I remember studying about the different leadership styles in school. And I remember being incredibly confused about trying to decipher which one I fall into. Moreover, with the workforce undergoing a series of changes all across the globe, the notion of leadership in all its pragmatic glory is more dynamic than ever.
But let’s move on from the old school jargon here. If you’d prefer pop culture entertainment to hoards of theories (like me), then boy, do we have a fun piece for you! Here’s a list of all the leadership styles explained through characters you’ve known (and may be liked).
So read on to find out which leadership style you fall into by figuring out which character you most relate with!
Bholi Punjaban: Autocratic leadership
When I first read about autocratic leadership the only name that came to my mind was that of Regina George (Mean Girls). And then Blair Waldorf (Gossip Girl). They’re both model autocratic leaders with their absolute disregard for their subordinates – or ‘minions’ as we fondly know them.
But let’s hype up the desi-ness in the house with our homegrown Richa Chadda’s firebrand performance of Bholi Punjaban (Fukrey). A classic example of autocratic leadership, Bholi Punjaban single handedly (and rather tyrannically) runs her gangster racket in the Delhi underworld. One of my personal favourite performances ever, she manages to keep the entire male cast of the film in check.
- Leadership style: Autocratic
- Characteristics: Badass, no-nonsense leader, incredibly driven and ambitious
- Communication style: Unilateral communication; takes no account of her subordinates in the decision making process; sticks to her decisions and expects absolute adherence to it
- Scale of effectiveness in real life workplace cultures: Probably not that high. In the context of autocratic leadership, the only person that seems to be having fun is the leader themselves. As entertaining as the character might be for a pop-culture viewing, entertaining wouldn’t be the adjective you’d use if they were your boss.
- How are you managing your team working from home: It’s a mess. You have the chronic need to have multiple con calls. You feel the need to be informed every step of the way at all times. Your lid is easily blown off when one of your team members has a bad wifi connectivity or you’re not able to reach them at the drop of a hat.
- How to know if you’re one: Do you thrive off of people sheepishly nodding and agreeing with all your decisions? Do you have the “I’m-better-than-you-and-probably-know-more-than-you” syndrome? Would you rather be feared than respected? Would you rather not consider the views of your subordinates when making an important decision?
If you have more than 3 yes’s in that last bit and generally relate with the character or aspire to be like her, or Regina George or Blair Waldorf (for those last two, I wonder who doesn’t); then congratulations! You’re an autocratic leader.
Jules Ostin: Democratic leadership
Jules Ostin (played by a marvelling Anne Hathaway in The Intern) is the millennial leader we’re all secretly aspiring to become. A savvy millennial entrepreneur, leading her fancy athleisure fashion startup into success, Jules Ostin is that warm and affable boss we can only hope to have in real life.
- Leadership style: Democratic
- Characteristics: Empathetic, ambitious but kind, has her eyes on the prize, is a team player, accepting of her own shortcomings, sees the scope and relevance in self-improvement
- Communication style: Participative; involves juniors, team member and subordinates in the decision making process; two-way communication
- Scale of effectiveness in real life workplace cultures: Pretty high – if followed through in a similar ideal manner. But things may not always be the same degree of hunky dory in real life. Pop-culture has a way with romanticising the utopian, regardless of how unviable this utopia may be when it comes to actual practice.
- How are you managing your team working from home: You have managed to establish a method to this WFH madness. You’ve set out a schedule, a routine for your daily check-ins with your team. You’re not completely agitated in the cases of loss of connectivity or the lack of an instinctive response.
- How to know if you’re one: (or in this case, how to become one!) Do you believe in the relevance and power of teamwork? Do you believe in the importance of upward and downward communication? Do you have an empathetic ear? Would you rather invoke respect and admiration than command fear?
If you’ve managed to answer more than 3 questions in the last point, then congratulations! You’re a democratic leader.
Rapunzel: Coaching leadership
Personally, I feel Disney’s narratives are particularly underrated when it comes to their relevance in educating adults too. It’s got a little something for everybody! Exhibit A: Rapunzel’s (voiced by a brilliant Mandy Moore in Tangled) transformation as a leader in the second half of the film.
Remember when Rapunzel finally takes the plunge to go out there, sees the “floating lights” and decides that nothing can stop her? Apart from a host of other major obstructions in her way, a minor one includes her companions - Flynn Rider and Maximus, the horse refusing to get along. But she manages to pacify the two of them while also ensuring that their friendship sustains beyond just her journey.
And that is what forms the essence of Coaching Leadership. An indirect method of disseminating authority where the leader coaches or enables subordinates to perform better.
- Leadership style: Coaching
- Characteristics: Inspirational; enables two-way communication; is goal oriented and helps her team players internalise and work directionally towards the goals; a thorough team player; nurturing and empathetic
- Communication style: Aids motivation; inspires team members; directional and goal oriented
- Scale of effectiveness in real life workplace cultures: Subjectively high. This nature of leadership works better in organisations where the leader is immensely experienced and competitive in their personal space. A coaching leadership typically tends to increase employee performance and boost employee motivation and skills.
- How are you managing your team working from home: You took the time out to ensure to equip your team with the necessary skills of working remotely. Before hopping on the ‘work from home’ bandwagon you saw to it that your team is educated in terms of all the tools and techniques that they’ll need to work efficiently from home. You’re patient, and you leave ample room for mistakes while being empathetic to their learning curve too.
- How to know if you’re one: Do you consider yourself a natural facilitator? Do you have a penchant for teaching, aiding and inducing intellectual stimulation? Do you believe in creating a holistic sense of performance and success in the professional sphere?
If you’ve answered more than two of those questions affirmatively, and generally relate to Rapunzel and her quest to answer her true calling, then we’ve got news for you! You identify yourself as a coaching leader.
Lorelai Gilmore: Laissez-faire leadership
The french word ‘laissez-faire’ loosely translates into ‘let them do’ or in the context of leadership here, ‘let them be’. A classic case of ‘live and let live’ leadership, Lorelai Gilmore (essayed by an almost too good to be real Lauren Graham in the iconic TV show Gilmore Girls) has the notion of being a cool, fun and non-intrusive leader down.
The manager of a quintessential small-town inn and a B&B eventually, Lorelai has the reins as loose as they come. Her head chef, Sookie (a brilliant Mellisa McCarthy) and the creative freedom with which she runs her kitchen is almost a direct consequence of Lorelai’s leadership. Similarly, the inn’s concierge - Michel too, has the freedom and the space to paint his workspace in the colours he deems fit.
The french meaning – let them do -let them be – delegate responsibility – let them work on their own – maximum scope for innovation and flexibility.
- Leadership style: Laissez-faire
- Characteristics: Easy-going but driven; knows how to delegate responsibility and motivate employees; she has a personal relationship with most of her subordinates; is empathetic and believes in being a team player
- Communication style: Two-way communication; inspires employee motivation and aids a holistic sense of success for the team.
- Scale of effectiveness in real life workplace cultures: Can be pretty high in cases when the employees come with a certain amount of experience and bent towards learning. This kind of leadership has the maximum scope for innovation and flexibility.
- How are you managing your team working from home: You’re thoroughly enjoying it. You are an expert at task delegation and you’re letting your team work at their own pace while also managing to ensure the completion of whatever needs to get done.
- How to know if you’re one: Do you think micromanaging as a leader is problematic? Do you believe in the power of creative freedom? Do you think subordinates and peers must be given the freedom to solve their own problems and devise their own solutions?
If you answered two or more than two of those questions affirmatively, and if you have had a general affinity to Lorelai Gilmore then congratulations! Your leadership skills fall under the Laissez-Faire style.
Miriam Maisel: Charismatic leadership
Academically, the discourse on charismatic leadership tends to steer towards examples of historically cataclysmic political leaders. Hitler, Trump, Modi, etc. are often cited as examples of charismatic leaders. But here are some examples from pop culture that many of us can relate more to.
Miriam Maisel (played by a vivacious Rachel Brosnahan) can be attributed as a classic example of Charismatic Leadership. The show Marvelous Mrs. Maisel (set in the sexist and pre-woke era of 1950’s New York) traces the journey of its protagonist Midge Maisel as she rises to power and gains popularity as a stand up comic.
- Leadership style: Charismatic
- Characteristics: Passionate; ambitious; driven; goal oriented; the perfect example of a one-woman-show; she grows on to become extremely popular and is a testament to any woman hustling to find success in a male dominated universe; a brilliant orator with exceptional skills of articulation
- Communication style: Strong and empowering -both to her audience and for herself; the sporadic instances of her monologues are incredibly inspiring and implore anybody who’d listen to step into their own power
- Scale of effectiveness in real life workplace cultures: Relatively high, but heavily dependent on the nature and line of work one is in. This kind of leadership can prove its effectiveness in situations where it concerns the public, or different sections of social groups and structures, or ethnic minorities and majorities.
- How are you managing your team working from home: You love getting on video calls. You love your team check-ins and you’re thoroughly enjoying delegating highly directional goals. You miss your team, however. And you miss being in the presence of people, being surrounded by their energy.
- How to know if you’re one: Do you have a natural flair of leading people into action? Do you have the gift of the gab? Are you able to convince people easily with your words? Do you consider yourself a born leader? Do you command a sense of attention and attraction in a group without working much for it?
If you more than three of those questions have an affirmative response and you generally relate with Midge and her ceaseless tirades of witticisms then you may have the potential of growing into a Charismatic Leader.
So there you go, all your basic leadership styles outlined!