Leadership styles, as we define them here, refer not to models or philosophies of leadership, but to descriptions or classifications of the main ways in which real-life leaders behave. A different way to see this is that a style can be part of a model, but not the other way around. A style is a much narrower behaviour, or a smaller set of behaviours, than would be featured in a model. Also, a leadership style is not an adaptable flexible 'toolkit' - it is a relatively tightly defined description of a particular type of leadership.

Unlike leadership models, the aim of leadership styles is not to help individuals become better leaders; it is simply to describe the main forms of leadership we see in the world, some of which can be incorporated within models, albeit under slightly different names and with slightly different features. Some authors use the headings 'leadership models' and 'leadership styles' interchangeably, which is confusing.

I am grateful to James Scouller, an expert coach, thinker, and writer on leadership, for the contribution of most of the technical content on this article, and for the collaboration in editing it and presenting it here. Aside from what follows here, Scouller's expertise in leadership theory is evidenced particularly in his 2011 book "The Three Levels of Leadership", which I commend to you.

A brief reminder of the definitions and differences between Models, Philosophies, and Styles:

A leadership model provides a process or framework for learning, applying, and adapting leadership for given groups, organizations, or situations. A model is like a 'how-to' framework, a toolkit or a process.

leadership philosophy is a way of thinking and behaving in leadership - its aims and means - according to values and beliefs. A philosophy is like a subtle but powerful compass or behavioural code.

leadership style is a narrow and specific behaviour compared to a model or philosophy. Leadership style may be strongly influenced by the leader's personality, the aims of the leader, and relationship with followers. A style is a description of a leader's behaviours, and may also be like a tool in the leadership models toolkit.

For more details, see definitions and differences of Models, Philosophies and Styles in the context of leadership theory.


I am grateful to James Scouller for his help, patience, and expert contribution in producing this leadership guide.

James Scouller is an expert coach and partner at The Scouller Partnership in the UK, which specialises in coaching leaders. He was chief executive of three international companies for eleven years before becoming a professional coach in 2004. He holds two postgraduate coaching qualifications and trained in applied psychology at the Institute of Psychosynthesis in London.

James Scouller's book is called "The Three Levels of Leadership: How to Develop Your Leadership Presence, Know-how and Skill". It was published in May 2011. I commend it to you, and his thinking too.

You can learn more about James Scouller's book at three-levels-of-leadership.com.

Details of James Scouller's executive coaching work are at TheScoullerPartnership.co.uk.

A leadership style is a narrow and specific behaviour compared to a model or philosophy. Leadership style may be strongly influenced by the leader's personality, the aims of the leader, and relationship with followers. A style is a description of a leader's behaviours, and may also be like a tool in the leadership models toolkit.

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An end of course quiz to test your progress throughout the Leadership Styles course. If you are interested in taking your leadership and management knowledge into an internationally-recognised qualification, visit our partner Accipio's site here

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