What’s Your Leadership Style? Identify and Embrace It

By AAPL Staff
January 4, 2019

Determine where you stand in Bass’ triad of leadership approaches, then play to your strengths.

THE CHALLENGE: As a leader, you understand how difficult, messy and inexact the leadership process can be. There’s no definitive playbook for leading others because, in many contexts, it’s more art than science. It depends on the environment you’re operating in, the people you’re working with and — most important — your natural leadership style.


A quick takeaway to help you hone your leadership skills.

In the 1980s, clinical psychiatrist B.M. Bass categorized leadership into three distinct styles. Over the last three decades, hundreds of thousands of words of research have been written about his leadership style triad, and it has become the fundamental foundation for many modern leadership strategies.

Are you a… 

1. Transformational Leader?

Transformational leadership inspires people to achieve unexpected and often remarkable results. It gives employees autonomy over certain aspects of their work, as well as the authority to make certain decisions with proper training. It is considered an inspirational form of leadership, in which the leader can encourage employees to find better ways of achieving a goal. Transformational leaders also are known to raise the well-being and motivation level of a group.

2. Transactional Leader?

Transactional leadership promotes overall employee compliance and encourages individuals to work within existing organizational goals. Performance expectations are clearly established, monitored and acknowledged through a system of rewards and punishments. Transactional leaders are typically task-oriented and outcome-driven. This is a status quo approach to leadership that closely monitors how employees perform tasks.

RELATED: There Are Four Leadership Styles: Can You Identify Yours?

3. Laissez-Faire Leader?

Laissez-faire leadership is a nonauthoritarian style in which leaders typically are hands-off, allowing employees to make most of their own business decisions. Laissez-faire leaders try to give the least guidance possible to their subordinates, believing that people excel best when left alone to address responsibilities and obligations in their own way. 

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 Each style has pros and cons. Bass’ research recommends avoiding laissez-faire leadership, because it was shown to be the least productive of the three styles, but there are examples of laissez-faire leaders, from all industries, who have become major influencers in their organizations and sectors. The important takeaway: Leadership is difficult. You can make tasks easier if you identify and embrace your natural leadership style, and then play to your strengths. 

Adapted from Transitioning from Management to Leadership, part of the Association for Physician Leadership’s comprehensive online curriculum. Learn more about AAPL's  educational offerings and credentials at physicianleaders.org/education.

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