By Nicholas Sinclair | August 07, 2020
Ideas on Leadership have been thrown around forever. Why? Because not only are Leaders crucial to our society, but being a Leader requires unique skills and experience. Leadership styles vary greatly and depending on what you’re trying to achieve can look vastly different. It’s important to remember that Leadership isn’t all about being a leader to others. Oftentimes it’s about leading yourself. Leading yourself to your version of success. Meeting the objectives and outcomes specific to you.
So why is it important to be a Leader? Well, usually in life, we fall into one of two categories. Being a Leader and being Lead. Both are equally important and often stem from one another. A leader learns to lead from being led, and often a Leader learns to be led by being a Leader. A great example is that of a mentor and apprentice. The mentor leads the apprentice, and in doing so, teaches the apprentice to lead in their own right. But at some point a mentor realises that the apprentice has understandings and perspectives they just don’t have. So then the apprentice becomes the Leader. This process is ongoing and endless, much like the tale of the chicken and the egg. Who came first? ‘Leadership Dynamics Online’ highlights this perfectly: “Allowing yourself to be led means as the leader, you’ve taken responsibility to lead others more effectively by allowing yourself to be led and be challenged by the truth about where your leadership needs to improve” (Tradie, 2016).
But how do I become a Leader? You may ask. Leaders come in all shapes and sizes and vary drastically depending on what a person is trying to achieve. Or, from the experiences that have shaped them. Often in life, we find ourselves filling the roles or spaces that our mentors couldn’t fill themselves. What does this mean? Imagine your mentor struggled with concepts of leadership or discipline, but they were always things that you strived for; what do you do? You lead yourself to those things, in the only ways you can. Through experience, through trial and error. People often associate being a Leader with Business and Success. But being a Leader is about Leading yourself in the direction you want to go. Getting yourself to places you want to be.
In a general sense, from a scholarly point of view; there are three main types of Leaders. Transformative, Transactional and Laissez Faire. Transformative Leaders are those that lead through transformation. They lead through helping those around them grow and develop into the best versions of themselves. They’re not controlling or manipulative. They understand the importance of the individual, the collective and the overarching objectives. Burns (1978) identifies transformational leadership as the “intention to join leaders and followers in a mutual pursuit for higher purposes incorporating a higher level of motivation and morality” (Thorn, 2012, p.158).
Transactional Leaders lead through Transaction. It’s very much I pay you this amount and in return you do what I say. “Transactional leadership depends on self-motivated people who work well in a structured, directed environment” (St. Thomas University Online, 2014). Their objectives are not so much about personal and individual growth but more about meeting the set objectives. Whilst this style doesn’t give much room for creativity or self expression, it’s a good style if you’ve got deadlines to meet.
Lastly, is the Laissez Faire style of Leadership. It’s the style of stand back and do nothing. Let the people go at their own pace, set their own objectives. Be themselves. “Do what you want as long as you get the job done right.” (St. Thomas University Online, 2014) This style is often given a bad rap, but oftentimes it’s important to stand back and let those around you take the reins. An important thing to remember is that, a good leader, is not just one of these styles. A good leader is someone that can embody parts of all three. Someone that can move between these styles when needed depending on what’s required.
Often people can have a hard time grasping this concept. Only because many people need something definitive to be sure about. But the problem with being definite about leadership styles and in turn how we lead ourselves, is that it doesn’t allow us to adapt. To be what we need to be for the situation. In the modern world, a lot of emphasis is given to the Transformational Leadership style. It’s new, it’s creative, it gives people space and time to be themselves. But does it hold people accountable? Does it meet deadlines? Oftentimes no. We all want Leaders, Bosses, Parents & Mentors that have our best interests at heart. To give us the space and the room to grow and change. Those things are critical to a person's being. WIthout those things, many of us become shells of what we once were. But at the same time, we need structure, we need to be held accountable. Otherwise, how can we be our best? How can we grow and change?
Transactional Leadership is often considered outdated, or “structure but stale” (Honestly, 2019). But does this style deserve this label? In many ways it’s still a cornerstone of how our civilization functions. We all need money, to live, to move, to grow. And in an organisation, or even in your personal life, you need to hit targets. You need to do the things you say you’re going to do. Otherwise, we become stagnant, unmoving. This highlights why mixing these two styles together is so important. A good leader allows both themselves and those around them to grow and change. To express themselves. But a good leader also holds people and themselves accountable. At the end of the day, especially within organisations, we’re given money in exchange for work, but you pick that work. You pick the organisation. You pick your journey in this life. In order for things to go around in this world, you’ve got to hold up your end of the bargain.
So.. in all of this. Where do the concepts of the Laissez Faire style of leadership come into play? A style that relies “on trust above all else” allowing employees to “exercise their own creativity and use their resourcefulness to accomplish organizational goals.” (www.indeed.com, n.d.) This really is one of the most important styles of leadership and also one of the most underrated. On its own, yes, maybe it isn’t so efficient. The idea of just doing nothing, of letting yourself or your employees feel, move and grow in their own way. Without interruption. Without consequence. It sounds a bit crazy right? But this style has a lot of merit to it. Maybe just not on its own. There’s many times in life when we need to just step back. No one likes being micromanaged. It's already well written that people who have freedom to be creative and express themselves, to move at their own pace perform better than those who don’t. People need, just as you do, to move in their own way. To be their own person. But this alone, can easily fall on its head. Especially within an organisation, within a collective, people need a goal. A driver. Something to be the things they can’t be for themselves.
At the end of all of this. It’s clear that we have to be for ourselves, what we want others to be for us. We need to step into our truth of who we are, so we can achieve the things that we want to achieve. Leading yourself and leading others are two sides to the same coin. We can’t just rely on others, but at the same time we often need to be what they need us to be. So they too can grow. Learning to lead, is a lifelong journey. Because it’s not just about other people, it’s about you, and your journey to being the best person you can be.
• Thorn, Marlene, 2012, Leadership in International Organizations: Global Leadership Competencies, The Psychologist-Manager Journal, pp. 158-163
• Managementstudyguide.com. (2019). Transactional Leadership Theory - Meaning, its Assumptions and Implications. [online] Available at:
• St. Thomas University Online. (2014). What is Transactional Leadership? How Structure Leads to Results. [online] Available at:
• St. Thomas University Online. (2014). What is Laissez-Faire Leadership? [online] Available at:
• Honestly. (2019). Transactional Leadership: Structured but Stale. [online] Available at: [Accessed 30 Jul. 2020].
• www.indeed.com. (n.d.). Laissez-Faire Leadership: Definition, Tips and Examples | Indeed.com. [online] Available at: