Udemy logo

leadershipphilosophyYour personal leadership philosophy is like a compass.  It will define what you expect, what you value, and how you act.  Formally articulating your leadership philosophy will let others know what to expect from you as their leader.  As you may know, there are many leadership philosophies in practice today.  It is important to note though that not every philosophy will yield favorable results with every group or organization.

A leader needs his or her followers just as much as the followers need a leader.  You may not be a leader in every facet of your life.  If that is the case, learn about 4 simple leadership tools for every team member to help you be a better follower.  Being a great follower will help you learn how to be a successful leader.  While you determine what your leadership philosophy is, here are nine mainstream leadership philosophies that can get you through in a pinch.

The Autocratic Leadership Philosophy

This leadership style is all about control and how much control the leader should give to their followers.  Leaders who follow this philosophy provide crystal clear expectations about what needs to happen, how it should happen, and when it should happen.  There is a clear distinction between the leader and followers and decisions are often made from the top down with little or no input from other group members.  Leaders take full responsibility for decisions made and control the performance of their followers.  This leadership philosophy is at its best when there is little time to form a cohesive group decision or when the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the organization.

The Democratic (Participative) Leadership Philosophy

A leader who practices this leadership philosophy offers guidance to organization members while still being a part of the group.  This type of leadership is democratic, considerate, participative, and consultative.  It focuses on creating and maintaining good working relationships that are supportive and interactive.  Followers are encouraged to participate and engage with the decision making process and their input is considered.  This results in the group being more motivated and creative as a whole.

The Laissez-Faire (Delegative) Leadership Philosophy

A laissez-faire leader offers little or no help to followers and leaves the decision-making to other group members.  Followers of these types of leaders tend to have more demands of their leader, are unable to work independently, and show little cooperation.  This leadership philosophy is most effective when all group members are highly knowledgable in different areas and must pool their combined expertise together.

The Servant Leadership Philosophy

Servant leadership can be summed up by putting service to others before your own self-interest.  This leader includes the whole team is the decision making process and never takes personal credit for successes.  To learn more about the servant leadership style, check-out this leadership course taught on thinking like Jesus and Leading like Moses.  This philosophy is best for an elected leader when leading a team, organization, group, or committee.  Followers of this type of leader tend to recognize that their organization is one of the best places to work for because of the positive culture and high morale in the group.  This is not an appropriate leadership style for quick decision making or tight deadlines.

The Charismatic Leadership Philosophy

This leadership philosophy moves people through the power of personality.  A charismatic leader inspires passion and motivates followers to keep moving forward.  They are effective in spurring others into action and expanding an organization’s position in the marketplace.  The fatal flaw in this philosophy is that the power resides in one person.  The leader may take on too much risk due to feeling invincible or leave the position of power.  In both cases, the group will struggle because their success is tied directly to the leader’s presence.

The Transformational Leadership Philosophy

Transformational leaders may be labeled as radical.  They expect everyone to give their best at all times and to adapt even when it is uncomfortable.  These leaders excel in encouraging groups to pursue innovative and creative ideas and then act upon them.  They motivate their team through creating optimism, enthusiasm, and commitment.  Followers are engaged and highly productive.  This philosophy focuses on big-ideas and requires team members that are detailed oriented to ensure overall team success. Learn about this philosophy with a Leadership in Action course designed after transformational leader Jack Welch of General Electric.

The Situational Leadership Philosophy

This type of leader is a professional at molding their leadership style to each situation that they are presented with.  They are classified as being supportive while empowering and coaching their followers.  This style is the most effective when procedures need to change.  Followers can be reassured when adaptive actions are taken in appropriate situations but they can also feel confused or insecure if change occurs too often.

The Innovative Leadership Philosophy

The innovative leadership philosophy requires the leader to grasp the situation in its entirety and go beyond the usual course of action.  This type of leader is a visionary and actively tries to bring new thinking and actions into play to fix things that are not working.  This philosophy is best applied in environments that want to promote creative thinking, innovative ideas, and problem solving.  Failure will not stop progress and followers learn to value and respect the ideas of others.

The Constant Improvement Leadership Philosophy

This leadership philosophy requires high performance standards be set for both the leader and the followers.  Followers of this style are effective when they are highly skilled and motivated, and able to work at a quick pace.  Leaders must be careful though that their followers do not become burnt out or forced to work at a speed they cannot maintain.


The important thing to remember is that there is no correct leadership philosophy.  Different philosophies are appropriate in different situations and work environments.  Also, not everyone is capable of adopting every leadership philosophy.  Much of it comes down to your personality and what you value.  If you would like to continue to improve on your leadership skills, we suggest taking a class on the 6 habits of highly effective leaders.  Think about the leaders you have enjoyed most.  What was their style?  Write down your personal leadership philosophy to remind yourself and to tell other where you stand.

Page Last Updated: February 2020

Top courses in Leadership

Leadership Strategies for Greater Success
Imran Afzal, Zoya Awan
4.6 (92)
Hot & New
Effective Leadership
Dr Neil Thompson
4.4 (1,609)
Leadership: Practical Leadership Skills
Chris Croft
4.6 (76,400)
Leadership: Leading When You Are Not In Charge!
Steve Ballinger, MBA
4.4 (6,065)
Leadership: How to Influence, Inspire and Impact as a Leader
Life Progression Project, Lorraine Wiseman
4.5 (24,616)
Leadership in Agile Project Management: Essential Skills
Ramon Janssen, Management Mavericks
4.7 (87)
Hot & New
Women's Leadership
Dorie Clark
4.6 (3,782)
Think Like a Leader with Brian Tracy
Brian Tracy
4.6 (7,999)

More Leadership Courses

Leadership students also learn

Empower your team. Lead the industry.

Get a subscription to a library of online courses and digital learning tools for your organization with Udemy Business.

Request a demo