How to Determine Your Leadership Philosophy

How to Determine Your Leadership Philosophy

A philosophy is defined as “a theory or attitude held by a person or organization that acts as a guiding principle for behavior.” A leadership philosophy, then, is based on a particular set of attitudes or beliefs. For those leaders who wish to improve their effectiveness, understanding the different styles of leadership can be beneficial. Can you identify your leadership philosophy below?

The Autocrat

The autocratic leader wants everyone to know who is in charge. There are no questions about expectations. The autocrat establishes very explicit directives that outline the “who,” “what,” and “where” for each task. Decision-making is handled by the leader, who then informs his subordinates about what needs to be accomplished. The leader takes full responsibility for every decision that is made, and the subordinates have no authority for making changes.

This style of leadership is effective during crisis situations when there is little time for decision-making or when the leader is the most knowledgeable person in the organization.

The Democrat

Image courtesy Oliver Degabriele | Flickr

Politics aside, the democratic leader acts as part of the group he is leading. With a focus on supportive work environments, the democratic leadership philosophy is based on an interactive relationship that takes the input of subordinates into consideration. This leadership style promotes a decision making process based on the majority’s ideas. Democratic leadership is useful in fields where creativity and enthusiasm are prized.

The Delegator

Content to let others make most of the decisions, the delegator leadership style is most effective when a team is comprised of individuals who are knowledgeable in their field. The delegator is generally “hands-off,” and he allows individuals to work independently without direct supervision or direction. Some employees may take advantage of the noninterference of the leader to avoid tasks, and others may be frustrated by what appears to be a lack of initiative. While a delegator leadership style can be an effective way to demonstrate a leader’s confidence in the skills of the team, it is one of the least-used philosophies.

The Servant

Servant leaders consider themselves to be “first among equals.” The leader is willing to take charge in order to reach a particular goal, but doesn’t consider that the position makes him more important than others. By putting individuals into the best positions for their skills, the servant leader allows the team to flourish. Through mutual respect, the servant leader inspires everyone to work toward the greater goal. A servant leader is most effective in an organization that desires a positive culture, and one where decisions do not need to be made quickly.

The Charismatic

A charismatic leader motivates a team through the sheer force of his personality. The “cheerleader” spurs individuals to achieve higher levels of success and capitalizes on opportunities to enlarge a company’s standing. In this leadership philosophy, there is a danger that the organization’s success rises (and falls) with the individual. Individuals on the charismatic leader’s team are often motivated by a sense of loyalty to their leader.

The Innovator

Innovative leaders thrive on adaptation. The innovator philosophy relies on the leader to be a visionary and constantly brings new methodologies as solutions. Within this leadership style, team members work together to find creative ways to handle situations, and everyone’s opinion is valued. The innovative philosophy is most useful in situations where problem solving and innovation are required.

The Transformer

Image courtesy Mike Seyfang | Flickr

The transformational philosophy is based on adaptation. Under transformational leadership, team members are expected to adapt to situations with ease, using whatever creative means they can come up with. Optimism is a trademark of this philosophy, and it is generally associated with companies that overcome insurmountable odds. The transformational philosophy is best suited to companies where team members are detail-oriented.

The Situationalist

Perhaps the most flexible of leadership philosophies, the situational leader adapts to the needs of the team. The situational leader is supportive and encouraging, demanding as needed, and effective when procedures need to be changed.


Every successful leader has a sense of his own leadership style. While there is no one “correct” leadership style, every leader tends to be drawn to the leadership style that best suits his personality. However, it is possible to develop a leadership philosophy that encompasses several different styles. A well-rounded leader who is able to offer the exact style of leadership needed at any given time will be in constant demand.

Effective leaders draw followers based on their leadership qualities, but they are careful not to overstep the boundaries of their leadership. Leadership philosophies can help companies to navigate through expansion, changes, and new markets. Understanding the differences of each philosophy can help leaders determine their own leadership style and find ways to incorporate additional philosophies as the need arises.

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