Leadership - Overview of different leadership styles


In 2021, around 40.9 million people in Germany were employed and had daily contact with managers. Managers meet us in every industry , whether politics, business or, for example, in nursing and are increasingly becoming the focus of attention. In order for a corporate structure and cooperation to work well, we need people who can guide us and use the right leadership styles. But what characterizes such people, what skills should they have and what leadership styles are there anyway? We'll show you that in our Mr Beam blog post today.

What does leadership mean?

Leadership means the conscious and goal-oriented influencing of people. The goals are usually congruent with those of the organization. Through leadership, superiors should try to achieve these goals together with their employees. Leadership is influenced by the personality and behavior of the manager, with leadership behavior also representing the values ​​and beliefs of a company.

Management is one of the most important factors influencing the behavior of employees and should therefore not only focus on the company's success (task-oriented), but also on the human component, such as employee satisfaction (employee-oriented).

Leadership styles include all the recurring behavioral patterns of superiors, their basic attitudes and personal attitudes. The management style reveals a lot about the self-image and the world view of a manager.

Here we show you the different leadership styles:

leadership of people

How many leadership styles are there?

There are countless different types of leadership, theories and different names for leadership styles. For example, there is leadership from below, which shows how employees can exert influence in order to achieve company goals (not individual ones).

Methods to practice leadership from below are:

  • Factual conviction & logical arguments
  • Present your own ideas and get advice
  • form coalitions
  • Switch on higher-level instances
  • Legitimation & reference to one's own competence

The most popular leadership styles include:

Infographic leadership styles

In the following we will show you selected leadership styles that fit particularly well into the current zeitgeist.


What leadership styles are there?

Different leadership styles can have different effects, which is why it is worthwhile as a manager to take a look at all of them and select the parts that work best for you. Particularly well known are:


The leadership styles after Kurt Levin

  1. Authoritarian: Responsibility and decision-making power rest entirely with the leader. Respect or even fear should lead to performance. As a result, however, there is little initiative.
  2. Cooperative/democratic : Everyone is involved, tasks and responsibilities are delegated. This promotes motivation and creativity. However, decisions can take a long time.
  3. Laissez-faire : Employees have a great deal of freedom of action. This promotes self-realization, but the manager does not intervene in the event of problems.

Authoritarian, autocratic management styles are now considered outdated and hardly ever appear in companies that care about the well-being of their employees. An approach that hits the zeitgeist is to use different leadership styles depending on the situation . This is the case, for example, with the agile leadership style:

Agile leadership style

Agile leadership style

Agile leadership is designed to adapt as quickly as possible to the ever-changing world. This speed is created, for example, by globalization, digitization and better communication options. We know that the world is constantly changing, but not in which direction. The ability to react appropriately to this uncertainty is called agility.

What does agile leadership include?

  • Employee support at eye level
  • Find the best solution for everyone
  • openness to new things
  • Planning and decisions are made together: Only rough directions are given, flat hierarchies
  • Trial and error: Dealing positively with errors
  • A holistic view: see the big picture
  • Trust in the team & give up tasks
  • Quick decisions: “A decision made too late is wrong when in doubt”
  • Communication : A strong culture of feedback, reflection and questioning of the chosen paths and methods

What distinguishes agile leaders?

They adapt their management style flexibly to the situation. Classic management methods can also be used from time to time. Agile managers find their way around new situations, can withstand uncertainties and think in a solution-oriented manner. Beliefs such as “this has always worked so far” are out of place here.

When does agile leadership make sense?

  • When the industry you work in is changing faster and faster and there is more competition
  • With low customer satisfaction
  • For new projects without a clear line
  • For departments that have problems with their information flow
  • With a high turnover rate of employees & few applications
  • Agile companies are particularly attractive to the younger generation

Transactional and Transformational Leadership


With the transactional and transformational leadership styles, you control the employees both on their way to achieving goals and on the actual achievement of goals. Here, however, control means that intervention is only carried out if the employees deviate from the planned path (“management by expectation”). This is then rewarded or penalized accordingly. For example, if an employee has sold a certain number of products by the end of the year, they receive a bonus. The employee made an effort within the agreed target.

This is where transformational leadership comes in. This refers to the efforts of managers to create meaning in their work. Creating meaning at work is more important now than ever before. It aims to permanently change (transform) the attitude, attitude, goals, values ​​and desires of employees to the next higher level. With this method you create, for example, an incentive for the “extra mile” and promote creativity.

