Types of Leaders


Leadership cannot exist without followers. The characteristics of the followers and the conditions, under which they follow, are materials to the exercise of leadership. The maturity levels of the followers, namely their ability (job maturity) and willingness or motivation (psychological maturity) with to a great extent determine the behavior of the leader vis-a-vis his follower. Thus, in respect of the followers with low maturity who are neither able nor willing to perform, the leader will have to adopt task behavior, i.e he will have to tell them what, how, when and where the given task is to be performed. Similarly, the leader will have suitably to adjust his behavior with followers who are able but not willing, or willing but not able, or both able and willing.

Based on the types of leader behavior, leaders may be classified as follows:

  1. Autocratic Leader
  2. Laissez Faire or Free Rein Leader
  3. Democratic Leader
  4. Intellectual of Functional Leader
  5. Institutional Leader
  6. Paternalistic Leader

1. Autocratic Leader

An autocratic leader is one who tends to run the show all by him. He specifics the goals which he requires his followers to perform, organizes the work situation, sets the time – frame within which the task is to be accomplished, provides specific directions and requires the followers to keep him regularly posted with the progress of the task.

The autocratic leader views his followers as having little or no maturity as regards skills or willingness with which the job is to be accomplished. As such, he will neither have any discussion with them as to any aspect of job accomplishment, nor delegate to them any authority. To extract the required performance from his follower, he exercise close supervision and control and uses his reward and coercive power to that end. Thus, if the followers comply with the leader’s expectations as regards performance, he rewards them. If they are lacking in performance, he uses coercive power to induce performance and holds out the threat of punishment by way of inconvenient work assignments, fines, or dismissal.

An autocratic leader believers in the “X” theory of motivation and firmly believes that without close supervision, control and fear of punishment, followers will not work since they are inherently lazy, unambitious, and averse to accept responsibility, or take any initiative.

An autocratic leader is in fact no leader. He is merely the formal head of his organisation. Workers under him feel harassed and disturbed, and prepare themselves sooner or later to offer resistance. With the emergence of indiscipline among his staff, the autocratic leader fails to obtain unquestioned compliance from his workers because they begin to assert themselves, and the result is that they gradually stop obeying his orders. After a time, there is total loss of his authority to demand compliance.

2. Laissez faire or free rein leader

A laissez faire or free rein leader permits his followers to do whatever they want to do. He does not formulate any policies or procedures and does not lay down guidelines within which the followers could accomplish their jobs. Thus, his followers are left to fend for themselves.

Since in a laissez faire set up, there is no attempt on the part of anyone to influence any one else, there is a vast scope and opportunity for an extensive range of behavior, though it may often be at cross -purposes. There is a near total abdication of formal leadership according to the needs of each situation.

Obviously, laissez faire leadership can be successful only where the followers have a high degree of maturity, i.e they are both able and willing to perform. In the case of followers with less than high maturity, such leadership is not likely to succeed because, in the absence of suitable task behavior on the part of the leader, they would merely grope in the dark, not knowing that, how, when and where to perform. Besides, deprivation of socio-emotional support from the leader may make them feet insecure and vulnerable.

3. Democratic Leader

Democratic style of leadership is based on the assumption that the leader derives his power by consent of the followers whom he is to lead and that, give proper motivational environment; they can direct themselves and be creative on their respective jobs. In other works, while the followers have the requisite ability to perform the jobs, they are lacking in willingness to do so.

The democratic leaders encourage his followers to participate in decision making and implementation. However, decisions are made only within the limits established by the policies and procedures which, again, are formulated after elaborate group discussion. Of course, the leader is present all along to guide and control the discussion but the followers are allowed to express their points of view without any let or hindrance. The decisions formulated during these discussions represent the consensus of all participants.

Democratic leadership seeks to evolve a self -regulating and self disciplining mechanism. If any member of the group does anything which is in any manner opposed to the interests of the group, he is promptly checked and controlled by the other members of the group, and this is done by means of a system of rewards and punishment devised by the group.

Participation, consultation and agreement of the group remember are important features of a democratic leadership. Democratic functioning can at times be dilatory and subject to various pulls and pressure from different groups, or individuals, representing opposite viewpoints. Moreover, participative leadership is based on the assumption that the followers are all able, though not willing to perform the tasks assigned to them. In the even, it poses the problem of working out a system of proper motivational support that would be equally acceptable to all.

4. Expert or Functional Leader

An expert of functional leader does not command; any formal authority in the literal sense of the term. He only stands out because of his special qualifications for the job handled by the him. Which is also the main reason why followers look up to him for guidance and control?

The expert leader is essentially task-oriented, and most of his time is spent thinking about doing things faster and better. He has his eyes firmly fixed on what he intends to achieve and pursues his goal single – mindedly. However, since his success depends not only on his own work, but also on the activities of his followers, he may not be as effective as he plans. If his followers are not as serious and painstaking as he is, he may behave is demanding fashion, in the process relying more and more on the “X” theory of motivation. In the event, his followers may feel frustrated as they are prevented from maximizing their own potential. Over time the situation may get from bad to worse, because the expert leader is by definition quite poor on the human relations front. 

5. Institutional Leader

The institutional leader is one who wields power over his followers due to the position of office occupied by him in the organizational hierarchy. At times, he may also derive power from his personality and behaviors. By virtue of such positional and personal power, he manipulates and controls are activities of others to accomplish the group objectives.

The institutional leadership may or may not be an expert in his field of activity. When he, lacks the expertise, he may suffer from a sense of inadequacy, leading to an inferiority complex, and to compensate for it, he may exert to an exceptional extent to achieve his objectives. In the process, he may engage more and more in task behavior and less and less in relationship behavior, such that the followers may develop a feeling of frustration and alienation. 

6. Paternalistic Leader

A paternalistic leadership is characterized primarily by loyalty of followers in a warm and cohesive setting. The leader is much concerned with the well being of his followers and comes to their rescue ever so often. Since a paternalistic leader is concerned more with relationship behavior, it can be successful only in cases where the followers possess job maturity and are only lacking in psychological maturity. In any other case, such leader may only produce an atmosphere of a country – club which may display social warmth and cohesion but can do little way of a accomplishment of tasks. Even otherwise, under a paternalistic leader the followers, particularly the competent and achievement – oriented among them, feel frustrated due to lack of opportunity for showing initiative. This is because while the leader, like a banyan tree, gives protection to all, the unwittingly creates conditions under which no follower can grow and be able to realize his potential.