8 Popular Types Of Leadership Styles: What’s Yours?


While it’s true most effective sales leaders were once great salespeople. The type of sales manager you are requires more than the ability to sell. So if you’re eager for your team to want to reach their full potential, you’ll need to start brushing up on your communication skills and build trust by becoming a Cheerleader, Disciplinarian, Psychologist, and Administrator. Sure, it can be daunting, but you don’t have to start from scratch. Discover 8 popular sales leadership styles below and uncover what type of leader you are!

Eight of the most common leadership styles include authoritarian, coach-style, democratic, laissez-faire, transactional, transformational, strategic, and bureaucratic. Find a summary of the pros and cons of each below:

Authoritarian Sales Leadership Style

You don’t think you know best. You know you do, right? If this statement resonates with you on a deeper level, your natural leadership type may be Authoritarian. Autocratic leadership is a top-down management style where the Sales Manager calls all the shots without asking for or accepting any advice from staff members. Contrary to Servant Leaders, the Authoritarian Leader communicates top-down, allowing for limited feedback and little room for dialogue.

Common characteristics include:

  • Leaders make most if not all of the decisions.
  • Leaders create highly structured and sometimes rigid environments.
  • Discourages creative thinking.
  • A transparent chain of command and oversight.
  • Allows Leaders to make quick decisions.
  • It discourages employee input.

As you can imagine, this is regarded as a heavy-handed approach and is generally disliked by most employees. Naturally, as the least democratic leadership style, it’s usually found in organizations where the leader is the most knowledgeable.

So perhaps we could conclude that an Autocratic leadership style is rarely the most effective leadership style. Whilst it sounds negative and has been applied for the wrong reasons before – it does have some benefits like providing direction, offering structure, and relieving pressure from employees. Some famous examples of Autocratic leaders include Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, and Donald Trump.

Also Read:

Coach-Style Sales Leadership (Situational Leadership)

‘Creativity is the most important leadership competency. Leaders work with teams toward a shared vision and integrate a strong learning component with feedback loops that allow for learning and adapting to changing needs and services.’

IBM Global Chief Executive Officer Study

If this sounds like you, did you grow up playing sports?

If you spent most of your childhood on the field, you’ve probably learned how to recognize the individual strengths and weaknesses of your teammates, making it ideal to utilize this type of leadership.

Someone in the Coach-Style Leadership role works hard to identify where each member of their team excels and then devises a game plan that uses each team member to be most advantageous. Coach-style leadership, which focuses on building a team, is the right approach for creating a successful sales department.

However, don’t be fooled into thinking this effective leadership style is one-dimensional; in fact, it relies heavily on feedback and criticism from sources around you. No one can be right all of the time! This is why the Coach-Style leader prides themselves on their principle of humility.

Democratic Sales Leadership Style

Everyone matters and every idea is worth considering, right? Believers in giving everyone a fair chance to be heard will gravitate toward a more Democratic Leadership Style.

“In short, there are certain fundamental requisites for wise and resolute democratic leadership. It must build on hope, not on fear; on honesty, not on falsehood; on justice, not on injustice; on public tranquillity, not on violence; on freedom, not on enslavement.”

Edmund Ezra Day

This is an excellent Sales Leadership Style because it’s inclusive, which ultimately brings more opinions to the table. The result? With an ability to resolve issues quickly, your employees are more invested, building strong team relationships. However, you should carefully consider how the rejection of opinions could lead to resentment.

Democratic leaders will still make the final decision in the decision-making process, but not without everyone else having his say. This encourages honesty to be a fundamental aspect of your team – Honesty is the best policy, right?

Laissez-faire Sales Leaders

The direct opposite of an Autocratic Leadership Style, Laissez-faire, directly translates to “Leave-Alone.” So you’ve maybe already deduced that Laissez-faire Leaders focuses on encouraging your team to make appropriate workplace solutions for themselves—a real hands-off approach.

