Leadership - Overview of different leadership styles

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

What does leadership mean?

Leadership means conscious and goal-oriented influence on 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.

Leadership is one of the most important factors influencing the behavior of employees and should therefore not only focus on the company's success (be task-oriented), but also 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. Leadership style reveals a lot about a leader's self-image and worldview.

We'll show you what different leadership styles there are here:

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 also leadership from below, which shows how employees can have influence to achieve company goals (not individual ones).

Methods for leading from below are:

  • Factual conviction & logical arguments
  • Present your own ideas & get advice
  • Form coalitions
  • Switch on higher-level instances
  • Legitimation & reference to your own competence

The most well-known leadership styles include:

Leadership styles infographic

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


What leadership styles are there?

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


The leadership styles according to Kurt Lewin

  1. Authoritarian: The responsibility and decision-making power lies entirely with the manager. Respect or even fear should lead to performance. However, this means that there is little initiative.
  2. Cooperative/democratic : Every person is involved, tasks and responsibilities are delegated. This promotes motivation and your own creativity. However, decisions can take a very long time.
  3. Laissez-faire : Employees have a lot of freedom to act. This promotes self-realization, but the manager does not intervene in the event of problems.

Authoritarian, autocratic leadership styles are now considered outdated and rarely appear in companies that care about the well-being of their employees. One approach that captures 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 more rapidly changing world. This speed arises, for example, from globalization, digitalization and better communication options. We know that the world is constantly changing, but not in which direction. The ability to respond appropriately to this uncertainty is called agility.

What does agile leadership entail?

  • 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 with mistakes positively
  • A holistic view: See the big picture
  • Trust in the team & hand over tasks
  • Quick decisions: “A decision made too late is, if in doubt, a wrong one”
  • Communication : A strong feedback culture, reflection and questioning of the chosen paths and methods

What characterizes agile leaders?

They adapt their leadership style flexibly to the situation. Classic leadership methods can also be used at times. Agile managers find their way well in new situations, can tolerate uncertainty and think in a solution-oriented manner. Beliefs like “that’s how it’s always worked” are out of place here.

When does agile leadership make sense?

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

Transactional and transformational leadership


With transactional and transformational leadership styles, you control employees both on their path to achieving goals and in the actual achievement of goals. However, control here means that intervention only occurs when employees deviate from the planned path (“management by expectation”). This is then rewarded or punished 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 goal.

This is where transformational leadership comes into play. This refers to the effort made by managers to create meaning in their work. Creating meaning at work is more important than ever these days. It aims at the permanent change (transformation) of the attitude, attitude, goals, values ​​and wishes of employees to the next level. With this method, for example, you create an incentive to go the “extra mile” and promote creativity.

This type of leadership is so successful because it takes employees' emotions into account. Transformational leadership evokes and conveys feelings of pride, respect, enthusiasm and optimism , which is particularly important for customer-facing employees. This also improves job satisfaction and the working atmosphere .

When it comes to this leadership style, it is important to note that this American concept is more suitable for extroverted people and can increase the dependency relationship with superiors. So you should pay attention to an authentic style 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 of high moral character. It is therefore also called ethically justified leadership .

Due to the increasing number of scandals in the economy, the demand for such ethical leadership is growing. Servant leadership is also an ethical leadership style:

  • Here you put the interests of your 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 modeling active listening, empathy, and foresight . This concept is particularly successful in the service sector.

Ethical leadership is divided into the light and dark sides .

The bright side includes the moral ideals of leadership behavior.

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

  • Frequently displaying contemptuous (non-)verbal behavior
  • Leadership that makes you do questionable things
  • Questionable leadership methods


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

  • Ethical consequences for the entire company
  • Perception and stigmatization of managers
  • Negative influence on the health and well-being of employees
  • Increasing absenteeism or terminations
  • Economic costs for the company
  • Triggering counterproductive behavior from employees
  • Declining job satisfaction
  • Less commitment


The trigger for a dark leadership style can be, for example, displaced aggression: the top boss lets out his bad mood on your superior. He can't say anything against him and therefore takes out his resentment on the closest subordinate employee. Private stress factors can also be released to employees in a postponed form.

So what is the best leadership style?

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

The quality of the relationship between the manager and the employee is what determines the success of the different leadership styles . A good relationship is characterized by mutual trust, respect and commitment. Leaders 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 meaning 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 . Only if you know yourself inside and out can you interact well with others.

A manager also has various tasks that he or she must fulfill:

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

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

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


Tips on how to find the right leadership style:

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

Why is a good leader important?

As a good leader, you will 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 people in Germany

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