We always hear about the importance of good leadership and in this article, I will examine the definition of leadership and the three different styles of leadership will be outlined.

What is Leadership?

Leadership is regarded as a critical factor in the success of any business.  Richard Pettinger (1994) believes leadership is about getting results through people, the organisation of people into productive groups or departments, creating a vision, motivating them to believe and achieve this vision and provide the resources to support them in achieving this. The 34th President of the US Dwight Eisenhower once defined leadership as ‘the art of getting someone else to do something you want done because he wants to do it, (US Government 2004).  Leadership is about inspiring, motivating, giving people a purpose and pushing boundaries with a well articulated vision, (Ray 2006). Most definitions of leadership agree that good leadership involves inspiring people to collectively achieve the one goal or vision.

Three Styles Of Leadership

In 1939, a group of researchers led by psychologist Kurt Lewin set out to identify different styles of leadership. While further research has identified more specific types of leadership, this early study was very influential and established three major leadership styles, Authoritarian Leadership, Participative Leadership and Delegative Leadership.

The first style, Authoritarian leadership is where the leader provides clear expectations of what needs to be done, when and how it should be done. There is also a clear division between the leader and the followers. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group.  Researchers found under this style that decision-making was less creative.  This style is usually viewed as controlling, bossy, and dictatorial.  Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations where there is little time for group decision making or where the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group. (Wagner 2008)

Lewin found that Participative leadership is generally the most effective leadership style. Participative leaders offer guidance to group members, but they also participate in the group and allow input from other group members.  Participative leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final say over the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative. (Wagner 2008)

The third style is Delegative.  Lewin’s study found that Delegative leadership was the least productive of all three groups. Delegative leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision-making up to group members. While this style can be effective in situations where group members are highly qualified in an area of expertise, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.


A good leader uses all 3 styles depending on the situation (Wagner 2008) and leadership is needed in any business or organisation to make it successful.  Good leadership is about inspiring, motivating, giving people a purpose and pushing boundaries with a well articulated vision.

Featured image by PIxabay/Geralt


Pettinger, R. (1994) ‘Introduction to management’, United Kingdom: Macmillan press Ltd.

Ray,M. (2006) ‘What is leadership?’ [Online], Available: http://www.koreview.com/Leadership%20defined.html [accessed 1 Dec 2008]

US Government (2004) ‘Dwight D. Eisenhower’ [Online], Available:  http://www.whitehouse.gov/history/presidents/de34.html [accessed 1 Dec 2008]

Wagner, K. (2008) ‘Lewin’s Leadership Styles’ [Online], Available:  http://psychology.about.com/od/leadership/a/leadstyles.htm [accessed 5 Dec 2008]

Wharton University of Pennsylvania (2005) ‘The importance of being Richard Branson’ [online], Available:  http://www.whartonsp.com/articles/article.asp?p=393287&seqNum=3 [accessed 5 Dec 2008]



Cathal Quinn