How to find out your style of leadership


Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower
Steve Jobs (founder of Apple)


The following exercise will ask you 50 questions about your leadership style, and then give you an idea of your typical styles.

If you are still a student you might like to answer the questions as you would if you were a manager in an organisation, rather than the way you would if, for example, you were president of a student society where the leadership style is more casual than that in most work environments.

Strongly disagree
Strongly agree


Designed and programmed by Bruce Woodcock


Now make a note of your scores which can vary up to a maximum of 50 for each style. The highest scores should suggest your most liked styles of leadership, and the lowest scores, the styles that are least like you.

Once you have finished the test go to the table below where you'll find explanations of each of the leadership styles.



You can click on the chart below to go to relevant pages in our site:

leadership skills

Leadership involves

How to become a leader


Test results: explanations of the different styles of leadership







Other names


Transactional: the “transaction” is that the organisation rewards (pays) the team, in return for their work & compliance.




Also related to authoritarian

Charismatic leadership is very similar, where the leader depends on his/her charisma & energy to inspire staff.

Democratic or Consulting


Servant: A leader who is not formally recognized. Leads just by meeting the needs of the team. Whole team is involved in decisions.


Florence Nightingale
Barack Obama
Nelson Mandela
Mahatma Gandhi

Amount of control

High: telling, directing, controlling.

High: telling, directing, controlling. Medium: selling,  reasoning, persuading,   delegating. Medium: selling,  reasoning,  persuading,  consulting. Low: advising, counseling, participating, observing, joining.

What it involves

The leader has a lot of power over team members & has the right to reward good performance or punish members if they don't reach the agreed standard.

They tell their team what they want done & how without often asking for advice from team members. Team members are given little opportunity to make suggestions, even if these would be in the team's interest.

It should normally only be used occasionally

The focus is on short-term tasks so it's more a a method of managing rather a true leadership style

Work “by the book”: team members follow procedures precisely. 

Focuses only on getting the job done, & can be quite autocratic.

Little thought given to the well-being of team members

Task Orientated vs relationship orientated: both procedural & transformational leaders are usually needed. "managers" focus on tasks while "leaders" focus on people.

The leader inspires team with their vision of what should happen. They supply the main goal, but allow members to choose their own way of reaching it.

The leader is totally focused on organizing, supporting & developing the team

The leader is always looking for ideas that move towards the organisation’s vision.

Transformation leaders are very visible, & spend lot of time communicating. Communication is the basis for achievement by focusing the group on the required outcome. They don’t necessarily lead from the front, as they tend to delegate responsibility.

Builds consensus through participation: the leader makes the final decision, but the team to contribute to the decision-making process.

The leader asks the team's opinions & uses these to make decisions. The team is kept informed & are allowed to discuss & propose changes to policy.

The leader can't know everything: this is why you employ skillful team members.

This style is not a sign of weakness, more a sign of strength your team will respect.

Team members make the decisions but leader is still responsible for these.

Leader asks for the team's opinions. Team is left to make its own decisions which are then sanctioned by the leader.

Leader participates in the discussion as a normal team member & agrees in advance to carry out whatever decision the group makes. Team members are left to get on with their tasks.

Effective if the leader monitors what is being achieved & regularly communicates this back to the team. 


Works well when you're short on time, & team is well motivated

For some routine & unskilled tasks.

In a crisis.

With difficult employees.

Tasks requiring great attention to detail.

Appropriate for work involving safety risks such as working with machinery or where large sums of money are involved.


This is the most common modern leadership style.

When organisational flexibility & a sense of individual responsibility is needed,

Where team working is essential

When quality is more important than speed or productivity.

When you have confidence & trust in your team.

Where team members are experienced & skilled; they can analyse the situation & determine what needs to be done & how to do it. (e.g. team of research scientists).


Can achieve results quickly

In research done on this groups were found to be most productive under autocratic, but if the leader was absent work stopped.

Clearly defines the tasks & the roles required.

Puts structures in place: planning, organization & monitoring is usually good.

Motivates the team to be effective & efficient.

Tends to lead to good teamwork & creative collaboration.

The enthusiasm & energy of a transformational leader is often infectious.

Can communicate an inspirational vision of the future

Mutual benefit: allows members to feel part of the team & leader to make better decisions.

Members feel in control & motivated to work hard. Increases job satisfaction by involving the team in decisions. Helps to develop team members' skills.

Most consistent in quality & productivity

Increasingly necessary in a world where leaders achieve power on the basis of their ideals & values.

