Leadership Styles

A project manager may adopt various leadership styles depending upon personal, team members, organizational and environmental characteristics.

Basic Leadership Styles

The four basic leadership styles of the project manager are described below.


The project manager is primarily focused on getting the tasks done, with little regard to the team member’s feelings.


The project manager tells the team members what, when, where, and how to do things.

Democratic or Participative

The project manager encourages the team members to actively participate in the decision-making process. A lot of authority is delegated to the team members and they play an active role in managing the project.


It’s a French term, literally meaning “let do”. The project manager turns things over to the team members, and only monitors the work at a high level.

Other Leadership Styles

A few other leadership styles defined in the PMBOK® Guide, 6th Ed and other project management references include:

Servant Leader

A servant leader demonstrates commitment to serve and put other people first. Agile approaches emphasize servant leadership as a way to empower teams. Servant leadership style works best when the team members have the necessary skills, and need the project leader to manage outside stakeholders. Read Servant Leadership for a better understanding of this topic.


Rewards are based on accomplishments against goals.


Empowering, motivating and inspiring the team members.


Able to inspire; is high-energy, enthusiastic, self-confident; holds strong convictions.


A combination of transactional, transformational, and charismatic leadership styles.


A pace-setting leader leads from the front, sets high standards for performance, and expects the team to exceed with minimal management. The leader always wants to do things better and faster. This style should be sparingly used as it can lower team morale and lead to demotivation.

Situational Leadership Styles

Project managers need to adapt their leadership style according to the situation, maturity and skill levels of the team. There’s no one-size-fits-all or best leadership style. Hersey and Blanchard proposed a situational leadership style model that maps four leadership styles to four maturity and skill levels of the team.

The four situational leadership styles of the project manager according to their model are described below.


The maturity and skill levels of team members are described below.

M1Low Maturity
Low Skills
M2Medium Maturity
Limited Skills
M3Medium Maturity
Higher Skills
M4High Maturity
High Skills

Mapping of Leadership Styles and Maturity of Team

The following matrix shows the appropriate situational leadership style based on the maturity and skill levels of the team members. Also read Tuckman Ladder for the various stages of team development and the corresponding leadership styles to be adopted.

Participating / Supporting
Medium Maturity / Higher Skills
Delegating / Observing
High Maturity / High Skills
Telling / Directing
Low Maturity / Low Skills
Selling / Coaching
Medium Maturity / Limited Skills

Also refer to the mapping of agile coaching styles to the Shu Ha Ri model.


Related Articles

  1. Management vs Leadership
  2. Servant Leadership
  3. Tuckman Ladder
Last updated: August 17, 2021