Authoritative and facilitative leadership styles – Which is right for your start-up?


Every leader is unique in his or her own way. While there are well documented and researched specific leadership styles, in reality, there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders.

Leaders adjust their styles based on the context in which they operate, on the team and individuals they are in charge of and the outcome that is desired. The extent to which you can modify your style to these variables influence the effectiveness and success of your leadership.

Leaders need to optimize the productivity

In order to be effective and drive organizational growth, leaders need to optimize the productivity, efficiency and output of their employees. They need to lead and yet give sufficient freedom to their people to carry out their allotted tasks. They thus need to figure out and implement the best leadership technique for their company.
Leadership styles, while varying between people, fall into one of two broad categories – authoritative (or autocratic) and facilitative (or free-reign or laissez faire). In the first the leader maintains control, in the second the leader hands over control to the followers. Over the years many styles have emerged but they all find their roots in these two kinds.

Authoritative leadership style

The authoritative leadership style is characterized by the leader making all decisions, providing direction to their people who are there just to follow and execute orders exactly as specified. They have no role to play in the decision making process. This style works in crisis situations or when the team is new and inexperienced or not able to make decisions. Under the facilitative style of leadership, followers are given the power of making decisions with the leader taking a back seat. Though leaders try to switch between these two styles, they tend to follow one type more than the other.

Which leadership style will suit your organization is something you need to decide based on a few key factors. The education level and the experience of your employees is a big factor in your decision. If they are well-educated and experienced then giving them greater freedom and flexibility will be wise. However you have to check out their credentials and ability at a practical level rather than just depend on a “paper-resume”. They need to understand your company and its goals and be put to work in an area they are familiar with to enable them to do their best under a facilitative leadership management.

Facilitative style of leadership

An authoritative style works in small, vertically structured organizations with few levels. As the number of employees increase and the organization grows and spreads out horizontally, a facilitative style works better. It also works more at the senior levels of management where leaders do not have the time to micro-manage subordinates, they have to spend time and energy in strategizing and taking the company to success. At lower levels, an authoritative style may well be more effective.

Finally, in companies which have major liability issues, it makes more sense to be an autocratic leader so as to safeguard the company from legal and financial problems. Spreading control across team members will, more likely than not, result in no one person being responsible or accountable for the goof-up.