EM|Pre-Int|4. Leadership style theories


An urgent project with a tight deadline. That’s not an unusual situation at work. But different managers can deal with it differently. Let’s have a look at some examples. You’re going to read how three managers announce a new project to their team and give orders. Even these short examples can say a lot about the managers, for instance, about their personality traits.

Read these managers’ orders to their subordinates. For each manager, choose one adjective that is not applicable to them

How would you announce such a project to your subordinates? Write your ideas


During the break, Emma, Max and John are discussing the managers of their company. The managers happen to be very different. They all have their own management style, which can be described with different idioms. You’ve already seen some of them in the orders the bosses gave. Let’s learn some more.

Read the conversation and match the idioms in bold to their meanings

Max Emma John

M: It always surprises me how different our managers are. I mean, they may have the same position in the company but they are like night and day.

E: Right. I really admire Doris. She’s a guiding spirit for her team.

J: She’s just lucky to have a great team. They all think outside the box, that’s why they show great results. People on Robert’s team are not so bright, frankly speaking. So he has to be stricter.

E: It means that he just crushed their spirit! You don’t want to go the extra mile if your boss doesn’t motivate you.

M: I agree with Emma. I guess Michelle is a great example of balance in dealing with her subordinates. She often raises the bar, but her team does a great job all the time. What’s important is that she never forgets to say, «Keep up the good work, Max!» Oh, I have to get back to work, actually.

Answer the questions

1. How does your boss motivate the team to keep up the good work?

2. Do you find it more interesting to work when the boss raises the bar?

3. Can you say that your boss is a guiding spirit for their employees?

4. What actions can crush a team’s spirit?

5. Does a good manager always think outside the box?


How you give orders to your subordinates, how you control the work process and motivate your team — all of this shows not only your personality, but also your leadership style. You might not even be aware of it, but every manager can be described by a certain leadership style. Let’s start with the basics — the definition of a leadership style, what it includes and what it’s influenced by. First, give your ideas and then find out what the expert says.

Complete the left column with your ideas. Then listen to the audio and complete the right column with the mentioned ideas

A leadership style is how managers…

Factors that influence the leadership style are…

A leadership style is a manager’s method of achieving their goals. It’s the same as a management style. Of course, you know the differences between managers and leaders, but the terms «leadership style» and «management style» are interchangeable. However, in recent years, the term «leadership style» has become more popular.

A leadership style includes the way a manager makes decisions, plans work, prioritizes tasks and organizes workflow, sets deadlines and deals with their subordinates. So, in general, a leadership style is the way a manager behaves. Even their body language is a part of their leadership style. There are certain factors that influence leadership styles, from the manager’s personality to the company’s culture. Moreover, managers are different in their seniority, which means their positions are different. There are assistant managers and top managers, and their leadership styles might be very different. A lot of managers form their style based on their staff. These are internal factors, but there are also external ones. For instance, competitors, who might with their example make a manager change their leadership style.

There are different theories on leadership styles, which include their different classifications in different fields, for example, politics or business.


There are a lot different theories that classify leadership styles. In this lesson, you are going to learn about some of them. Let’s start with Theory X and Theory Y. Have you ever heard of them? Now you are going to find out which one you stick to.

Do the test and read about your results

Mostly Xs: You prefer Theory X which implies that people don’t like work and try to avoid it when possible. That’s why managers should strictly control and supervise their employees. Managers who consider Theory X right are authoritative and exercise external control.

Mostly Ys: You prefer Theory Y. According to it, people see work as something natural and do not dislike it. They are self-motivated to do best at work, so they don’t need strict control and supervision. Managers who stick to Theory Y are democratic and participative.

Tick the correct statements for each category

Let’s get back to the managers you saw at the beginning of the lesson and look at their orders once again. It’s easy to notice that each order has a different focus. That’s what another theory is based on.

Read the orders and mark the correct options

In your opinion, who is a better leader, Robert or Michelle? It’s very likely that most people would choose Michelle. Everyone wants to have an understanding boss who cares about the happiness of their employees. But actually, both task-oriented and people-oriented styles have their pros and cons. What’s more, even the advantages of each approach can lead to some problems.


Look at the list of pros and decide which approach they belong to


Look at some pros of each approach and think about the negative consequences they can lead to. Then listen and check your ideas

Task-oriented managers set clear objectives, tasks and deadlines, which helps them to get the result they need on time. They also offer guidance helping their employees with the task. But when employees have to follow strict orders and fixed deadlines, they have little or no flexibility in completing the tasks. In this case, the team often lacks interest, inspiration and enthusiasm to do their best. It also means the employees have a limited chance of developing and growing. Even though task-oriented managers are focused on productivity, it’s often lower than in the teams led by people-oriented managers. It happens because task-based managers do not care much about the happiness of their staff, which can lead to a negative working environment. And in a negative working environment, productivity decreases.

