4 Leadership Styles That Motivate: Which One Is Best?


There are four classical leadership styles that were described, validated, and operationally proven by award-winning behavioral psychologist, Dr. Taibi Kahler. He was successfully able to related these styles directly to the six unique human perceptions that we all possess in different powers.

He developed The Process Communication Model® that bridges the gap between human behavior theory and operational application that has been successfully applied in organizations around the world.

This model is a skill-based human behavioral tool set that gives leaders and team members the ability to affect positive change in their organizations.

The four leadership styles that motivate are;

  • The Autocratic Style
  • The Democratic Style
  • The Benevolent Style
  • The Laissez Faire Style

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The Autocratic Style: This style gives commands and directives, and encourages others to respond directly to him or her.  This style is task oriented and probably the most prevalent style in organizations since the beginning of the industrial revolution.  However, this style is only preferred by those who make up about 15% of the North American population.
Advantages:  Useful for those unique individuals who require direction, structure, or training.
Disadvantages:  Does not invite group interaction or upward feedback.  Discourages self-motivation and invites over adaptive (yes men) or rebellious behavior.
The Democratic Style: This style is based upon the principles of group participation and decision.  The person using this style encourages interaction between and among others, solicits feedback, and fosters independent thinking.
Today this style frequently is presented as the “right” style to use in an organization.  However, this style is only preferred by those who make up about 35% of the North American population.
Advantages:  Encourages goal-oriented, “thinking” people to grow at their own pace.  Increases group cohesion and enhances morale with common goals.
Disadvantages:  Does not provide enough structure for some who require it, or for others who lack knowledge and understanding of their responsibilities.  If not lead correctly it could turn into a “most popular vote” instead of a leader actively soliciting input from different perspectives to make a decision.
The Benevolent Style: This style typifies someone who is more person-oriented than thinking or task oriented.  Individual feelings are more important than tasks to this person.  He or she assumes that when people feel “good”, they do better.
The benevolent person fosters a sense of belonging in others by interacting in a nurturing and accepting way.  Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay Inc., used this style very successfully in turning her start-up company in cosmetics to a billion dollar company.  This style is preferred by those who make up about 30% of the North American population.
Advantages: This style works well with “feeling-expressive” people who require unconditional acceptance.
Disadvantages: Some people dislike mixing “personal” relationships with “professional” relationships, and see this style as an invasion of privacy.
The Laissez Faire Style: This style is even more non-directive than the democratic.  When in a responsible position, the person using the laissez-faire style invites others to assume as much responsibility as they can handle.
This style is frequently found in high-tech startups.  The computer mouse idea came out of the use of this leadership style.  This style is preferred by those who make up about 20% of the North American population.
Advantages: Works well for self-styled, do your own thing individuals, as well as for people who do not like to told what to do and who prefer unstructured options.  Invites independence and creativity.
Disadvantages: Does not provide the direction and structure that some people need.[/message][su_spacer]

 So which one is Best?

I’m sure as your read through these four leadership styles that one resonated most closely toward your preferred method of leadership.

[bctt tweet=”Although they are all unique, to date not one leadership style has been identified to be effective with everyone.” via=”no”]

In order to have the greatest impact on your organization you have to possess the skill of leadership agility such that you use an individualistic leadership style to communicate.

In this individualistic style, the leader uses the style with each team member that the member is most comfortable with, i.e…using one of the four styles with the right person at the right time.

The advantage of this is that everyone is being led in the way that enables them to be most productive.  The disadvantage is that this does require significant energy on the part of the leader.

However, this energy has a positive return on investment.  Besides where would you rather put your energy into, motivating others or dealing with negative conflict and drama?

Having the agility and vision to know when each style is appropriate is key to positive influence!

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Possessing the skill to use individualistic leadership styles will help you avoid the drama that plagues many organizations by;
  • Motivating by understanding your colleague or employee needs
  • Reducing distress in your people by using their preferred leadership styles
  • Seeing the warning signs of negative behavior patterns in your people so you can quickly intervene and re-engage their positive motivations.
  • Increasing creativity, employee engagement, commitment, imagination, and dedication.[/message][su_spacer]

QUESTION:  Which leadership style do your prefer most and which one do you prefer least?


David Kaiser
David Kaiser
DAVE is a retired Navy Commander and current CEO and founder of H2H Dynamics, an authentic leadership training and advisory company that focuses on the essential human to human dynamics that determine successful business, team and personal performance. He served as a Naval Officer and Aviator where he flew 46 combat sorties during Desert Storm. He was one of the officers in charge of the Navy and Marine Corps elite Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training program where he was first exposed to human dynamics under extremely stressful conditions. In the corporate sector Dave was the Chief Learning Officer for a major defense contractor where he was responsible for all human performance training for the U.S. Air Force Air Combat Command, NATO, NASA, foreign militaries, and various Fortune 500 companies. He directly applied latest research in the fields of learning psychology, human performance, and neuroscience. Additionally Dave lead a three year research study for the United States Air Force Research Laboratory to determine the most effective training interventions to improve human performance of tactical aircrew members. During this research project he discovered the human performance tool used for NASA’s Astronaut selection for the Space Shuttle program and became one of the few people qualified to use the tool. From this research Dave co-authored two published papers at the Interservice/ Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference in 2008 (Best Paper Nominee) and again in 2010.

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  1. David: so often we try to put such issues as leadership style in a tidy little package and stick them into a pre-defined box.

    I think that the style of leadership varies with not just the individual, but the type of business, the objective of that business, and the circumstances. The leadership style will be totally different when there is a fire in the storeroom, or when trying to invent a new type of widget, or adjusting a marketing plan to address the effect of new competition or federal regulations.

    Leadership, ethics, morals, and corporate culture are simply not subjects that conform readily to “always” definitions.

    • Ken, your are spot on. It takes skill in having the “leadership agility” such that you take into account the individual, the circumstances, etc… All of which are significantly challenged under distress. The more we are aware of our unique and predictable distress behavior and those one our team the greater our “agility” to reduce potential negative conflict.

  2. I like the split of each leader style orientation.

    For our practice we separate leader behaviors from the desired outcomes… behaviors such as partner, coach, visionary, execution, and story tellers. According to the desired outcomes we build teams of leaders that will succeed quickly within the client’s corporate culture. If it’s culture change we need more story tellers and visionaries. If it’s innovation more partners and coaches are needed.

    • Thanks Chris, great point in trying to match the need with the right person with the right strengths.