The Big 3 of the Leadership Style: The best one?

leadership style, leadership, human resources, hr, strategy, employee retention, employee satisfaction, well-being, employee well-being, wellbeing, employee wellbeing

“Power isn’t control at all — power is strength, and giving that strength to others. A leader isn’t someone who forces others to make him stronger; a leader is someone willing to give his strength to others that they may have the strength to stand on their own.”
― Beth Revis

As I dived in 2024 with many of the leadership topics such as this and this, I recently thought about which leadership style suits which kind of employee in terms of common goals, interests and overall professional relationship suitability. But what exactly is a „leadership style“? To simplify it, it’s basically a way a leader leads, motivates or progresses the business, people and culture in a company. There are many leadership styles but I have come across or heard of in practice about these three: autocratic or authoritarian, democratic or shared and laissez-faire leadership style. We could call them „big three“ because of their prevalence in today’s business and obvious effectiveness. Each of those three have a different way of managing people, decision-making or running overall business and all of them are not suitable for different character traits in employees which makes things interesting for any psychology or social intelligence savant. Usually the top management settles on one of the style and scales it down hierarchically, creating the company culture of working practice down the line. But which of the styles is beneficial or effective for whatever professional goals, character traits, long-term loyalty or just plain employee well-being? Let’s break them down.

Autocratic or authoritarian leadership style

Just by the glance of its name, this style screams some sort of negative connotation and it really could have it if the employees aren’t appeasable by this method of leading. An autocratic leader makes all the decisions without consulting their employees or team members. As it sounds, the judgment and the responsibility of bearing the decision-making falls all under the manager. This works well in smaller companies where snap decisions are welcome but companies with corporate structure would suffer dearly because of the broader range of roles and responsibilities. This leadership style is also good for a manager on any level because it’s easier to prove their ability and performance. The negative side of this is if the employees in the company are overly ambitious and want quicker than usual experience in bearing more responsibilities. The employees or team members are just operatives with no decision-making weight which could impact their motivation down the line. This style is good for a flat organization without structured hierarchy which doesn’t have many managers but has a lot of operational staff who don’t want to progress in their career horizontally. Think of a bee-hive with many worker bees who have just one queen; the workers work for a common goal without too much change in their role.

leadership style, leadership, human resources, hr, strategy, employee retention, employee satisfaction, well-being, employee well-being, wellbeing, employee wellbeing
Important to know how to lead

Democratic or shared leadership style

This one certainly sounds better than the previous one to most people but then again, it all depends on what kind of characters are present in the company. Just as the name implies, this leadership style incorporates all employees or team members in whatever decision-making is present on whichever level. A leader can get suggestions or stated opinions but still make the decision by themselves. The important factor here is that the manager is including their employees in the process which could heavily impact the overall motivation in the long run. This is very good if the team members are high-achievers with progressive and ambitious career path because it could propel their experience in taking more responsibilities. Naturally, this style isn’t really suitable if the employees or team members are operational in nature and don’t have the character traits of decision-making. It fits in many different sizes of companies because it’s not that demanding in terms of being specific for certain businesses or industries but it wouldn’t work very well in large corporations with global influence. Think of the USA; each state’s votes have to be counted in order for scotus to make the combined decision for the next potus.

Laissez-faire leadership style

This leadership style’s name comes from a French saying „allow to do“ which basically interprets things to take their own course. To translate it into business, the managers, employees or team members are allowed and encouraged to make their own decisions in the matter; they have the complete decision-making power but also have to report on it and bear the responsibility of possible negative outcomes of those decisions. Similarly to democratic leadership style, this one also has to have employees with leadership character traits in order for it to be effective in practice. Operatives wouldn’t do well here and it would be like throwing them to the sharks. This style works well in already established companies, with more senior employees who sport long-lasting experiences which is also logical when you think about it; a start-up wouldn’t dare to use this leadership style. To continue with economics/politics, think of the EU member states; each state will decide on their own what to do with the EU budget but will also bear the responsibility for it.

leadership style, leadership, human resources, hr, strategy, employee retention, employee satisfaction, well-being, employee well-being, wellbeing, employee wellbeing
Leadership style affects employee motivation

Which leadership style is for you?

Kind of a complex question because if it concerns a company, the founder or executive first has to see how they would like to run it, which people to employ, how fast they want the business to progress etc. There is no right answer because you’re dealing with people in the end so it’s better to improvise and find out down the line. From an employee’s perspective, it all boils down to whether an employee wants to progress professionally or not. To simplify it, operatives would thrive in the first style while the more ambitious ones would get on well in the next two. This paragraph wouldn’t end in the next thousand words if we really wanted to push this but let’s end it on that note (this is why HR is so fascinating).


We simplified the big three but there are many more leadership styles, more than fitting them all in one article. To exhibit one, a leader has to know how they would like to lead and what kind of employees they have. It’s always best to pick one which is in the best interest for both the leaders and employees but we know it’s not always the case.

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