However, the people-oriented approach also has its disadvantages. First of all, a boss is a boss, but a people-oriented manager may lack authority. Sometimes managers have to punish their employees, and for a people-oriented manager, it may be much more difficult. Changing work culture is also more difficult in this situation.

Listen again and complete the consequences in the order they are mentioned


Every manager can choose any style according to their personality traits and beliefs. Sometimes, good advice can help, like in the situation below.

Read the situation. Listen to the speakers and match them with the theories they talk about

Manage to Manage is a radio show where experts in management answer questions from the listeners. Max, Emma and John love this show and sometimes participate in it as experts. Today they’ve got a question from Ben:

I’m the owner of a small design company. Lately, the performance of my employees has fallen. They do not meet deadlines, and because of that, we’ve lost some clients. I don’t know what measures to take. Should I punish them? Or, maybe, I don’t motivate them enough? I thought they were satisfied with their job. I always give clear instructions, which is, I believe, very important in design. Any advice?

Let’s listen to what Max, Emma and John say.

Emma John Max

Emma: Design is a very creative sphere. Are you sure your employees have enough freedom to create? Try to organize the workflow effectively, don’t set strict deadlines — it’s very difficult to have inspiration and think outside the box under pressure. When your employees feel more freedom, they’ll be ready to put their heart and soul into work. So, try to get to know your team better and focus on their needs and ideas, and you’ll be able to increase productivity.
John: If your employees miss deadlines, that’s your fault. It means you don’t know how to deal with your subordinates: you don’t communicate clearly and don’t prioritize tasks. For instance, if I set a deadline for my staff, everyone is afraid to miss it, because they know they’ll be punished. So, when there’s something urgent to do, they just roll up their sleeves. If that’s not the case with your staff, you definitely lack authority among your subordinates and you have to fix it.
Max: So, you think your employees are satisfied with their work. But I’ll tell you the following: very few people (if any) like to work. People have to work to make a living, to have what they like, but they don’t like the work itself. If they do not meet deadlines, maybe you let them do so? You don’t control them enough and don’t plan their work. Try to control everything they do and it may help you find where the problem is.

Think about the advice you would give to Ben. Explain which theory you would use to support it


Let’s now see what theory you prefer.

Read the task and prepare your 2-minute speech

1. Prepare a speech about the theories you’ve learnt about today. Use the following questions to help you:

🔹What is a leadership style? What does it include?

🔹Is it the same as a management style?

🔹Why do you think there are so many leadership style theories?

🔹What’s the difference between Theory X and Theory Y? In your opinion, which one is better?

🔹What’s the difference between task-oriented and people-oriented managers? Which one is closer to you and why?

2. Use some of the words and phrases from the wordlist.

3. You may use the text area for taking notes.

1. miss a deadline

2. behavior

3. seniority

4. competitor

5. punishment

6. guidance

7. working environment

8. recognition

9. avoid

10. roll up one’s sleeves

11. think outside the box

12. like night and day

13. go the extra mile

14. Keep up the good work.

  • to set deadlines
  • to put one’s heart and soul into something
  • to raise the bar
  • a guiding spirit
  • to crush one’s spirit

Allow your browser access to your microphone, press the button «Record» and record the speech you have prepared


Choose the correct statements

Now you know some leadership theories, but there are more of them. In the next lesson you’ll start studying Lewin’s leadership styles. You’ll first focus on autocratic and democratic styles, learn about their particularities, advantages and downsides.

  • Giving orders
  • Work idioms
  • What is a leadership style?
  • Theory X vs Theory Y
  • Task-oriented vs people-oriented
  • Giving advice
  • Which one do you prefer?
  • Assess your progress
  • Which one do you prefer?
  • Assess your progress
  1. 1. EM|Pre-Int|1. Management vs. Leadership
  2. 2. EM|Pre-Int|2. Bad bosses and how to deal with them
  3. 3. EM|Pre-Int|3. Way to success
  4. 4. EM|Pre-Int|Revise and Check 1
  5. 5. EM|Pre-Int|4. Leadership style theories
  6. 6. EM|Pre-Int|5. Lewin’s theory: autocratic style vs. democratic style
  7. 7. EM|Pre-Int|6. Lewin's theory: laissez-faire style
  8. 8. EM|Pre-Int|Revise and Check 2