Research conducted decades ago still offers insights into how leaders operate. Kurt Lewin’s 1939 study ofstyles led the researchers to establish three basic types:
1. Authoritarian. They provide clear expectations of what must be done, when and how. There’s a bright line between the leader and followers: Leaders make decisions solo, with little or no help or input.
Decision-making is less creative under this style, and it works best when time is short or if the leader is the most steeped in the subject.
2. Participative or Democratic. They offer guidance, participate and allow team input. Lewin found this group less productive than the authoritarian-led group, but their output was of much higher quality.
Participative leaders encourage people to take part, but reserve the final say. Lewin found participative leadership the most effective.
3. Delegative or Laissez Faire. Delegative leaders leave decision-making to the group, offering little or no guidance. While this style can work well in situations where group members are highly expert, it often leads to poorly defined roles and lack of motivation.
People under this regime were the least productive, making more demands on the leader, showing little cooperation and not working independently.
— Adapted from “Lewin’s Leadership Styles,” Kendra Cherry, About.com.