Leadership Style

PSYCH-105 Industrial Psychology

Chapter 7: Leadership

Unit 1

Unit 2

Unit 3

Unit 4


Leadership Style

Leadership styles refers to the way in which the leader influences his followers. The behavioural pattern which a leader exhibits is known as his style of leadership. The leadership style in a particular situation is determined by the leader’s personality, experience, and value system, nature of followers and nature of environment. 

Based on Authority Retained

Autocratic / Dictatorial / Authoritarian Leadership

Under the autocratic leadership style, all decision-making powers are centralized in the leader, as with dictators. They will not allow any deviation from their orders. The motivational approach of the leader can be threat and punishment or appreciation and rewards.

The autocratic management has been successful as it provides strong motivation to the manager. It permits quick decision-making, as only one person decides for the whole group and keeps each decision to him/herself until he/she feels it needs to be shared with the rest of the group. He is the key person in authoritarian leadership and the entire operation of the organization depends upon him. The employees under an authoritarian leader are submissive, lack initiative and show inability to accept Irresponsibility. The organization is so dependent on him that it cannot function in his absence.


(i) Quick decision making.

(ii) Provides strong motivation and satisfaction to the leader who dictates terms.

(iii) Less competent subordinates are needed at lower level.

(iv) May bring positive result when great speed is required.


(i) Leads to frustration and low moral among subordinates.

(ii) Initiative level of subordinates goes down.

(iii) Potential and creativity of subordinates are not utilized.

(iv) No development of subordinates takes place.


Autocratic style of leadership is suitable when:

(i) Subordinates are uneducated, unskilled, lack of knowledge and experience on part of subordinates.

(ii) Company follows fear and punishment disciplinary technique.

(iii) Leader prefers to be dominant in decision making.

Now-a-days this style is less desirable as employees are becoming more educated and well-organized.

Democratic / Participative Leadership

The democratic leadership style consists of the leader sharing the decision-making abilities with group members by promoting the interests of the group members and by practicing social equality. The subordinates are consulted and their feedback is taken into decision making process. Though leader makes the final decision, he acts more as a moderator and of course he takes responsibility for the results.

The leader encourages all the employees to accept responsibility He involves them in setting and achieving goals. All policies are decided by the entire group with the help of their leader. The techniques, methods and activities are determined by group decisions with maximum participation from each employee.

The democratic leader encourages and reinforces constructive inter relationships. Under his leadership, there are rarely any chances of intra-group conflicts and tensions. Unlike in an authoritarian leadership, the democratic leader is not the key figure of the organization. The employees are not unduly dependent upon him and so the organization can function effectively even in his absence.

There are three methods of participative leadership

  1. Consultative – leaders solicit opinions from group before making decisions.
  2. Consensual – leader encourage GD on an issue and then make a decision that reflect general agreement of group members.
  3. Democratic – leader confer final authority on a group. Take a vote before making decision. These leaders delegate full authority to subordinates.

(i) Improves the job satisfaction and morale of the employees.

(ii) Improves decision making ability of subordinates.

(iii) Develops positive attitude and reduces labour turnover and labour absenteeism.

(v) Quality of decision improves.

(vi) Leader multiplies his abilities through the contribution of his followers.


(i) Time-consuming and may result in delay in decision.

(ii) It may not yield positive result when subordinates prefer minimum interaction with the leader.

(iii) Leader may pass the work to subordinates and abdicate responsibility.

(iv) Consultation with subordinates may be considered as sign of incompetence of leader.


This style is suitable:

(i) When goal of company is to increase job satisfaction and independence of employees.

(ii) When leader wants to share decision making with the subordinates.

(iii) When subordinates have accepted the goal of organization.

Free Rein / Laissez Faire

‘Laissez-faire’ literally means “Let (people) do or make (what they choose) or no leadership”. Literally means giving complete freedom to subordinates. To start with, the managers / leaders decide the policy programme and limitations for actions. Then the entire process is left to the subordinates. This style leaves everything to subordinates, who make their own decisions and it helps subordinates to develop independent personality. The contribution of leader is nil and it can creates chaos.

In this type of leadership, the leader is in name only. He keeps busy with paper-work and keeps away from his employees. He sets no goals and no decisions. Employees are directionless and free to make their own decisions; any organization headed by such a leader is unstable and has a low output.


(i) Positive effect on the job satisfaction and morale of subordinates.

(ii) Maximum scope for development of subordinates.

(iii) Full utilization of potential and capacity of employees.


(i) Subordinates do not get the guidance and support of the leader.

(ii) It ignores the contribution of leader.

(iii) Subordinates may work in different direction and result in chaos.


This style is suitable when:

(i) Subordinates are well trained and highly knowledgeable.

(ii) Subordinates are self motivated and are ready to assume responsibility.


Autocratic style

Participative style

Free-rein style

Decision making

Leader is the sole decision maker

Leader makes decisions in consultation with subordinates

Subordinates themselves make decisions


One way communication

Two-way communication

Free flow of communication

Motivational techniques

Fear and punishment (negative incentives)

Reward and involvement (positive incentives)

Self direction and self control

Needs of subordinates

Physiological and safety

Ego needs

Self actualization needs

Initiative by subordinates

No scope for initiative and creativity.

“I” style

Scope for initiative and creativity

“We style”

Full scope for initiative and creativity.

“You style”


Task oriented style

People oriented style

People oriented style

Mode of discipline

Implicit of orders and instructions and obedience

Interchange of ideas and recognition of human values

Self-discipline or control

Comparison Table of Leadership Styles

Based on Task Vs. People Emphasis

Task Oriented Leader

These leaders values mission or task accomplishment and the technical aspects of the job. Their main focus is on results, performance, mission, and profits.

A leader who places greater emphasis on task performance tends to exhibit the following behaviour:

  • Organizing and defining the roles of group members
  • Explaining what activities each has to do, when, where and how.
  • Establish well defined patterns of channels of communication and ways of task accomplishment.

People Oriented Leader

These Leaders delegate decision-making and assist followers in satisfying their needs in a supportive work environment. They try to make warm and friendly relations with the group members and shows concern for the welfare of the group.

A leader who places greater emphasis on people tries to gain their relationship by exhibiting such behaviour as:

  • Establishing channels to communication.
  • Extending psychological support to them.
  • Developing mutual trust.
  • Developing empathy (sharing others experience, feelings) for them.

There are Four possible combinations of these two styles.

  • High task and low relationship (autocratic): Effective where employees are inexperienced with work to be performed
  • High task and high relationship (Participative): Effective in situations where people need an active and involved leader. When employees are lacking self-confidence and technical skills
  • High relationship and low task (Supporting): Effective where employees need psychological support than technical support.
  • Low relationship and low task (Free Rein):  Effective where subordinates are highly skilled and psychologically mature.

Based on Assumption about People

This category is based on the theory of McGregor’s Theory X and Theory Y. Category is based on the assumption a leader makes about his or her followers.

Theory X Leaders (Autocratic)

They distrust people and believe in close supervision and tight control over subordinates.

Theory Y Leaders (Participative)

They trust subordinates, allow them to participate in decision making.

Author – Dr. Niyati Garg

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