In a sales and team setting, having strong sales leadership is important to have a high-performing and productive workforce. When a sales leader's abilities falter or don't measure up, it can have harmful effects on nearly every aspect of the business. As a leader, it is critical to understand how to best support your team and organizational goals. Read on to discover your leadership style and understand the different common leadership styles better.
What are the different styles of leadership?
There are various styles of sales leadership; where one style may be suitable for a specific organization, another may be harmful or simply unaligned. Here is our various sales leadership styles list:
13 different types of sales leadership styles with examples
Different sales leadership styles work for different teams and organizations. In some cases, there may even be multiple styles at play. It is essential to understand your team’s needs and how you can support both employees and the organization. To be an effective sales leader, you must know that each style has its pros and cons and tailor your leadership approach accordingly.
Authoritarian leadership types
Authoritarian leadership style pros and cons
Clearly defined goals and duties
Lower collaboration and team autonomy
Authoritarian leadership style examples
Authoritarian leadership, also known as autocratic leadership, is characterized by the leaders taking complete control over the team and is usually successful when the leader is the most competent and knowledgeable person. Because autocratic leaders have full control over goals, policies, and the execution of projects, there is an increased likelihood that new ideas and innovations from others may be limited or eliminated altogether. Examples of authoritarian leadership include Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Putin.
Authoritative leadership types
Authoritative leadership style pros and cons
Better team alignment
Higher employee satisfaction and productivity
Clarity of vision and within roles
Leaders must hold themselves accountable
Potential for micromanaging
May not be effective in all business scenarios
Authoritative leadership style examples
In authoritative sales leadership, leaders tend to use a mentor approach to guide and motivate their employees. Rather than dictating to them what needs to be done, they work with them in a positive way to accomplish goals. Authoritative leaders typically cultivated positive relationships and work environments by prioritizing learning opportunities and shared successes. This can be a very effective leadership style if the leader has high emotional intelligence and is able to lead by positive example. An example of authoritative leadership would be Martin Luther King Jr., who inspired followers to work with him toward his vision.
Bureaucratic leadership types
Bureaocratic leadership style pros and cons
Increased job security
Limited progression and change
Lower employee morale
Bureaocratic leadership style examples
In bureaocratic management styles, there is often exclusive priority on following set rules and procedures and a predetermined chain of command. This leadership style restricts employees, as they must conform to the regulations. Employees are clearly aware of their roles and duties, with little room for creativity or change. However, it reduces the risk of biased behaviors and provides stability for employees. Because its rigid structure is based on the organization’s needs, it is more often used in the public sector. An example of a bureaocratic leader is Winston Churchill, who employed structured systems to achieve most of his goals.
Charismatic leadership types
Charismatic leadership style pros and cons
Decreased employee turnover
Entirely dependent on the emotional state of the leader
Can lead to a defiance of organizational rules/structure
Can be used with selfish motives
Charismatic leadership style examples
A charismatic leader utilizes their social skills, charm, and vibrant personality to inspire and lead their followers. Enthusiastic about their mission, they can excite others to follow suit and be motivated to reach their goals. Although an effective style to pursue big ideas and improve overall team morale, this type of leadership can disregard structure, rules, and routines. These leaders also must be careful not to use this leadership with selfish intentions. Al Gore, who relies on his excellent verbal communication skills and outgoing personality to resonate with followers, is an example of a charismatic leader.
Coaching leadership types
Coaching leadership style pros and cons
Opportunities for growth and development
Regular support and guidance
Encourages new ways of thinking
Requires more time and energy
May not always be the most efficient
Requires highly skilled leaders
Coaching leadership style examples
Coaching leadership emphasizes support and guidance, empowering employees to grow within their roles and the organization. Collaboration is also highly valued, as leaders work with the team to reach their goals and strengthen their abilities. Communication plays a significant role in this management style, prioritizing constructive feedback and one-on-one coaching opportunities. With this leadership style, it is vital to have an effective leader-- otherwise, it could negatively affect employee growth and development. Many examples of coaching leadership can be found in the sports industry– such as John Wooden, who coached, motivated, and inspired his teams through 10 NCAA national championship wins during a 12-year period.