For instance, are you in charge of an experienced sales team that gets the job, and you’d prefer to avoid rocking the boat? Then Laissez-faire leadership may be a good option for you.

Laissez-faire Sales Leaders allow Salespeople to have complete freedom to make decisions concerning the completion of their work. This approach can work for some sales departments but may result in less productivity and lower sales performance in others.

Don’t worry if you’re wondering how this can be an effective leadership style. Although this type of management allows you to step back and disengage, it relies on your team’s substantial recruitment. As Steve Jobs explained so well, “It doesn’t make sense to hire smart people and then tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do.”

Transactional Sales Leadership Style

Do you value structure over everything? If you prefer to leave creativity at the door and believe financial gain or even fear of being fired motivates people, your type of leadership may be the Transactional Leader.

Transactional Sales Leaders are result-driven, thrive on enforcing routine, and rely on existing systems to measure success. Transactional Leaders depend on an established system of rewards and punishments to get their staff to perform at their highest level. This works well in situations where intrinsic desires drive salespeople but sometimes results in people doing just enough to earn a bonus or keep their jobs.

Whilst there is no room for innovation, employees of this type of Sales Manager can find the benefit of having a clearly defined set of rules, everyone knows where they stand – right? By maintaining a solid hierarchy structure, Transactional Leaders achieve short-term goals more quickly, leading to consistent results.

Transformational Leadership Style

Similar to Charismatic Leaders, Transformational Sales Leaders ooze integrity, and high emotional intelligence, and set high expectations for their team to reach for the improbable. This type of Sales leader works hard to transform their team’s thinking, encouraging them to look beyond their own self-interests. Which ultimately pushes them to do more when it comes to their jobs.

This effective leadership style pushes employees to find new solutions by going above and beyond conventions which can create an exciting, innovative working environment. However, the Transformational Leader must be aware that it can also prove to be demoralizing for some employees who feel they will never wholly master their positions.

Strategic Leadership Style

“We can’t solve problems using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

Do you have a strong vision for your sales department and feel you can inspire your employees to embrace it? That is the heart of a Strategic Leadership style. This type of leadership focuses on creating the best organizational structure, to lessen the need for micro-management.

Strategic Leaders introduce changes based on an overall guiding vision and encourage employees to share their vision. This effective leadership style primarily focuses on ensuring the team is ready for whatever the future may bring.

Strategic leadership supports working towards a common goal but offers little flexibility and doesn’t always address current business realities and sales strategies.

Bureaucratic Leadership Style

Organized, focused, and consistent? If you are a ‘by the book’ type of person, you will find it easy to adopt this leadership style. Bureaucratic leaders are typically open to staff suggestions as long as they are compatible with existing company policy.

A bureaucratic approach to leadership is most effective in an established sales department with a history of performing well, but newer employees or those with innovative mindsets may feel stifled.

We recommend taking a moment to think about your favourite past Sales Managers:

1. What traits did they exhibit that fuelled you to reach your potential?
2. What qualities made you want to look for a new job?

It understands what motivates your team and what deters them that will help you succeed with this type of leadership.

8 Types Of Sales Leaders
8 Types Of Sales Leadership Styles

When we polled our community of Sales Leaders and Sales professionals on LinkedIn, most sales professionals stated they preferred the Transformational and Democratic management styles. All said they couldn’t stand Authoritarian leaders.

While the above is true for most people, you also need to brush up on your Leadership skills and be able to adjust your style to the person and the situation to achieve your long-term goals.

We would love to know, what traits do you feel make for a great sales leader? Join the discussion on LinkedIn with our leadership speaker.

Learn Essential Coaching Skills for Managers

More and more companies use coaching techniques to create a supportive environment that produces ongoing mutual respect, trust and results.

Our Coaching Skills Training for Team Leaders, Managers and Business Owners focuses on different coaching styles and how they can be applied to various scenarios.

Learn how to use effective questioning and listening to provoke team members to create their own solutions, resulting in a dramatic increase in their motivation and dedication to the task.

Scroll to Top