for me?”

Good question! Keep in mind that there is no “right” leadership style for you to choose. Every style has its pros and cons, and some business owners rightfully borrow from multiple approaches to come up with their own.

To wrap things up, here are some parting ideas to help you find your leadership style:

Look to your past leaders and influences

No surprises here. Think about your own former bosses or leaders in your life (think: coaches or mentors). How did they lead? What sort of inspiration can you take from them?

Beyond folks you’ve actually worked for, consider the female CEOS, artists and entertainers that you admire and how they carry themselves. Brainstorm how you can do the same.

Consider the team that you’ve put together

Note that some leadership styles mesh with better types of businesses than others.

For example, Laissez-faire or autocratic leadership is damn near impossible when you have a massive team with clashing personalities. 

Also, consider the types of employees working under you. There’s a big difference between leading a full-time hire versus a group of contractors (think: you have more direct control over the latter than the former).

And also note instances where you need to give up some control. If you’re in a business partnership, you need to be able to compromise and agree on a leadership style that makes sense.

When in doubt, trust your gut!

At the end of the day, you have to lead the way you’re comfortable with.

It might take some time or soul-searching to figure out what your approach to leadership is. Either way, take initiative and don’t be afraid to take the reins of your business!

Have you figured out your leadership style yet?

Listen: picking a leadership style for your business is important.

But it doesn’t have to be make-or-break.

As long as you’re working toward building your business and making decisions on behalf of your team that results in growth, you’re on the right track.

And know that the team at vcita has your back every step of the way!