Collaborative leadership types
Collaborative leadership style pros and cons
More creative and diverse ideas
Better working relationships
A more engaged team
Potential for power struggles
Uncertainty of roles and responsibilities
Increased likelihood of conflict
Collaborative leadership style examples
Collaborative sales leadership prioritizes group work and encourages employees to work together towards common goals. As employees can bounce ideas off one another and learn other perspectives, this type of leadership allows for more creativity and diversity of views. Collaborative leadership encourages teamwork and communication; therefore, the overall job satisfaction and morale on a team can significantly improve. Although an effective leadership style, collaborative environments increase the risk of interpersonal conflicts and unclear roles if managed poorly. An example of a collaborative leader is Abraham Lincoln because he actively listened to issues and worked with others to find solutions in the best interest of the country.
Democratic leadership types
Democratic leadership style pros and cons
Higher employee engagement
Team members are empowered in their roles
Creativity is encouraged
Decisions are made slowly
Outcomes aren't always good
Leadership responsibilities lack clarity
Democratic leadership style examples
Democratic, or participative, leadership is when team members have an equal say in all decisions that may affect them. This inclusive leadership style is successful when team members are knowledgeable and skilled with their contributions or opinions; otherwise, outcomes may suffer. In democratic leadership, employees are encouraged to participate in discussions, develop innovative solutions, and share openly with other team members. Although it can foster a more honest and inclusive environment, employees can end up losing trust in their leader if it is mismanaged. An example of a democratic leader is Nelson Mandela, who always fought for equality and even chose to include his persecutors in his government after his imprisonment.
Inclusive leadership types
Inclusive leadership style pros and cons
Improved team morale
Higher risk of disagreement/conflict
Only works when leaders have a growth mindset
Lack of clarity in roles
Inclusive leadership style examples
Inclusive leaders are open to different views and ways of thinking, actively seeking the ideas and opinions of others to gain perspective and make more informed decisions. In this type of leadership, the views of different employees are considered, which can improve morale and collaboration in a team setting. This leadership style can be very effective because leaders can take advantage of the knowledge and expertise of other team members to make better decisions and make employees feel more valued in the workplace. Examples of inclusive leadership include Tim Cook, who speaks out in favor of inclusive cultures and strives to incorporate that ideology within his business.
Laissez-faire leadership types
Laissez-faire leadership style pros and cons
Autonomy for employees and managers
Skills can be used more strategically
High value placed on individual contributions
Collaboration may suffer
Decrease in workplace satisfaction
Change is more difficult
Laissez-faire leadership style examples
In a Laissez-faire (also called delegative) leadership, leaders can recognize and highlight their employees’ strengths by assigning them duties and projects and giving them the space to execute them. Doing so also creates autonomy on the team, as employees can take control of their tasks and work independently on them. Because employees are responsible for producing good outcomes in their work, this style of sales leadership is more effective on teams where motivation and expertise are high; otherwise, there is an increased likelihood of lower productivity and quality of work. An example of a laissez-faire leader is Robert Noyce, who created tech-giant Intel by utilizing a hands-off approach to manage his team.
Servant leadership types
Servant leadership style pros and cons
Greater employee development
Managers have less authority
Does not work for all teams
Servant leadership style examples
Servant leadership prioritizes the needs of employees and fosters an environment where others can grow and develop their skills. When leaders utilize this concept of leading others, they can form stronger connections with their team because they put the needed time and effort in to do so. As a result, employee morale is often much higher in the workplace, and leaders are well-liked and respected. If servant leaders consistently step in to take care of employees' problems, it can actually result in decreased employee motivation and management authority. Examples of servant leaders include Mother Theresa and Martin Luther King Jr., who always put the needs of others before their own and aligned their agendas with what was best for the people.
