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Likert’s Four Styles of Leadership: For The Greater Good?

Likert's Four Styles of Leadership: For The Greater Good?

Rensis Likert, a pioneering American social psychologist, introduced the Four Styles of Leadership, which continue to influence modern management practices. His theory classifies leadership into four types: Exploitative Authoritative, Benevolent Authoritative, Consultative, and Participative. The Exploitative Authoritative style features top-down decision-making with minimal communication, while Benevolent Authoritative leaders consult employees but retain final decision-making authority. The Consultative style fosters a more inclusive environment, with leaders seeking employee input before making decisions. Lastly, the Participative style exemplifies the most democratic approach, with leaders and employees sharing equal influence in decision-making processes. This framework helps leaders adapt their style to different situations, improving communication, increasing job satisfaction, and boosting productivity. Understanding and applying Likert's Four Styles of Leadership is beneficial for both leaders aiming to enhance their leadership effectiveness and trainers seeking to provide comprehensive leadership training.


Brief Background: Rensis Likert was an American social and organizational psychologist who was most known for his contributions to leadership styles, organizational behavior, and the famed Likert Scale. He was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming, 1903 and died in 1981. He reshaped conventional management theories with his original ideas in order to build more effective, humanistic organizations.

Rensis Likert - Likert's Four Styles of Leadership

Research or Need: The idea of Likert's Four Styles of Leadership developed out of the need to comprehend and enhance traditional management techniques. Autocratic leadership predominated in the corporate world in the middle of the 20th century, which Likert recognized as potentially harmful to worker motivation, productivity, and overall economic outcomes. To build work cultures where employees felt appreciated and included, which he believed would increase organizational effectiveness, he was motivated by the goal of reinterpreting these practices.


Summary of the Theory: Likert's Four Styles of Leadership are defined as Exploitative Authoritative, Benevolent Authoritative, Consultative, and Participative.


Top-down decision-making, with leaders wielding all the authority and placing little faith or confidence in their subordinates, is a hallmark of an Exploitative Authoritative style. There is little interaction, and feedback is usually punitive.


Although still autocratic in nature, the Benevolent Authoritative style allows for some employee input. This type of management trusts employees with a condescending attitude and may consult them on specific issues, but they ultimately retain the right to make decisions.


In the Consultative style, leaders actively seek the ideas and opinions of their workforce and place a higher value on employee relationships. Managers make decisions but frequently base them on employee feedback, creating a more inclusive environment.


The participative style is the most democratic of the four and encourages a culture of trust and cooperation. Managers and staff members have equal power during decision-making processes, promoting a more motivated, engaged, and effective workforce.


Likert’s leadership models share some similar aspects with another theory regarding leadership: Situational Leadership, developed by Ken Blanchard and Paul Hersey. The importance of tailoring leadership strategies to meet the requirements of followers is emphasized by both the situational leadership theory and Likert's leadership models. They understand that effective leadership entails adapting one's actions to the situation and the followers' level of preparation. Both theories emphasize how important it is to consider follower maturity and competence when choosing the best leadership style, whether that be giving explicit guidance and monitoring or empowering and assisting followers. Both theories also consider how dynamic leadership is and how adaptable leaders must be to enhance follower performance and accomplish organizational objectives.

Likert's Four Styles of Leadership

Importance in the Field: Rensis Likert's groundbreaking research changed our perceptions of management and organizational behavior. His idea explicitly connected management techniques, worker satisfaction, and output. Likert's thesis profoundly influenced modern management practices by promoting a change from rigid autocracy to more democratic leadership styles, and it served as the foundation for numerous future studies in this area. In the field of leadership and management research, his work is regarded as a cornerstone.


Real-life Examples: Think about a young digital business where the leadership uses a Participatory approach. Decisions are decided with the entire team's feedback, from the new app's design to marketing tactics. This management style fosters a creative and inclusive work atmosphere while encouraging new ideas and a sense of responsibility among employees.

A huge industrial corporation, on the other hand, might use a Benevolent Authoritative style. When making decisions about the workflow and safety precautions, the manager frequently gets advice from the assembly-line workers, but in the end, the management has the last say. This strategy can increase morale and job satisfaction among staff members while ensuring efficient managerial oversight.


Relevance for Trainers: Likert's Four Styles of Leadership provides a crucial framework for trainees in the field of management and leadership. Potential leaders can recognize and comprehend their own leadership techniques by using these styles as a lens. Trainers can use this model to emphasize how various leadership philosophies impact team dynamics, morale, and productivity. The theory also emphasizes leaders' need to modify their approach depending on the circumstance, making it a fundamental idea in leadership development courses.


Relevance for Leaders: Understanding and using Likert's leadership styles can be quite advantageous for leaders. Different styles can be used depending on the demands of the team, which can improve communication, team member job satisfaction, and productivity. Additionally, these leadership philosophies assist managers in creating cultures that encourage engagement and motivation among employees.



1) Likert, R. (1961, January 1). New Patterns of Management. New York : McGraw-Hill.

2) Likert, R. (1967, January 1). The Human Organization. New York : McGraw-Hill.


Rensis Likert

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