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UK Coaching Team
Self-care and development

Understanding Leadership Approaches

There are lots of complex terms, concepts, and models surrounding our understanding of leadership. Use this resource, developed in partnership with Simon Padley, to discover the term that best fits your leadership approach and the impact this has on your coaching practice

The concept of leadership is surrounded by complex terms, concepts, and models. These are useful in helping us to understand our personal leadership approach and the styles we consider to be effective, as well as signposting us to other aspects to consider.

This resource starts with a description of six different leadership styles. Have a read now, but please do check back later if you come across one later in the resource and can’t quite place it.

  • Transactional/Autocratic Leadership: Leaders retain decision-making authority, telling their ‘followers’ what to do and how. The focus is on addressing the needs of the task as a priority, using reward or punishment as incentives for effort, and it is goal-focused rather than considering the developmental needs of the individuals within the group. Leaders set the criteria, behaviours, and outcomes necessary to achieve rewards and avoid consequences.
  • Democratic Leadership: Encourages shared decision-making and allows followers to be fully informed about situations. The problem-solving responsibility is shared, and individuals can develop goals.
  • Transformational Leadership: The leader uses an approach that focuses on developing followers into leaders, supports and considers the long-term meaning of processes and constantly looks for opportunities in all situations to develop individuals. The leader will consider roles and responsibilities that can be given to followers. 
  • Toxic Leadership: Creates a ‘competence gap’ with leader as the holder of knowledge and power. This encourages people to rely on the leader, which ensures that people are beholden to them, and means that the leader actively manipulates individuals for their own ends. The leader protects and values themselves over all else. 
  • Laissez-Faire Leadership: Leaders who care little for the outcome of interactions with members of the group and avoid taking responsibility and struggle to make decisions, as well as waiting for others to act. Leaders using this approach often avoid offering any direction to individuals or the group as a collective.
  • Servant Leadership: Leaders put the needs, aspirations, and interests of followers above their own. They choose to serve the desires, goals, and development of the followers, so they are ‘in service of others.’

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