What Kind of Leader Are You?


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Published March 24, 2023 Reading Time: 4 minutes

So you have a new leadership role? Or maybe you’re looking for traits of effective leaders in nonprofit organizations.

Great leaders often share personal characteristics, but how they lead can vary drastically. It’s an incredible exercise to understand your unique leadership style. Doing so regularly helps you become more self-aware of your style’s associated pros and cons to manage your people more effectively.

Get ready to define your personal leadership style or identify the style you want to emulate at your nonprofit. And remember, leadership isn’t a perfect science. The leadership skills best for your organization and people may not be the best for others. There’s always room to grow alongside your mission.

Why Leadership Styles Matter

At any organization, leaders set the pace for all operations. People gravitate toward certain positions and opportunities based on their leaders and can leave a work situation if they don’t feel leadership is strong or transparent enough. At a nonprofit organization, that leadership can unite individuals around an incredible cause that changes lives.

You’re in a powerful position to cultivate a work environment and company culture that empowers your team to do the work that makes a big impact. While some common leadership qualities and styles exist today, you hold the key to how you step into your role and the legacy you create along the way.

What Kind of Leader Are You?

Take a moment to reflect on your leadership approach and how various team or group members might describe your style. From there, see which types of leadership styles below feel most aligned with your values.

Autocratic Leaders

Autocratic leaders often make decisions independently and feel they need visibility into everything happening within their organization. While sometimes seen as slightly cold or harsh, this style also famously gets things done. Because they don’t have time to consult with others along the way, decisions are quick, and your organization often reaps the rewards from this.

Democratic Leader

Democratic leaders often rely on their subordinates to help them make decisions. They invite experts’ opinions, the leadership team’s collective thoughts, and often input from the greater organization. This style tends to unearth new ideas from others and helps employees feel valued.

Laissez-Faire Leader

Laissez-faire, French for “allow to do,” is a government policy that allows the free market to run its course without government interference. In terms of a leadership style, a laissez-faire leader often delegates tasks to others and grants them the authority to make decisions. Laissez-faire leaders, typically uninvolved, equip subordinates with what they need, then hand over the reigns. They are, however, still ultimately responsible for the collective actions of the team.

Employee-Centered Leader

Employee-centered leaders commit to the success of everyone on their team. They often feel comfortable delegating tasks and invest in their subordinates’ personal and professional growth. Employee-centered leaders also work hard to ensure employees feel they have a path to advance and achieve their goals. This type of leader tends to thrive at the executive level as their focus on relationship-building and morale propels the team forward.

Job-Centered Leader

Job-centered leaders make sure things get done. They’ve got their eye on the prize and are excellent at facilitating larger tasks. These leaders are detail-oriented and precise and tend to keep tabs on their subordinates’ progress. They’re typically very particular about deadlines and aren’t shy to vocalize what’s necessary to get a project across the finish line.

Charismatic Leader

Charismatic leaders are captivating—they have no trouble gathering a room’s attention. They’re confident and can communicate in a way that transforms their subordinates’ values and beliefs. Because of their charm, they tend to gain their organization’s trust easily.

Transactional leader

Transactional leaders use rewards to motivate their team or consequences to discourage them from failure. These leaders typically prioritize shared values and structure management, which can help them get a lot done. Some people enjoy this direct style of leadership to guide them to the best outcomes.

Situational leader

Situational leaders adapt to the unique situation or individual. They don’t define themselves by a specific structure but instead remain flexible and learn the best way to lead with different variables in mind.

Opportunities Based on Your Style of Leadership

Autocratic Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:

  • Moving everything along
  • Keeping a clear mind in stressful situations
  • Getting control of a group
What you need to be careful with:
  • Overlooking the creative solutions and ideas of others
  • Impacting company morale negatively
  • Micromanaging and developing an authoritarian reputation

Democratic Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:
  • Bringing a group together and making everyone feel heard
  • Weighing input and multiple perspectives before making a decision
  • Creating a decision-making process that invites participation
What you need to be careful with:
  • Taking too long to make decisions
  •  Holding back your thoughts and opinions

Laissez-Faire Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:

  • Building a top-notch team of experts
  • Giving subordinates a sense of autonomy
  • Getting involved only when necessary
What you need to be careful with:
  • Failing to assemble the right team
  • Removing yourself to a point where team members fall short on their tasks  due to a lack of guidance
  • Using your detached style to avoid responsibility for the group’s actions

Employee-Centered Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:
  • Helping people realize their fullest potential
  • Facilitating relationships across teams
  • Making employees feel respected, trusted, and valued
What you need to be careful with:
  • Focusing on your grand vision so much that you miss opportunities to contribute at a granular level
  • Keeping key tasks and projects on your radar
  • Sugarcoating difficult news or information

Job-Centered Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:

  • Making lists, plans, and schedules
  • Helping the team understand their responsibilities
  • Keeping everyone on track and ensuring quality work
What you need to be careful with:
  • Micromanaging to a point where you interfere with employees’ growth potential
  • Focusing too much on the nitty-gritty and losing sight of the larger picture
  • Becoming autocratic

Charismatic Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:
  • Getting everyone to understand your vision
  • Making people feel special and inspired to succeed
  • Taking initiative and moving forward with decisions confidently
What you need to be careful with:
  • Coming off as inauthentic
  • Influencing people’s decision-making based on personal beliefs too heavily

Transactional Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:
  • Establishing an organizational structure
  • Creating a clear path to success
  • Leading a team in the right direction confidently
What you need to be careful with:
  • Using scare tactics that cause a fear of failure
  • Disrupting employees’ creativity and comfortability due to an overly rigid structure

Situational Leadership

What you’re typically awesome at:
  • Flexing to anyone and any goal with confidence
  • Understanding the people you lead
  • Respecting different working styles
What you need to be careful with:
  • Demonstrating too many leadership styles and causing confusion
  • Creating uncertainty about your personal working style

Celebrating New Perspectives and Types of Leadership

Regardless of how you step into your power as a nonprofit leader, we celebrate you. If you’re interested in learning more from the top nonprofit leaders and experts across the social sector, we invite you to join us this June at Classy Collaborative 2023 in Philadelphia.

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