Not all leaders operate and make decisions in the same way. Professor Kurt Lewin, a German-born psychologist who studied group dynamics in the 1930s and 1940s, defined three different leadership styles: autocratic, democratic and laissez-faire.
Autocratic leaders make decisions in a vacuum. No outside consultation is expected or welcome. Once the decision is made, an autocratic leader expects complete compliance. While there may be some instances in which an autocratic leadership style is beneficial -- such as a crisis situation where time is of the essence -- it's not a methodology that fosters communication in the workplace. Additionally, if your subordinates are already suffering from low morale, making decisions without taking their input into consideration won't assuage the situation [source: Money-Zine.com].
Democratic leadership doesn't necessarily mean that everyone gets a vote; instead, more opinions are considered when the leader makes a decision. This is the leadership style most likely to result in group consensus, though not always. Ultimately, the decision-making still resides with the leader, no matter how many other voices are part of the debate [source: Learn to Be a Leader].
Laissez-faire (a French term meaning "to let be") is more commonly used to describe a style of economics where government intervention is minimal. Likewise, laissez-faire leaders allow their subordinates to carry out tasks as they see fit. The success of this leadership style depends largely on the subordinates, rather than the leaders; motivated workers can make the system a success, while unorganized or inept workers will result in an unproductive workplace [source: BusinessMate.org].
It's rare for people to stick with one style of leadership, no matter what their natural inclinations might be. Usually a leader will adopt the style that best fits the situation at hand and the group of people involved. For example, an autocratic style of leadership might be far more beneficial in a crisis situation than a laissez-faire approach.
So, what kinds of activities can get you started on the road to becoming a better leader? See the next page to learn more.