Best Leadership Styles for Project Management and Tips to Improve

Byon March 03#best-practices
Best Leadership Styles for Project Management and Tips to Improve

Leadership is integral to the success of your projects. Without strong leadership, your employees will lose motivation, you’ll miss deadlines, and your vision will be undermined by poor communication. 

However, there’s no “right” way to lead. In fact, you should be able to modify your approach to leadership depending on the industry you’re in and the project you’re working on. 

Choosing the right leadership style for the right situation can galvanize your staff, improve productivity on-site, and strengthen internal communication

Adaptive Leadership

Leadership is all about adapting to the demands of the situation. Effective leaders know how to motivate folks with different ideas and ideals than themselves, and can draw from a wealth of life experiences to connect with those around them. This flexible approach is called adaptive leadership.

There are four main principles of adaptive leadership. You must be:

Emotionally intelligent

Committed to organizational justice

Actively developing and growing as a leader

Creative and adaptive in times of stress

Becoming an adaptive leader can be tricky. You have to have the self-assurance and confidence to take other people’s opinions on board and weigh them up. You also need to be self-aware and should understand how your actions can inadvertently marginalize or discourage those around you. 

However, adopting an adaptive approach is worth the effort. As an adaptive leader, you’ll be able to take advantage of your employee’s collective knowledge and can help folks become their best selves. For this, you must learn about each employee’s strengths and weaknesses. Fortunately, technology comes to rescue you in this scenario. You can leverage Employee performance management solutions by primalogik to get insights about each employee. It will help you make data-driven decisions and boost employee motivation. You’ll also improve accountability in the workplace, as staff will see that you take responsibility for your own shortcomings while remaining committed to the project’s success. 

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership gets a bad rep in today’s more enlightened age. However, at times, you will need to take the reins and should be prepared to step up in your position as a project manager. Usually, autocratic leadership is necessary when you are working to tight deadlines and no longer have the luxury of gathering everyone’s insights and opinions. 

Autocratic leadership can clear up confusion and give folks clear tasks to work on. This is important if you’re working for a company with a rigid hierarchy where folks just want to know the expectations and complete their tasks. 

However, using autocratic leadership too often — or in inappropriate situations — can tank the motivation of your team and destroy any buy-in that you’ve created. Most people want to have a say in their daily tasks and feel more motivated when their opinions are valued. 

As a general rule, only use autocratic leadership when no other alternative is possible. Invite staff to contribute their opinion; even when it feels trivial. This can improve employee motivation and help you get more from your team. 

Transformational Leadership 

Transformational leadership is all about seeing the person behind the role or title. Every employee has their own goals and, as a leader, it’s your job to help them achieve them. 

You can become a great transformational leader by building strong relationships and getting to know your staff. When you know and understand your staff, you’ll be able to hit on shared values and dodge decisions that undermine buy-in. 

It’s important to remember that transformational leadership means that you need to develop and grow, too. Great leaders embrace their shortcomings and are self-aware enough to see that they don’t have all the answers. So, engage in regular self-reflection and develop the desire to improve yourself as well as those around you. 

Democratic Leadership

Democratic leadership can be a slow-moving leadership style. However, gathering the insights of your team and democratizing the decision-making process can be deeply rewarding. Staff who have an equal say in the direction of your projects are more motivated to reach their potential and make each project a success. 

Democratic leadership is particularly important in construction. Construction culture is rapidly changing as more worksites embrace diversity and inclusion. Democratizing some of the decisions shows that you are ready to bring the workforce into a new era of work and that you value everyone’s contribution. 

Democratic leadership can improve on-site safety, too. Most contractors and construction workers know the hazards at work but may have been shouted down for raising their concerns earlier in their careers. Be clear that you want to know about issues and that you will not punish folks for coming forward with ideas about how to improve safety standards. 

Laissez-Faire Leadership

Laissez-faire leadership is commonly associated with new-age workplaces and lazy workforces. In reality, laissez-faire leadership can be a great way to motivate your staff and improve your productivity as a project manager. 

Laissez-faire leadership should only be used with teams that you trust. These teams should be bought into the overall project and should have some motivations of their own to ensure that they work hard and fulfill your expectations. Used correctly, laissez-faire leadership gives your staff room to become their best selves and puts the responsibility of self-development in their court. 

However, you cannot afford to use laissez-faire leadership if you suspect that team members will abuse their authority or undermine other staff. When misused,  laissez-faire leadership can create a culture of abuse and leave folks feeling unwanted and without clear direction. 

Consider limited laissez-faire leadership if you want to give staff extra responsibility but aren’t sure how they’ll respond. Let your staff know that you have an open-door policy and that your role is to ensure that they have all the resources and opportunities they need to find professional success. 


There are dozens of effective leadership styles to choose from. The key is to choose the right approach at the right time. 

Use autocratic leadership for time-intensive, low-stakes decisions. Opt for democratic decision-making when you have more time and want to gain the insights of your whole team. This adaptive approach will help you become a transformative leader and get more from your team. 

If you’re struggling to embrace an adaptive approach, spend more time on self-reflection and try to become more self-aware. This will pay dividends in the long run, as your staff will appreciate your honesty and respect your commitment to self-improvement.

Make teamwork simple with Workast