Leadership Styles and Their Effectiveness sample essay

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Praxis II

Leadership Styles and Their Effectiveness

Ike Hall
Pro-seminar Leading Community Practice

Praxis Paper Submitted Feburary 24,2008 in Partial Fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Education (ED.D.)

Leadership Styles and Their Effectiveness

The late Harold Geneen, man behind the success of the International Telephone and Telegraph Corp. (ITT), once said “Leadership cannot really be taught. It can only be learned’. Essentially leadership is always tied to the individual who takes on the role. Throughout history, many great leaders emerged. They brought with them either positive or negative influence. They are considered great leaders because of their undeniable contribution in shaping the events of time. But what in their leadership style makes them great?

There are many definitions of leadership however usually it is defined by the results it produces, both in the situation and the people under it. More commonly leadership is defined as the influence of one over those he leads (Clark 2007). There are many facets to leadership. In fact it is one of the most studied subjects around. Many researches have been conducted to tap it. Many programs have been designed to enhance it. Many individuals seek it. And many scholars have tried to explain it.

One of the most common inferences of leadership is that leaders are made not born (Clark 2005). This paper will try to identify what makes a great leader. By studying the different styles of leadership, it aims to present a more concrete explanation of the subject. Going through the merits of the different styles will essentially broaden understanding. By assessing the different points of leadership, a clearer picture of its influence, particularly in the school setting will be achieved.

While leadership remains subjective and relative (Bittel, 1989) this paper will seek to create a more objective view of the subject. It will expose its most important components. It will present a few of its tested formulae. By doing so, it will identify what are essential to becoming an effective leader today.

Evidence from Literature

A great number of books have been written on leadership. Experts have been very generous in sharing their thoughts about it. In fact, in the last 30 years alone there has been an influx of experts in the subject. No matter how it is explained, or what terms are used to describe it, the view on leadership remains essentially the same. Even John Maxwell, arguably the most popular expert in leadership summarizes it as simply the influence of one over others (1998).

Not surprising, experts bring with them different views on leadership. They also encourage people to subscribe to their own brand or style of leading. However while there seems to be a whole lot of choices, leadership style can very well be broken down into three (Goodworth 1988) general classifications. These are Autocratic, Laissez Faire and Democratic (Vaccio 1988).

Autocratic or Authoritarian Leadership is defined as one that dominates (Bittel 1989). Its most common attribute is the all-encompassing rule over team members or followers. Most likely Autocratic Leaders will not admit they are. However, the reality of it is that it is the easiest and most common style in leadership. It is so common that usually individuals adapt to it more quickly.

Even though this style is viewed as abrasive and often times unproductive as it stirs team members or followers toward passive resistance, it can be highly effective in situations requiring urgent action. The greatest dictators of history all possess autocratic leadership characteristics that they maximized to propel them to infamous success. One of the most obvious evidences of this particular style is it takes advantage of the weaknesses of team members or followers in every situation.

While the Autocratic Leadership suppresses input of team members or followers, it is entire the opposite in Laissez Faire Leadership. Also named as Free Reign (Goodworth 1988), this particular style places decision-making on the hands of the team members or followers. It is described as having very little involvement from the leader. It gives little direction and motivation. This leadership style is ideal only in groups composed of individuals who are highly motivated with great initiative. Laissez Faire Leaders totally empower their members to achieve goals. It is important that the members are therefore worthy of empowerment.

The third style is the Democratic Leadership. It is also referred to as Participative (Clark 2007). The Democratic Leader consults with team members or followers in decision-making without relinquishing control over the team. Participation is encouraged, hence the name. Similar to Laissez Faire, Democratic Leadership empowers members as well. The distinct difference between the two is that Democratic Leadership has more leader involvement. Although the team members and followers are given an active role in decision-making, final judgment still remains with the leader.

The three general classifications otherwise known as leadership styles are very different from one another. Each has a set of good and bad points that makes them distinct. However no matter how different they are, they all define leadership the same way. Leadership is influence. This is one irrefutable fact of leadership that experts agree on.

Critical Analysis

It was mentioned in previous paragraphs that leadership is relative (Maxwell 1998). Its effectiveness depends on the individual who takes on the role. Each style of leadership offers up both positive and negative traits. Each is ideal in certain situations. Each has the capacity to achieve success.

In a school set-up, leadership is often a combination of the three classifications. This is not an ideal practice however this is probably the most common. In many instances teacher and student have an autocratic relationship. Teacher speaks and students listen. Teachers give instructions and students follow. This practice however is slowly becoming old-school.

Today, teachers and students have a free exchange of ideas. In fact there are times that teachers allow students to take control of discussions. Particularly in school teams, coaches are often accused of allowing their team to have a free reign during games. The trust level is so high that empowerment is effortless.

Democratic style of leadership is one which is commonly desired. An open sharing of views and balanced decision-making are often claimed. In the school setting this style of leadership is evident in organizations. Teachers and students are leveled with each other. The school paper is the best example of this kind of leadership. Although teachers hold the final decisions in publications, students are given the opportunity to bring their point across without fear of being shut-down.

School is the best place to exercise leadership. There are so many opportunities to try out different styles, put them together to create a more stable form. Schools encourage leadership. Exposure to the different styles allows students to decipher for themselves which are suitable for certain situations.


It has been mentioned time and again that leadership is influence. The school is an ideal place to hone leadership potentials of individuals. In other words, the school provides an opportunity for individuals to acquire skills in influencing others.

Leadership style will always be relative to the individual. Even experts agree to this with their different takes on leadership. However in all the study of leadership one thing remains. No one leadership style is generic (Clark 2005) enough to be applicable in all situations and all individuals. There will always be a need to put two or three different styles to make it work.

Bittel, L. (1989). ‘The McGraw-Hill 36-hour management course’. US: McGraw-Hill.

Clark, D. (2005). ‘Leadership styles’. Retrieved on February 17, 2008 from

Clark, D. (2007). ‘Concepts of leadership’. Retrieved on February 18, 2008 from

Goodworth, C. (1988). ‘The secrets of successful leadership and people management’. US:
Heimann Professional Publishing

Maxwell, J. (1998). ’21 irrefutable laws of leadership’. US: Thomas Nelson Publishing.

Veccio, R. (1988). ‘Original behavior’. US: Dryden Press