Different Leadership Styles

Learning Outcomes

  • Identify the circumstances under which different management and leadership styles are effective

There was a time when the role of a manager and a leader could be separated. A foreman in a shoe factory during the early 1900s didn’t give much thought to what he was producing or to the people who were producing it. His or her job was to follow orders given to him by a superior, organize the work, assign the right people to the tasks, coordinate the results, and ensure the job got done as ordered. The focus was on efficiency.

In the new economy, however, where value increasingly comes from knowledge—as opposed to skill—and where workers are no longer undifferentiated cogs in an industrial machine, management and leadership are not easily separated. People look to their managers not just to assign them a task but to articulate a purpose, too. Managers are expected to organize workers not just as a means of maximizing efficiency but to nurture abilities, develop talent, and inspire results.

The late management guru Peter Drucker was one of the first to recognize this shift in the roles and relationships of managers and employees. He identified the emergence of the “knowledge worker” and the profound impact that would have on the way business is organized. With the rise of the knowledge worker, “one does not ‘manage’ people,” Drucker wrote. “The task is to lead people. And the goal is to make productive the specific strengths and knowledge of every individual.”[1]

With Drucker’s idea of “leading people” in mind, let’s examine the types of leaders most commonly encountered in business. Keep in mind that the management styles described above are not separate from leadership, but rather are another dimension to the manager as an individual. Managers don’t put on an autocratic manager hat one day and a transformational leader hat the next. Instead, every individual fulfilling a managerial role within an organization must be able to adapt his or her style to the situation at hand. This adds considerable complexity to the role of a manager and is one of the reasons that a manager may leave a company—it just wasn’t a good “fit.” A poor fit may be the result of a tug-of-war between management styles, personality, and leadership qualities.

Practice Question


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  1. "What Is the Difference Between Management and Leadership?" The Wall Street Journal. Accessed June 25, 2019. http://guides.wsj.com/management/developing-a-leadership-style/what-is-the-difference-between-management-and-leadership/.