Descriptions of Four Leadership Styles*


Relies on rules and directives, preferably in writing.

Typical behavior:

Refers to decision-makers as "they." Tends to be fair and impartial when functioning well. Uses an impersonal style. Knows "proper channels" and the "right way to get things done."



Operates out of personal experience; has skills needed to perform work.

Typical behavior:

Feels there is no substitute for preparation and practice. Able to demonstrate how to perform a task. Tends to give directions based on "What I say." Acts directly to get results under pressure. Tends to "keep a hand in the business," sometimes unnecessarily.



Builds personal relationships with each staff member.

Typical behavior:

Tries to build trust. Sets mutual goals with each staff member. Encourages but also expresses disappointment when a person fails to meet goals. Attempts to help individuals achieve satisfaction from work.



Uses work group for both motivation and discipline.

Typical behavior:

Stresses openness and consensus. Tries to achieve balance between group choices and organizational goals. Shares responsibility with the group, but makes sure the organization’s expectations are achieved. Believes that "we" are powerful.

Understands and is ready to take the risk of this style.


* Adapted from material developed at the University of Chicago.

  • Paul Pohlman

    Paul is a teacher and administrator at Poynter. He specializes in the areas of leadership and management.


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