Leadership Types

This edition of Mentor Online is adapted from a variety of sources, primarily a paper by Michael R. Rothaar.

The following are sketches of several leadership types or categories: autocratic, authoritarian, transactional, transformational and integrated.

Autocratic — This person makes all the decisions and seldom listens. There is apparently no care expressed or felt for the needs of the individuals of the institution. This type of leader requires passive or dependent followers… so no new leaders are developed or mentored. If new leaders emerge it is the result of a coup or uprising of “the masses”.

A positive element of this type of leader is that they are most often viewed as charismatic (style, gifts, energy and other characteristics) and are frequently excellent communicators.

Authoritarian — This type of leader tends to reduce relationships to power equations, e.g., “me + him = recognition” (good) GO! “he + me = doubt” (bad) STOP!

The authoritarian consults others (on occasion) before making a decision… but often frames questions with stated or expected responses embedded in a request for information. This category of leader does not require dialogue… but does encourage conversation (sometimes one-way). The followers most likely to be associated with this type of leader are those who takes orders and thereby ensure security or at least lessen risk.

Transactional — This type of leader looks for mutual benefit in situations. And can actually honor the fact that situations in life really can be “win-win”. This category of leader is more inclined to strive to meet other people’s needs than the two types above.

At the worst this style tends toward moralism or legalism… “You will benefit by seeing my way in this thing” or “Doing it your way will not produce the positive results that we need”.

Looked at positively, these leaders are inclined toward a “serving” orientation. And often these leaders have great negotiating skills.

Transformational — These leaders are builders. They have a personal goal of never leaving people the same way as they were before they got together. They also encourage people to grow. This type of leader has a personal mantra that reads: “Be all you can be”. They are about equipping people for action.

On the negative side the persons of this leadership category lack an ability to discern that there ARE situations where positive change is unlikely now or ever! This means that this style of leader may have to settle for some very small gains (victories) if any at all.

Integrated — This type of leader is the toughest or most difficult to be for it demands exceptional flexibility. For being in this mode of leadership requires doing what is best for others or for the situation. This stance is doubly difficult because it can often mean that outcomes do not benefit the leader’s reputation or material rewards.

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Retired Lutheran (ELCA) clergyperson. Founder & owner of Brookover Leadership Development & Consulting, Inc. (1967)

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