This type of leadership is so successful because it includes the emotions of the employees. Transformational leadership evokes and conveys feelings of pride, respect, enthusiasm, and optimism , which is especially important for frontline employees. Job satisfaction and the working atmosphere are also strengthened as a result.

With this style of leadership, it is important to note that this American concept is more suited to extroverted people and can increase the dependency on superiors. You should therefore pay attention to an authentic type of leadership.

Ethical principles in leadership

It is particularly important that transformational leadership takes ethical principles into account. Transformational leaders should be optimistic, hopeful, development-oriented and have a high moral character. It is therefore also called the ethically justified leadership .

Due to the frequent scandals in the economy, the demand for such ethical leadership is growing. Servant leadership is also one of the ethical leadership styles:

  • Here you put the interests of the employees above your own,
  • promote appreciation
  • the development of employees,
  • the Community,
  • the life of authenticity
  • and the sharing of power.

Managers can serve as role models by exemplifying active listening, empathy and foresight . This concept is particularly successful in the service sector.

Ethical leadership is divided into the light and dark side .

The light side encompasses the moral wishful thinking of leadership behavior.

The dark side means hostile leadership. It is understood as:

  • Frequent display of derogatory (non-)verbal behavior
  • Leadership that gets you to do questionable things
  • Questionable methods of leadership


Physical aggression does not fall into this category. It is important to look at this side as well, because it is not uncommon and has far-reaching consequences:

  • Ethical consequences for the entire company
  • Perception and stigmatization of executives
  • Negative impact on the health and well-being of employees
  • Increasing absenteeism or layoffs
  • Economic costs for the company
  • Triggering counterproductive behavior by employees
  • Declining job satisfaction
  • Less Commitment


A dark management style can be triggered, for example, by postponed aggression: the top boss takes his bad mood out on your manager. The latter cannot say anything against him and therefore vents his resentment towards the employees closest to him. Private stress factors can also be left out to employees in a postponed form.

So what is the best leadership style?

As so often, there is no right or wrong here. Appropriate management style is rather the more appropriate word. It is helpful not just to use one management style, but to flexibly choose the tools and methods from each that suit you and the individual employees. You should adjust your leadership style based on your needs, situation, desired outcome, personality of those involved, and ways of working.

Above all, the quality of the relationship between manager and employee determines the success of the various management styles. A good relationship is characterized by mutual trust, respect and commitment. Managers bring resources, information, social support, task completion and attention, among other things. It is also important that you create recognition and appreciation as well as meaningfulness in your work.

Best leadership style

What makes a good leader?

In order to identify their own leadership style, every manager must first deal with their own personality . You can only interact well with others if you know yourself inside out.

Managers also have various tasks that they must fulfill:

  • Motivate
  • Demand and promote
  • information transfer
  • be empathetic
  • Moderation of conflicts in the team
  • Organization: Keeping track, delegating, giving goals and structure
  • Employee and task-oriented thinking: Consider both the goals and the employees
  • Evaluating the work and results
  • Take responsibility for the entire team
  • Creating a sense of belonging and team spirit
  • take different needs into account

In all these tasks, one should never forget to treat the team with respect, trust and kindness. In terms of personality, research has so far found people with a certain intelligence and personality traits , such as conscientiousness and an extroverted character, to be particularly suitable leaders.

The good thing is to become a good leader you can learn .


Tips on how to find the right leadership style:

  • Find a mentor
  • Gather feedback
  • Regular reflection and evaluation of one's own behavior
  • authenticity
  • Consistency in your behavior (not so and so)
  • For agile leadership: working on your own openness to new things, “overcoming your weaker self”

Why is a good leader important?

As a good manager, you contribute to improving the following points:

  • work atmosphere
  • Employer branding: corporate image and attractiveness
  • staff turnover
  • Employee motivation, satisfaction and willingness to perform
  • corporate success

Infographic: Summary “A Good Leader”

Leadership styles overview infographic


Nerdinger, F., Blickle, G. & Schaper, N. (2011). Work and Organizational Psychology (Textbook with Online Materials) (2nd ed.). Springer textbook. Berlin/Heidelberg: Springer. 
Statista: Statistics Number of employed persons in Germany

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