Transactional leadership types
Transactional leadership style pros and cons
Easy to implement & understand
Typically very fair
More clarity in roles/duties
Rewards may not motivate all employees
Lack of employee growth
Transactional leadership style examples
Transactional leadership uses rewards and punishments to motivate employees to perform well in their roles. This type of management is often seen as effective, as employees are more likely to feel motivated in their roles. It does, however, limit opportunities for growth and creativity, as the system is often strict and unbending (often so are transactional leaders). This is a popular sales leadership style amongst businesses because it is easy to understand and implement and often yields good results. Examples of transactional leadership can be seen in massive corporations, and in high-level military leaders– for example, Norman Schwarzkopf utilized martial law numerous times to inspire compliance amongst his units during The Gulf War.
Transformational leadership types
Transformational leadership style pros and cons
Inspired and motivated employees
Potential for abuse
Small details may be overlooked
Employee burnout is more likely
Transformational leadership style examples
Transformational leaders use their vision to inspire change and empower employees to reach corporate goals. This may be achieved when leaders take the time to build trust, loyalty, and respect from employees. Because transformational leadership inspires change, it may also lead to a "deviation" from set practices and routines. Sales leaders need to be mindful not to abuse their position or take advantage of their followers, as abuse of power is more likely to happen with this leadership style. Examples of transformational leadership include Oprah Winfrey, who has built her brand around inspiring her followers and influencing them with her views, and Jeff Bezos, who was able to ultimately build and transform his company by inspiring commitment and innovation amongst his employees.
How to develop your managerial leadership & supervisory styles
Flexibility is key
Part of being a strong leader is knowing when to change things up and how to adapt your leadership approach accordingly. While one scenario may call for one leadership style, different situations could benefit from a different one entirely. For example, a team lacking the motivation to reach goals could benefit from a transactional approach that gives them incentives to perform. That same team could very well require a more supportive or servant leadership down the line- where leaders come to their aid and enable them to reach their potential.
Don't be afraid to try new things
Sometimes, a leadership style just isn't the right fit for a team. Other times, a team might need a blend of multiple leadership styles to perform their best. Being aware of and understanding these main management styles can inspire a new way of leading that is aligned with the needs of an organization and its employees. Don't be afraid to experiment with these commonly recognized types of leadership. Moving between styles can ensure both the loyalty of your team and the efficacy of your management, just so long as you remain mindful and open to the needs of your employees and your organizational goals.
Get to know your team (and let them get to know you!)
The type of leader who takes the time to get to know their team will inevitably gain their trust, loyalty, and respect. Another benefit is being able to be fully aware of the needs of your team– which makes adjusting your leadership style much easier. Informed action by a leader can guide team members to succeed in their goals and drive growth and productivity within the workplace. Authentic leaders are self-aware and use their natural personality strengths to inspire action and motivate group members. Making time for casual conversation, scheduling regular 1-on-1s, and hosting all-team meetings provide great opportunities for leaders to better understand and know their employees.
Ask for feedback
Feedback can go two ways; a good leader doesn't shy away from the opinions of their people and instead embraces feedback as an opportunity to grow. Being open to feedback from employees can be instrumental in adjusting your leadership style to best support your team rather than in a way that stifles it. Whether this feedback comes during 1-on-1 meetings or from anonymous questionnaires, it is an important factor in growing the positive impact a leader has on their team and organization.
Being in a leadership role– especially sales leadership– requires strength, awareness, adaptability, and empathy. As the person responsible for a team, you must perform in a beneficial way to yourself, your team, and your organization. With so many relying on your guidance and capabilities, it is critical to prioritize strong leadership practices and remain flexible in their implementation. If you currently are using a leadership style and are unsatisfied with your team dynamic or outcomes, perhaps it is time to enhance your leadership skills and try something new.
A great sales leader will make an effort to adjust their coaching and sales leadership style to better suit the work environment, organizational goals, and needs of employees to perform their best. Understanding your team's unique personalities, working styles, and communication preferences is a valuable tool for reevaluating your current practices and determining which leadership style might benefit your team.