You can't do everything so you have to set priorities & delegate some tasks.


Team doesn't gain from creativity & knowledge of members, so benefits of teamwork are lost.

Staff can't improve their job satisfaction& may resent the way they are treated leading to high absenteeism & staff turnover.

Serious limitations but still much used. Sometimes thought of as bullying but this isn't a valid authoritarian style.

The inflexibility & high levels of control exerted can demoralize team members, & reduce the organisation's ability to react to changing circumstances

Similar problems to autocratic leadership: difficulties in motivating & retaining team members.

Procedural & transformational leadership are symbiotic. The procedural leaders (managers) ensure routine work is done well, while the transformational leaders focus on initiatives that add value. The transformational leader focuses on the big picture, but needs to be surrounded by people who take care of the details.

Taken to extremes, can lead to failure to achieve the team's goals.

This style may result in indecision, & some team members may be left feeling confused & leaderless.

As participation takes time things may happen more slowly than with an autocratic approach, but often the end result is better.

Often less effective in terms of quality and productivity than other methods.

Not good in competitive situations.

Often happens naturally in situations where managers are not exerting sufficient control.


Using the appropriate style of leadership in differing circumstances

Leadership involves managing, coordinating and supervising, taking responsibility for people; directing, organising and motivating them. A good leader will use a variety of styles of leadership according to the situation whereas bad leaders tend to fall in to just one style. In practice, most leaders use both task-oriented and people-oriented styles of leadership. 

Managing a group project

  • Have an overall plan with milestones
  • Keep a daily or weekly action plan
  • Allocate resources in advance
  • Know the roles of the other team members
  • Have an agenda for meetings
  • Communicate: don't email if something is urgent
  • Be organised (e.g. have a filing system for emails)
  • Manage risks: plan for the worst case scenario.
  • Review: think how you could improve next time

At university, a participative style may be most appropriate. Whereas a production manager in a factory may need to use a procedural or authoritative style much or the time. So you need to take into account the nature of the task.

A fire officer dealing with a serious fire may need to be authoritative, making instant decisions and barking out commands, but when training staff, a participative style will be more effective.

Different individuals also require different styles. You may need to manage an intelligent, competent and trustworthy team member by using transformational techniques whereas someone who is lazy and unreliable may require an authoritarian style.

Think about:

What makes a charismatic leader?

Professor Richard Wiseman gave the following tips


Rewards such as bonuses provide a short term boost to performance but ultimately reduce long term motivation. Performance related pay and the carrot and stick approach have little or no long term value in motivating staff.

Research from the Institute of Leadership & Management found that few employees said that bonuses motivated them to work harder.

Many top managers may be narcissists

A study by Christian Grimso of BI Business School claimed that many top managers suffer from narcissism. Narcissists can take tough decisions and are preoccupied with success and power. They have great self-confidence so interview well. However their self-importance can lead to poor leadership performance as they run their own agenda, and lack the ability to relate to others.

Gimso said: “People with narcissistic personality disorders will be interested in dominance, status, recognition, power and admiration. They may not think twice about using others to achieve their goals.”

According to those surveyed the most important motivators were:


Getting regular feedback, allowing staff autonomy in their role, the opportunity to innovate and improved office environments also helped

Good managers are key motivators who can make a real difference to their teams. The ‘five fundamentals’ of good management: coaching, giving feedback, listening, rewarding and recognising success and performance management. Something as simple as hearing ‘you've done a really good job on ....’ can strongly boost to an employee’s confidence, deliver a sense of pride and satisfaction and encourage them to put more into their work.

Who cares, wins!

The MoralDNA report from the Chartered Management Institute found that ethical leadership is a critical driver of performance. Where coaching, visionary and democratic leadership styles predominated 75% of respondents said effectiveness of management was excellent, compared to only 18% where command and control leadership was predominant.

Ethics were key to employee engagement. Managers in organisations with excellent staff satisfaction scored 13% higher on the ethic of care. It also affected the employer’s ability to attract new staff where there was an 8% difference between the best and worst-rated employers.

Ann Francke, Chief Executive of CMI, said: “When it comes to management and leadership in the 21st century, the truth is that who cares, wins."

Two thirds (61%) of employees said their workplace had an appraisal system, but a quarter of respondents (25%) think that appraisals are performed poorly by their manager. Appraisals were less effective at driving the performance and motivation among female employees.

See our page on What makes us happy at work? for more on this.


