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 Discovering Your Leadership Style

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In this time of change, the MBS program has been offering some excellent virtual seminars, workshops, and other online events to provide students opportunities to learn essential skills for the workplace and also continue to earn their colloquium credits.

On Tuesday, April 7, 2020, I attended the “Discovering Your Leadership Style” workshop, which identified varying styles of leadership. Led by Abbe Rosenthal, PCC, Assistant Director/Head of Corporate Partnerships, Employment & Professional Development, and Executive Coach, the seminar focused on the importance of being an overall dynamic leader who can adapt to using different leadership styles when appropriate. Five styles of leadership were presented and discussed : (1) Directive Leadership, (2) Participative Leadership, (3) Transformational Leadership, (4) Servant Leadership, and (5) Laissez-Faire Leadership.


As a graduate student, I have seen many examples of each type of leadership—at my internship, during my extracurricular activities, and in my years of education—but it was enlightening to be able to identify and classify these various leadership styles.

Abbe explained common traits, the pros and drawbacks of each leadership style, and scenarios in which each leadership style could be put to best use. This last part was one of the most didactic parts of the seminar. Students learned to identify these settings and apply the learnings of the seminar to their own behaviors.


The first style we discussed was  Directive Leadership, in which the person in charge is autocratic, authoritarian, commanding, controlling, and noncollaborative. Unfortunately, employees under directive leaders can feel unmotivated, unvalued, unconfident, or incompetent. However, there is no doubt about who is in charge and orders / expectations tend to be very clear.

Best Suited For: Onboarding new and /or unskilled employees, controlling an emergency, or crisis, making quick decisions and actions.



Participative Leadership is very much the opposite of Directive Leadership, because participative leaders are democratic, diplomatic, and collaborative, they tend to listen more than talk, and are open to input. Their humbling style, however, can make their status within the company quite vague, which causes people to question their role as a leader.

Best Suited For: Setting group goals or making group decisions and setting up a successful team culture.


Transformational Leaders are encouraging, inspirational, and have both great integrity and high expectations for their employees. They focus on what they believe is the greater good. However, while such leaders can make excellent impact, their power of influence can be fleeting and short-lived—such influence often extends to the life of the leader within the company, and usually not beyond that. Additionally, while such leaders are powerful and able to rally a collective sentiment among followers, that sentiment is only as good as the human intent behind it (extreme example: Adolph Hitler). Thus, their power should be used to influence appropriately or it may be abused and corrupt a team setting.

Best Suited For: Creating a group vision and generating enthusiasm for such vision.



Servant Leadership focuses on the needs of others and inspires employee identification. Servant leaders risk sacrificing their own goals, being held responsible for the actions of their followers, and failing to establish short-term goals due to distractive multitasking.

Best Suited For: Creating a service culture, as seen in companies like Nordstrom, Disney, Apple, and others.


Lastly, Laissez-Faire Leadership is very delegative. Leaders with this style ensure that team members have the resources they need in order to perform, but are hands-off when it comes to problem solving. Although these leaders instill a level of trust in their followers, at times they may seem detached and uncaring. However, this leadership style assumes the leader has cultivated a high degree of trust, and that employees are highly skilled and comfortable with such autonomy.

Best Suited For: Functioning as leaders among self-directed work teams. Such leaders also flourish in highly creative environments.


Overall, the seminar gave us a chance to self-reflect, to evaluate the leadership style that comes most naturally to each of us, and to illuminate the traits we must acquire to become the most dynamic and effective leaders in all scenarios of the professional world.

Samantha Siu
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