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How to Determine & Develop Your Leadership Style

Leadership Style_2

Whether you’re a first-time CEO or a seasoned chief executive, you need to know how you lead.

Trying out different methods and finding the one that speaks to you will give the people in your organization more clarity.  

Learn seven leadership styles and ways you can determine and develop your approach. 

What Are the 7 Leadership Styles?

Vistage Chairs John Baines and Francine Lasky spent years honing their leadership styles before becoming executive coaches. Now, they help others cultivate their management approaches. Let’s look at the different types of leadership.


When you’re a servant leader, you’re purpose-driven and customer-focused. You’re likely deeply involved in your community and enjoy healthy personal and professional relationships.

“One of my Vistage members was more analytical. He engaged in a community leadership program and has come to embrace servant leadership qualities. He’s still the same person, but the parts of him that shine are really motivating and inspiring.” — John Baines, Vistage Chair

As a servant leader, you value people and are committed to employee development. You’re an excellent listener and approach everything with authenticity.


If you’re a coaching leader, you thrive on developing talent. You’re someone who can size up a person’s potential and help guide them—and the company—towards success.

“As a Vistage coach, I’ve developed a coaching leadership style. My goal is not to tell them where the water is. My goal is more to help them see that they’re thirsty.” — John Baines, Vistage Chair

As a coaching leader, you know how to guide your teams to take matters into their own hands. You value setting up your teams to grow and recognizing people’s strengths and weaknesses without judgment.


When you’re a democratic leader, you’re a consensus builder who considers team input before making decisions. You make everyone feel heard.

“One member joined our Vistage group from a family business, where all he ever saw was one type of leadership style, an autocratic style. By being exposed to different leadership styles over the years, he’s developed into this beautiful consensus-building, but still decisive, leader.” — Francine Lasky, Vistage Chair

As a democratic leader, you surround yourself with people you trust. You enjoy bringing your teams into the decision-making process and foster a collaborative company culture.


If you’re an autocratic leader, you value results and efficiency above everything else, usually with good reason. You find yourself at home in highly regulated industries that rely on precision and compliance.

“As a manufacturing CEO, I was an autocratic leader. I hired people who wanted clear direction and targets. That’s not who I am, but that served me well.” — John Baines, Vistage Chair

As an autocratic leader, you are confident in your vision, mission, and goals. You communicate clearly and consistently. You value structured environments, results, and efficiency.


When you’re a transactional leader, you reward success and discipline failure. You want highly motivated teams that focus on short-term goals.

“The type of industry can dictate the leadership style. I found servant leadership difficult in the manufacturing world, for instance. What is our higher purpose? We make parts. In those types of industries, you might find transactional leaders.” — John Baines, Vistage Chair

As a transactional leader, you are goal-oriented and enjoy working with self-motivated people. You foster highly supervised structured work environments.


If you’re a transformational leader, you focus on motivating and inspiring teams to innovate and achieve a shared vision.

“Several years into my experience as a Vistage member, I realized I was creative in helping other people solve their problems. I found myself growing from an autocratic to a transformational leader.” — John Baines, Vistage Chair

As a transformational leader, you are a big-picture thinker and work with trusted teams that need little supervision. You know how to provide encouragement and inspire others to achieve shared goals.


When you’re a laissez-faire leader, you head up solid and creative teams. You tend to delegate and trust more.

“This style might work in some instances, such as with startups. But you have to make sure that it doesn’t turn into the Wild West.” — Francine Lasky, Vistage Chair

As a laissez-faire leader, you effectively delegate work and place a high level of trust in your team. You work with creative and innovative people. You prefer to focus on the big picture instead of the day-to-day.

How Can I Determine & Develop My Leadership Style?

Now that you know the different leadership styles, which one seems to reflect your current approach? Is it clear-cut that you’re one over another, or do you blend styles? What attributes from these styles would you like to begin practicing? 

Baines and Lasky recommend taking self-assessments—such as the DISC or the Myers-Brigg personality tests—and asking yourself these questions:

  • Whose biographies do you read, and what kind of a leader is that person?
  • What feeds you: interpersonal relationships, stability, or spreadsheets and data?
  • Do you focus more on big-picture or long-term goals?
  • What is more critical to a company’s success: innovation and creativity or precision and regulatory compliance?
  • What defines a healthy team?

Determine & Develop Your Leadership Style

Now you know how to determine and develop your leadership style. 

Remember that your approach has to be authentic to you and valuable to the team you’re leading.

The key to developing your leadership style is finding the pieces that need to grow and nourishing them.

Speak to a Vistage Expert


Vistage Research Center publishes actionable, data-driven insights and expert perspectives from our global community of CEOs and thought leaders. Led by Joe Galvin, Chief Research Officer