The problem of leadership style is basically concerned with deciding the extent to which a manager should be dictatorial and the extent to which he is supposed to be participative or consultative. Different leadership styles can be categorized as follows:
(i) Authoritarian or leader-centred or autocratic style
(ii) Democratic or participative or consultative or group-centred style
(iii) Laissez-faire or free-rein style
(iv) Paternalistic leadership
1. Autocratic Style of Leadership:
This type of leader is characterized by the centralization of decision-making authority in the leader and very limited participation by subordinates of the group. The autocratic leader accomplishes the results through the use of authority, fear of deprivations, punishment and other coercive measure’.
Since it is negative in character, authoritarian approach will succeed only in the short run and will fail to induce subordinates for better performance in the long run. Resentment, absenteeism and higher turnover rate for employees are some of the most natural consequences of this approach. Still, autocratic style deserves consideration because of following reasons:
(a) There may be very little time for participation, particularly in a situation of crisis
(b) Confidential matters may not permit normal consultation
(c) Leader may have more knowledge, and he may compensate for participation
2. Democratic Style of Leadership:
This is characterized by allowing substantial participation of the members of the group in management and decision-making process of the leaders. Subordinates are frequently consulted by the manager for wide-ranging problems, and they are also allowed sufficient freedom to communicate with the leader and also with their fellow subordinates.
Democratic style of leadership is based upon the positive assumption about human beings. It encourages cooperative spirit and development of subordinates for higher responsibility. This style of leadership substantially contributes to the satisfaction on the part of subordinates.
3. Laissez-faire Style of Leadership:
Under this style, the leader depends largely upon the group and its members to establish their own goals and make their own decisions. The leader is passive and assumes the role of just another member of the group. Tasks are assigned in general terms. Laissez-faire approach is meant for selective application. If the subordinate is intelligent, highly qualified and experienced and desires self-fulfilment, a manager may follow this approach without much risk. This style of leadership is, therefore, confined to a small creative or developmental group.
4. Paternalistic Leadership:
This type of leader assumes his function like a father. He treats his followers as members of his family and guides them as the head of the family. He likes to help his followers to do the work and to guide, protect and keep them happy to work as family members. This type of leader always tries to provide his followers good working conditions, fringe benefits and employee services. Obviously, because of the difference in style, followers under this style of leadership work harder to accomplish the job.
A manager is not always free in the choice of the leadership style most appropriate to him under a given situation. Feelings and attitudes long cherished are difficult to change. Though, under the democratic style of leadership, an organization works better as a pattern of general purpose, the manager should be able to occasionally switch to the autocratic style so that people are effectively led. In general, the choice of the pattern or style of leadership depends upon following factors:
(a) Skill, personality and values of the manager himself
(b) Forces dominating the subordinates like subordinate’s expectations, aspirations, needs and values
(c) Situations such as type of structure, clarity or ambiguity in defining work and objectives, nature of the problems and the pressure of time
(d) People in the group, e.g., differences in education, interest, motives, loyalty and the like thus leadership style varies with different leaders, subordinates and situations.