Modern business schools have devoted reams of paper to management skills, personalities, styles and debates over which are the most effective. There are four basic management leadership styles. Most leaders can be placed into the autocratic, paternalistic, democratic or laissez faire categories. It is possible to find subcategories within these, but they serve as the basic categories.
Laissez faire is originally a French term that means to allow people to do as they choose. This style is best used when a leader has highly trained, professional and motivated individuals working under them. It implies a trust that the individuals being managed will do good work if left to their own devices. It can, obviously, lead to problems if employees are not highly trained or highly motivated as managers think.
A democratic leader takes input and feedback freely from their staff and delegates responsibility for given areas. Employees are allowed a great deal of flexibility and freedom in how they work, so long as the work is done properly and on time. Democratic leadership is generally popular with employees as they enjoy the freedom it allows and feel like participants in the decision-making process. However, it can lead to problems in situations that call for the manager to be less democratic, or when an employee is not working well with the freedom they are given.
As the name implies, a paternalistic leader acts as a mother or father figure to an organisation. Paternalistic leaders will take feedback and listen to input from employees to an extent, but ultimately will make decisions, whether they are popular or not. According to Adrian Miller, of Adrian Miller Sales Training, paternalistic leadership runs the risk of not allowing employees to grow, because it doesn't allow them to solve problems and find solutions on their own.
Autocratic leaders are the dictators of the workplace. They are the exact opposite of the "laissez faire" leaders. Autocratic leaders make decisions independently without input or consultation from employees. All good managers and leaders need to be autocratic at times, but autocratic leadership used too frequently can cause problems in the workplace. Under an autocratic leader, employees may feel that their experience, skills and ideas are not valued and can lead to a lack of motivation or the loss of highly skilled workers.