Lewin leadership styles

Lewin leadership styles

When we talk about a leadership style we mean behaviors characteristics of a leader in directing, motivating, guiding and managing groups of people. Great leaders can inspire political movements and social changes. They can also motivate others to realize, create and innovate.

Over the years, researchers have developed different theories and frameworks that allow us to better identify and understand different leadership styles.

The following are just some of the most prominent leadership frameworks and styles that have been identified.


  • 1 Lewin leadership styles
    • 1.1 Authoritarian or autocratic leadership
    • 1.2 Laissez-Faire Leadership (let do)
    • 1.3 Democratic or participatory leadership
    • 1.4 Other leadership styles and models
    • 1.5 Situational Leadership Styles
    • 1.6 When to use different leadership styles

Lewin leadership styles

In 1939, a group of researchers led by psychologist Kurt Lewin set out to identify different leadership styles. While more different types of leadership have subsequently been identified, this initial study was very influential and established three main leadership styles.

In the study, several groups of schoolchildren were assigned to one of three leadership styles: authoritarian, democratic and laissez-faire. The children carried out an art project, while the researchers observed the children's behavior in response to different leadership styles. The researchers discovered that democratic leadership tended to be the most effective in inspiring followers to perform well.

Let's take a look at the three styles identified by Lewin:

Authoritarian or autocratic leadership

Authoritarian leaders, also known as autocratic leaders, provide clear expectations of what needs to be done, when it should be done and how it should be done. This style of leadership is strongly focused both for the command itself and for the control of the followers.

A clear division is established between the leader and his members. Authoritarian leaders make decisions independently with little or no input from the rest of the group.

The researchers saw that decision making was much less creative under authoritarian leadership. Lewin also concluded that it is more difficult to move from an authoritarian style to a democratic style than vice versa. Abuse of this method is usually considered controller, bossy and dictatorial.

Authoritarian leadership is best applied to situations in which there is little time for group decision making or when the leader is the most knowledgeable member of the group. The autocratic approach can be a good thing when the situation requires quick decisions and decisive actions. However, it tends to create dysfunctional and even hostile environments, often facing followers against the dominating leader.

Leadership Laissez-Faire (let do)

The researchers found that children under laissez-fair leadership were the least productive of the three groups. The children in this group also made more demands on the leader, showed little cooperation and were unable to work independently.

Negative leaders offer little or no guidance to group members and leave decision making to group members. While this style can be useful in situations involving highly qualified experts, it often leads to poorly defined roles and a lack of motivation.

Lewin pointed out that laissez-faire leadership tended to lead to groups that lacked direction where members blamed each other for mistakes, refused to accept responsibility for personality and produced a lack of progress and work.

Democratic or participatory leadership

Lewin's study revealed that participatory leadership, also known as democratic leadership, is the most effective leadership style.

Democratic leaders offer guidance to group members, but also participate in the group and allow the collaboration of other group members. In Lewin's study, the children in this group were less productive than the members of the authoritarian group, but their contributions were of higher quality.

Democratic leaders encourage group members to participate, but retain the final word in the decision-making process. Group members feel engaged in the process and are more motivated and creative. Participatory leaders tend to make followers feel they are an important part of the team, which helps foster commitment to group goals.

Other leadership styles and models

In addition to the three styles identified by Lewin and his colleagues, many other characteristic patterns of leadership have been described.

The following are just some of the best known:

The style of Transformational Leadership

Transformational leadership is often identified as the most effective style. This style was first described in the late 1970s and later expanded by researcher Bernard M. Bass. Some of the key characteristics of his leadership style are the skills to motivate and inspire followers and to lead positive changes in the groups.

Transformational leaders tend to be emotionally intelligent, energetic and passionate. Not only are they committed to helping the organization reach its goals, but also to helping group members realize their potential.

Research has revealed that this leadership style has a higher performance and sense of satisfaction in the group than other leadership styles. A study also found that transformational leadership leads to improved well-being among group members.

Transactional Leadership Style

The transactional leadership style considers the leader-follower relationship as a transaction. By accepting a position as a member of the group, the individual has agreed to obey the leader. In most situations, this implies the employer-employee relationship, and the transaction focuses on the follower completing their tasks thanks to monetary compensation.

One of the main advantages of this leadership style is that create clearly defined roles. People know what they are required and what they will receive in exchange for completing these tasks. It also allows leaders to offer a great deal of supervision and direction if necessary. Group members may also be motivated to perform well to receive rewards. One of the biggest disadvantages is that the transactional style is that it tends to drown creativity and divergent thinking.

Situational Leadership Styles

The situational theories of leaders highlight the significant influence of the environment and the situation on leadership.

Hershey and Blanchard Situational Leadership Style

The Hershey and Blanchard situational leadership model It is one of the best known theories. First published in 1969, this model describes four main leadership styles.

  1. The leader who orders It is characterized by telling people what to do.
  2. The leader who persuades It involves leaders convincing followers to buy on their ideas and messages.
  3. The leader who participates It is marked by allowing group members to take a more active role in the decision making process.
  4. The delegating leader It involves adopting a practical approach to leadership and allowing group members to make the most decisions.

Blanchard's Situational Leadership Styles II (SLII)

Subsequently, Blanchard expanded the original Hershey and Blanchard model to emphasize how the level of development and ability of students / workers influences the style leaders should use. Blanchard also described four different learning styles.

  1. The managerial style It implies giving orders and waiting for obedience, but offers little in terms of guidance and assistance.
  2. The Coaching style It also means giving orders, but leaders do offer their support to subordinates.
  3. The support styleOn the other hand, it is an approach that offers a lot of help, but very little direction.
  4. The delegation style It has a low profile in both direction and support and help.

When to use different leadership styles

Good leaders use various styles depending on the situation. For example:

You can use aauthoritarian leadership style when group members lack knowledge about a certain procedure.

Uses a democratic style with group members who understand the objectives and their role in the task.

Use a laissez-fair style if the members of the group know more than you about the task to be carried out.

Make our Leadership Styles test to know what your natural tendency is.

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