What’s Your School Leadership Style?

Democratic? Instructional? Something else?

Sponsored By Van Andel Institute for Education
School leaders in a hallway

How would you describe yourself as a leader? Are you controlling or collaborative? Hands-on or hands-off? Identifying your leadership style is an important step in learning to lead with clarity, purpose, and authenticity. Let’s dive into the different styles to set you on the path to better and more aware leadership.

Get a FREE Whitepaper With More on Leading Authentically

What are the different leadership styles?

There are dozens of different leadership styles, but for today, we’ll focus on five that you’ll see most often in schools. As you read each description, see which one best matches your personal approach.

Autocratic: This style is all about directing and enforcing. Autocratic leaders like to have full control and are good at quick decision-making (they’re great in a crisis!).

Democratic: Democratic leaders guide as opposed to direct. They encourage input and feedback from others and build an environment of empowerment and engagement. 

Laissez-faire: “Laissez-faire” is a French phrase meaning “allow to do.” These types of leaders give wide latitude; autonomy is the name of the game here. 

Servant: As the name indicates, servant leaders put service to others above all. They share power and help colleagues solve problems. Perhaps not surprisingly, lots of folks in education identify as servant leaders.

Instructional: Another common type in schools, the instructional leader is focused on students, teachers, and learning. They are innovators who aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo.

What if these styles don’t fit me?

That’s OK! Maybe there’s another style that describes you better, or perhaps you’re a combination of leadership styles. Having a fixed leadership style isn’t always practical or effective. There are many times leaders have to make adjustments based on their environment or situation or people’s changing needs. This kind of flexibility is called situational leadership, and it allows you to participate in a learning loop in which you try different approaches, reflect on their effectiveness, and make changes for the future. And it’s a good thing.

What else affects my leadership style?

Your core values—the beliefs and ideas you use to make decisions—are a major part of your leadership philosophy. There’s also mindset (it’s not just for kids, folks!). Leaders learn to recognize their mindset and acknowledge how that impacts the decisions they make. Your unique life experience also informs your leadership because the lessons you’ve learned have shaped who you are today.

Interested in finding out more about leadership styles? Get this free whitepaper from Van Andel and learn what else has an impact on how you lead.

Get a FREE Whitepaper on Leading Authentically

A leadership style can be autocratic, democratic, laissez-faire, servant, or instructional. Which one are you?