Google’s Attributes of a Great Manager

  1. Is a good coach
  2. Empowers team and does not micromanage
  3. Expresses interest/concern for team members’ success and personal wellbeing
  4. Is productive and results-oriented
  5. Is a good communicator
  6. Helps with career development
  7. Has a clear vision/strategy for the team
  8. Has important technical skills that help him/her advise the team.


“If you give people freedom, they will amaze you. Get out of their way and they will do the right thing 99% of the time.They’ll do remarkable things and all you need to do is give them a little infrastructure and a lot of room to change the world. And I think that holds in any industry.”

At Google, “Failure is celebrated. It’s ok to fail, and that is culturally encouraged. We just want people to fail fast, so that they don’t get stuck doing the wrong thing for too long because they are afraid to admit that it is not working. So failure, is encouraged – obviously we don’t want people to be constantly failing – but I think its culturally ok to admit your mistakes, say that didn’t work and move on to the next thing."

The boss returned from lunch in a good mood and called the whole staff in to listen to a couple of jokes he had picked up.

Everybody but one girl laughed uproariously.

"What's the matter?" asked the boss. "Haven't you got a sense of humour?"

"I don't have to laugh", she replied. "I'm leaving on Friday."

Aimee O’Malley, Google at CIPD Annual Conference

The only way to really learn leadership is by doing it!

Exercises like this one get you thinking about different ways of leading, and about attributes that make a good leader .... but they are no substitute for reality. Get involved in leading groups, whether is be leading a group project, chairing a student society, captaining a sports team or even being a playscheme helper. Carefully observe what is working for you and learn from your mistakes.

"A chief is a man who assumes responsibility. He says, 'I was beaten'; he does not say 'My men were beaten.'"

Antoine de Saint-Exupery


Can you give me an example of a time when you have

Bad Boss

  • is dogmatic and inflexible
  • is subjective
  • is feared
  • is self serving
  • sticks strictly to the "company line."
  • communicates to impress their superiors

Good Boss

  • delegates
  • trusts staff with minimal supervision
  • is supportive and encourages initiative
  • encourages staff to work together towards common goals.
  • has honesty and integrity
  • their motivation not just based on gain for themselves or power as an end in itself
  • has self confidence
  • has belief in the abilities of others
  • has sensitivity to others feelings
  • is fair towards all
  • has drive: this encompasses achievement, motivation, ambition, initiative, energy, tenacity and resilience
  • has relevant skills and knowledge
  • has a positive mood


"Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great."

Mark Twain

Unlike top management at Enron, exemplary leaders reward dissent. They encourage it. They understand that, whatever momentary discomfort they experience as a result of being told they might be wrong, it is more than offset by the fact that the information will help them make better decisions.

Warren Bennis

"He tells you what you want to hear, he tries to talk you up, he tries to give you the belief and you go there to do the work for him. He knows what I can do. Before the game he told me 'King, listen to me, do your magic - you are the best'. When you hear that from your coach, you want to do something for him."

Kanu talking about Harry Rednapp to BBC Sport

You don't manage people, you manage things. You lead people. We went overboard on management and forgot about leadership. It might help if we ran the MBAs out of Washington.

Grace Hopper

The natural impulse of men is to follow and whoever has the strongest sense of purpose will always dominate the rest. 

Robert Harris, Pompeii

had to co-ordinate the work of other people?


I was Social Secretary of the European Society on campus. We decided to mark Europe Day last May by organising a programme of social and cultural events representing all the EU member countries. I had to find people willing to take part: some were members of our own Society but I also approached other societies on campus, such as the French Society, and had to seek out individuals to make sure that all 15 countries were represented.

Once I had a full complement of people willing to contribute I could draw up a programme of events for the day and we held regular meetings to monitor progress and iron out any problems.

On the day there were 15 different events running from a French breakfast with coffee and croissants through films, lectures and musical recitals through to a late-night disco with music from all over Europe. Several hundred students took part in them and the European Society signed up over 30 new members

Describe a time when you have managed your own performance or the performance of others to achieve results. What did you do?

When I volunteered at an Oxfam Charity Shop, there were very few employees. I was therefore given a large amount of responsibility from my first day.

As I was often the only employee in the actual shop, it was necessary for me to manage the maintenance of the store – as new volunteers were recruited it became my duty to train them in a variety of tasks. I had to learn to delegate responsibility and learn how to handle occasionally difficult customers with tact.

I learned a lot about how to take responsibility and it gave me confidence that I could enter a management role at some stage in the future.

See our Competencies Page for other examples

Find out more about the leadership styles used here

Interesting links


Last fully updated in 2017