Styles and Characteristics of Leadership

What is your brand of leadership?

Don’t worry if the answer is not immediately clear – in this article, we will explore the different personality traits shared by great leaders and the leaderships styles that they employed.


Great leaders uphold ideals, carry themselves with integrity and consequently achieve credibility. They consistently give credit to those who deserve it and accept failure when it is theirs to accept. The values and principles they wish to see in their followers are the same as those that they exemplify.


Great leaders have an unwavering determination to see their dreams become reality. They are engaged with their work to such a degree that everything else becomes secondary.

Eric Thomas said it best in his speech on the secrets to success:

“You gotta be willing to work with 3 hours of sleep – 2 hours of sleep, if you really wanna be successful. Some days you’re gonna have to stay up 3 days in a row. Because if you go to sleep, you might miss the opportunity to be successful… You gotta want to be successful so bad that you forget to eat”.


Great leaders don’t necessarily know more than their followers, but they are often uniquely creative. This allows them to see things differently and adopt novel solutions to solve complex problems. Put simply, they are ‘outside the box’ thinkers.

Now that we have briefly explored the personality traits shared by great leaders, let’s explore the various leadership styles that they employed.

Charismatic Leadership

The charismatic leader is a champion amongst their followers, using regular displays of charm and inspiration to win the admiration of subordinates. They cater to their followers, making them feel as though they are the driving force behind decision making.

Examples: Steve Jobs, Barack Obama.

Participative Leadership

This style of leadership makes the most of the array of skills available within a team/organisation by aligning people with the tasks/responsibilities most suited to their repertoire of competencies and directing efforts towards the achievement of overall goals. Leaders employing this style act primarily as facilitators, however final decisions also rest with them as they are responsible for the achievement of overall goals while subordinates are commonly only concerned with the execution of the specific tasks/responsibilities allocated to them and not the impacts they have on overarching objectives.

Example: Bill Gates.

Situational Leadership

This model of leadership recognises the benefits of adapting different leadership styles to the situation/environment. Rather than followers conforming to their leader’s style; leaders adapt their style to the context. Leaders using this style exhibit different styles at different times; or various styles concurrently. This style can however be difficult to manage as leaders would have to constantly analyse his/her situation/environment and make adjustments accordingly – additionally, the variance in exhibited behaviour can cause confusion amongst observers.

Example: John Wooden.

Transformational Leadership

This style relies on being able to inspire and motivate followers to complete tasks. Leaders who adopt this style, identify the ideals that appeal to their followers and empower them accordingly into contributing to a shared vision using their unique strengths.

Example: Abraham Lincoln.

Transactional Leadership

As is implied by the name, transactional leadership styles motivate their followers through the promise of rewards (or punishments) depending on performance. This style establishes a clear hierarchy that ensures work is done appropriately.

Examples: Vince Lombardi, Howard Schultz.

The Quiet Leader

The key to quiet leadership is conviction. The leader leads solely by example and through the sheer force of his/her vision. They do not dedicate time to actively motivating their team but rather let their actions – and corresponding results – act as the incentive for their followers to complete their tasks.

Examples: Karl Marx, Charles Darwin.

Servant Leadership

This style of leadership can be summed up by the common phrase, “leading from the back.” In this case, the leader is someone who leads solely by meeting the needs of the team. Hence, the needs of his/her followers are priority – ensuring these needs are met also ensures that objectives are accomplished.

Examples: Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi.

Now that you have a better grasp on leadership traits and styles of great leaders – only three questions remain:

  • Do you have any of the personality traits shared by great leaders?
  • Which leadership style are you presently using?
  • Which leadership style suits you best?

Enrolment now open for our July 2016 leadership courses – become the most effective leader you can be.