Article Overview

In our previous article, Leadership Styles and Conflict Resolution, we started looking at leadership styles and conflict resolution approaches. This article is a continuation of looking at situations, styles, and appropriate approaches.

Table of Contents

  1. Leadership Styles
  2. The Multitude of Combinations
  3. Exploration
  4. Identifying Your Default Leadership Style
  5. Another Example
  6. Conclusion

Leadership Styles

Each of us has a leadership style, let us say default or an ‘innate style’. One that has developed over time based on our values, experiences and motivations. Experience teaches us when our innate worked and when it did not. Probably a performance appraisal provided feedback on one’s style and approach. Through these experiences, one begins to modify their style and approach. The outcome here is not to switch from one style to another but to learn to have a flexible style of leadership. To adapt to the culture, the situation, and the team. Also, it has to be noted one style will not work with all team members. Flexibility is key.

The Multitude of Combinations

The combinations in the matrix below are based on the examples from our previous article.  The matrix provides some examples of the pairing of leadership styles with conflict resolution approaches.  This is not necessarily definitive, but an example based upon some deductive reasoning.  There may be some real-world applications that are quite unique. 
























































What should be noted, like any decision or approach, is situation dependent and nuanced.  This requires thinking through the situation, the nature of the team, the organization’s long- and short-term goals as well as assets and very many other variables all too numerous to enumerate.

Like so many things project management related, there are few silver bullet moments.  The key is to ask questions and think things through.  We like to borrow from Albert Einstein and his thought experiments[1].  Thought experiments are used to explore the probable or potential results of actions we consider taking. This allows for a measure of exploration without taking action, however, to be of any value, we should take a critical review.  In this case, rather than thinking about this in the context of physics, we should perform our thought experiments of the range of possibilities following the implications of that decision on the desired objective of the project. Does this help? Will this work? Then, when we have thought this through, we will need to develop some actions to move in that direction

Identifying Your Default Leadership Style

Knowing and understanding your Leadership Style is important to know. Here is a step to identifying your style based on performance feedback or what you are comfortable with doing.

  1. Autocratic leadership – Commander, Dictator, “My Way” Attitude
  2. Charismatic leadership – Nice person, easy to follow, cares about people
  3. Transformational leadership – Pulls the team together to discuss issues, what is best for the organization, project
  4. Laissez-faire leadership – “you handle it”, “step up and solve”
  5. Transactional leadership – Pats on the back, supply lunch as rewards 
  6. Supportive leadership – identifies someone to delegate the task to and follows up, hands-off
  7. Democratic leadership – pulls the team together and works through the entire process

Another Example

Let us walk through another example.  For example, transformational leadership, this style engages the entire team to make alter the organization or portion of the organization to some new idealized state.  This is articulated in a vision statement and project scope.  The project scope is the tangible incarnation of the vision statement.  To meet this objective, we will need team engagement, and likely this disparate engagement processes (hopefully anyway) a number of competing for ideas that can be explored to ascertain the best approach for the situation.  Ultimately, we need a collaborative effort with some competitive ideas to explore, we do not want to fall victim to the cognitive bias of groupthink. To avoid this, we need an environment that not only allows but encourages freely discussing ideas, even ideas with which we disagree.  Groupthink happens when the team values harmony over good or correct, this discourages constructive conflict via creative solutions.

A project manager (PM) is hired and brought in to take over managing a particularly high dollar project. The deadline and budget are critical. On what project are they not? The new project manager has observed that members of senior management’s leadership style are Autocratic. As the PM meets employees, particularly team members, they are vocal about resentment.  Day 2 on the project the PM is told a slippage in a schedule is occurring due to the workload of a few members; other projects and their daily activities. After compiling a list of other projects, the team members are working on, the PM sets up a meeting with his manager.

Taking the approach of Comprise, the PM applies a combination of styles, Charismatic and Transactional. Laying out the slippage occurring, the team members' workload, and identifying potential outcomes, the PM makes the case. As expected, the response was Autocratic and Laissez-faire, “That’s how it is around here. Get it fixed.”  A PM does not always win comprise at first. This was an indicator of how discussions would go with functional managers as well. The resolution came to meet with the PMs of the competing projects.  By using the Transformational style, the PM was able to reduce the team members’ existing project workload.


Since these leadership styles and conflict resolution approaches are not formulaic, but depending upon the team, organization, industry and circumstances presented.  To adequately meet these demands, will require the ability to adapt and deploy a number of different alternatives to meet this specific demand. In order for a PM to help to identify and adapt to circumstances, it is our recommendation to research Leadership Styles and Conflict Resolution.





[1] Isaacson, Walter. Einstein: His Life and Universe. Simon & Schuster, 2017