What's your leadership style?

in Managing by Nick Petrovic
(7 Ratings)
Leadership style check

Every small business is different with its unique staff dynamics and management needs. As a small business owner, how you lead your team can not only mean the difference between a relaxed or stressful work environment, it can also affect your business's reputation, branding and even client satisfaction.

Leadership style encompasses more than simply how you manage your team - it's about your attitude, your willingness to take responsibility and your intentions. While leadership styles are not inherently good or bad, there are some that tend to lend themselves more to certain work environments and others that may lead to conflict or other negative outcomes. Knowing what type of leader you are, or finding a certain style to aspire to, is a worthwhile and self-reflective process that all business owners should engage in regularly. As we've seen time and again, an owner's job is never complete, and self-improvement is a perfect example of the ongoing nature of this role.

The iron fist

This type of leader takes a no-nonsense approach. Direct and at times quite harsh, an iron fist leader is often guided by the black and white needs of the business. A true iron fist leader, however, is fair and disciplined, rather than leading with their ego. This leadership style may be seen in industries that directly deal with health and safety, food or other areas where errors could directly impact on the well-being of clients.


Your staff know what you expect and will respect your consistent approach.


This style can leave employees fearing the consequences of their mistakes.

Top tip:

To balance out the intensity of the iron fist approach, be sure to offer plenty of positive reinforcement where possible. See mistakes as an inevitable part of business and move on once issues are addressed.

The submissive

In direct contrast to the iron fist, the submissive is willing to let mistakes slide in an effort to keep the peace and create a relaxed work environment. This style may be seen in young or inexperienced owners who are striving to create a happy team, even if it means giving up their control over the business.


A relaxed team that is more willing to be open about their errors or shortcomings. Keep in mind, however, that this double-edged scenario can lead your team to becoming overly comfortable in their roles.


Being overly friendly and accommodating may seem like a good way of winning the admiration of your team, yet in many cases it actually leads to a deterioration of respect.

Top tip:

While it's great to have a team that likes you, it's crucial that you remember that this is not the highest priority for a business owner. Instead, aim to give clear and consistent criticism as well as praise and your team will respect you as a leader rather than struggle with the dichotomy of friend vs. boss.

The team player

This leader is able to lead their team with humility and an understanding that the contribution of all team members is valuable. This leadership style can be seen in industries where collaboration and innovation are important, and in bosses who have learned to effectively balance their various roles as manager, mentor and colleague.


Your team are able to turn to you in times of need without fear of reprimand. They also respect your position because they know you respect theirs and are willing to step in when you are required to.


This leadership style takes effort! Having a good understanding of your team is an ongoing process and requires input and a willingness on your part to really understand each role within your company.

Top tip:

If you are striving to become a leader with a team player attitude, remember that it takes time and communication with every member of your staff.

While there are many other leadership styles as well as combinations of those mentioned, the most important thing to remember is to aim for a style that does your business the greatest service possible.

Find this useful? You might also like:

Managing diverse personalities

How to manage a business with respect, not fear

The dos and don'ts of planning an office party

This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.

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Nick Petrovic

Nick Petrovic is a registered psychologist and head of clinic at the Mind Profile Psychology Clinic and has more than 10 years' experience in the allied health and business. Nick has contributed to regular columns in more than a dozen business magazines and newspapers, advising on issues such as mental health, work related stress, strategic planning, business analysis and human resources.

Poll Results

How many hours do you work on your business each week?

  • 20-30
  • 30-40
  • 40-50
  • 50-60

Poll Results

How many hours do you work on your business each week?

20-30: 18%
30-40: 18%
40-50: 23%
50-60: 41%