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5 Amazing Examples of Leadership

History has seen many great leaders: Men and women who shaped the world we live in.

Whether you are leading a global company or a small family business, the type of leadership you use can make all the difference.

In this blog post we will explore different types of leadership styles, with examples of well known leaders who achieved success through using them.

Leaders in the workplace

There are many types of leadership, and success is usually built by being able to move fluidly between styles as the situation merits. To learn more about these styles we mention in this section, you can read our comprehensive guide.

Here are five examples of key leadership styles being used to great effect.

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Effective Authoritarian Leadership

Authoritarian leaders take complete control and rule with an iron fist. They dictate all policies and procedures and what they say goes, whatever the situation.

This style of leadership can be divisive and runs the risk of alienating team members, but can be extremely effective in high pressure environments where lack of clarity and inaction could be damaging to an organisation.

Let’s look at an example of effective authoritarian leadership.

There’s a reason Britain’s first female Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, was dubbed “The Iron Lady”. She was completely uncompromising with her politics, and her leadership style polarised public opinion as a result.

When Margaret Thatcher set goals she was a true force to be reckoned with. Through grit and determination - and by stocking up on coal supplies in advance - she gradually wore down the resolve of the National Union of Mineworkers, which resulted in them conceding without a deal.

Her reputation and leadership style also allowed Thatcher to forge strong political alliances, giving Britain a powerful stance in foreign affairs.

Effective Procedural Leadership

This style of leadership demands that everything is done according to policy, procedure, and strictly “by the book”. To be successful, procedure must be reviewed regularly and kept up to date.

Procedural leadership can be particularly beneficial in settings like the military or production lines, where everyone must know what they are doing and work without asking too many questions.

Adam Smith is an excellent example of effective procedural leadership. He played a part in revolutionising industrial manufacture with division of labour, which he believed would lead to a massive increase in productivity.

Smith famously enforced specialised tasks in a pin factory, demonstrating how division of labour was far more effective in productivity than if each person had acted in isolation. Smith believed that this principle could be utilised not just for one factory, but for the entire nation.

Effective Transformational Leadership

Transformational leaders inspire and encourage their staff to achieve beyond their comfort zone. Leading in this style means motivating your staff to embrace change that will help shape the future success of the organisation.

For this leadership style to be effective, fostering an ethical work environment with a clear set of values, priorities, and standards is key.

Barack Obama is a prime example of transformational leadership. Where the majority saw obstacles, this American president saw opportunities and possibilities. He worked hard to create a culture of integrity and transparency amongst his administration which led to loyalty and higher efficiency.

The rallying cry of his campaign - “Yes We Can!” - convinced millions of Americans that there was hope in their future if they united, voted, and trusted in the government. He provided them with tools and information allowing them to be part of changing their country in positive and meaningful ways.

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Effective Participative Leadership

Here, the leader encourages participation in the decision making process. Staff are given the opportunity to have their say and be part of solving problems within the organisation.

The success of participative leadership relies on the person in charge being strong enough to ultimately have the final say.

Walt Disney, best known for creating “the most magical place on earth” - as well as at least 160 of our favourite childhood films - was a great example of democratic leadership.

It took hundreds of artists and many thousands of hours to produce a full-length animated film. This work demanded that every person involved was able to work with remarkable attention to detail.

By communicating the overarching vision clearly and allowing contributions, the organisation produced some of the most beautiful and timeless animated films of our era. This leadership style was successful for Disney because despite all the layers of creative input by so many artists, the final decision was always his.

Effective Laissez-faire Leadership

Here, the leadership barely leads at all. It’s a real hands-off approach, most effective when an organisation has a strong focus on subordinate autonomy. Staff are expected to manage their own time whilst those in charge offer only gentle guidance.

Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin did exactly that. They famously introduced the “20% Policy” where, as well as their regular duties, employees were encouraged to spend 20% of their time working on creative and innovative ideas that could benefit Google and its future success.

The fruits of this policy include Google News, Google Mail, and even AdSense, which still brings in billions in profit.

In order for this policy to work effectively, Page and Brin had to be completely confident in their employees skills, ability to motivate themselves, and the humility to ask for help when needed.

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Five practices of exemplary leadership

No great leader will fit squarely into one leadership style, but there are traits that unite them. Here are some examples:

  • Integrity: As seen with Obama’s transformational leadership integrity was key. With it came trust not only from his staff but by the whole country, and even the world.
  • Vision: Having a clear vision which is understood fully by employees helps to ensure that everyone is moving in the right direction and working towards the same goal.
  • Acknowledging success: Recognising individual and collective success encourages staff to work to their highest ability.
  • Ability to motivate: A sense of achievement is a confidence boost. Incorporate incentives and always strive to make employees feel valued.
  • Moving with the times: Don’t get stuck in the past. Make sure that policies are reviewed and reformed frequently.


In Conclusion…

Leadership is always challenging, and one size does not fit all. Instead of choosing one leadership style, be willing to move between them as the situation demands.

Effective leadership requires fluidity to help you deal with each situation or problem on an individual basis. Mastering this will give you the strongest chance of leading your company to success.

Every Success,


About the author

Graham Wilson

Graham Wilson

I enjoy and specialise in teaching leadership skills, how to create winning strategies, how to build high performance cultures. Outcomes and results are the most important measures for me!