Kurt Lewin Leadership Styles – Meaning, Pros & Cons – Explained!

This leadership paradigm divides leadership into democratic, autocratic, and laissez-faire leadership. The form of democratic leadership is also called participative leadership. According to Kurt & Lewin, democratic leadership is also effective and undergone in Kurt Lewin’s leadership styles.

However, dictatorial leadership is the direct antithesis of participative leadership. It stipulates that the leader will make every choice in the organization’s best interests. Laissez-faire, on the other hand, involves the leader not imposing strict rules or keeping a significant distance from the followers.

However, this leadership style is characterized by the fact that no one leadership style is suitable for use in a single format. When necessary, it may, nevertheless, rely on the circumstances.

Kurt Lewin Leadership Styles – Historical Background

When a group of researchers set out in 1939 to identify several forms of leadership, Kurt Lewin, a scientist, established Lewin’s Leadership Theory. A leader’s style can be seen in how they provide instructions, carry out their ideas, and inspire followers.

Kurt Lewin, a scientist, and a group of researchers found that under Kurt Lewin, there are three different types of leadership such as autocratic, democratic, and delegated leadership. While competent and average leaders prefer to focus on one particular style, denying themselves and the staff the benefits implied in the other 3, ineffective leaders can use all three designs while emphasizing a single style.

Advantages Of Kurt Lewin Leadership Styles

  • In this leadership, the leadership approaches include three different styles that can be utilized according to the need. Such a constructive change makes an easy adoption of the operational process.
  • In this leadership, employees are sometimes allowed to participate in decision-making. It creates harmony between employees and leaders.
  • This leadership approach requires constant changes in the behavioral approach, so it requires constant monitoring. However, the feature of constant monitoring is always helpful for operational efficiency.
  • The acute variations on the adoption of three leaderships, such as autocratic, individualistic, and democratic. Therefore, it has become easier for leaders to adjust to any leadership approach.
  • The advantages of this type of management are the possibility to decide in a short time, so it is easy to be monitored
  • Constant changes in the leadership approach encourage innovation. Moreover, it also delivers possible solutions in case of any organizational issues.

Disadvantages Of Kurt Lewin’s Leadership Styles

  • Creativity in the leadership approaches through motivating employees, but regular changes also affected the company to achieve higher production. Such inconsistency in the leadership approach creates decreases not only efficiency but also creates problems related to accountability.
  • The Lewin designs lack situational and discourse affiliation utterly, creating the framework of a behavioral leadership vogue theory is short once addressing fashionable leadership complexities
  • It is difficult for a leader to adopt such variations and behave according to such. It might confuse the employees and leaders in its operation.
  • Moreover, Constant changes in the leadership approach affected the participation role of employees, which affected their job satisfaction

How to implement such Leadership?

Three main leadership styles—democratic, autocratic, and laissez-faire—are discussed in Lewin’s research. It should be clear that three distinct leadership styles cannot be used simultaneously. Each leader, though, has a unique requirement. Therefore, leaders should be aware of the circumstances under which they might exercise such leadership. There are four steps to implementing this leadership style:

1) Observe the Current Situation:

An organization must initially react in the present. This leadership style strongly emphasizes the leader’s commands and the ability to exert control over his or her subordinates. Also, there is an apparent split between the leader and the followers.

Authoritarian leaders typically make decisions in isolation, with little to no involvement from the rest of the group.

Decision-making, according to the study’s authors, is less creative than autocratic leadership. As a different conclusion, Lewin found that transforming from democracy to autocracy is quite tough to implement. However, a sudden barrier to participation in operations creates arrogance among employees.

2) Identifying organizational needs

It is the primary duty of a leader to identify organizational needs. An autocratic approach is correct when the situation calls for quick decisions and prompt action. At the time of flexible operation, it is required to take employees’ opinions for the betterment.

However, it often creates hostile and dysfunctional workplaces, turning subordinates against the dominant leader.

Leaders in a democracy guide their followers but also participate in group discussions and welcome feedback from others. According to Lewin’s research, kids in this cluster were less prolific than youngsters in the authoritarian cluster, but their contributions were of higher quality.

Members of the cluster are actively encouraged to contribute to decision-making by their leaders, who maintain final authority. Participants in a cluster who are emotionally invested in the process are more likely to go above and beyond to solve problems and develop novel approaches. Democratic leaders inspire loyalty to the group’s aims by making their supporters feel like integral cogs in reaching those goals.

Leaders who delegate authority to their subordinates are those who make few if any, decisions for their teams. While this approach can be helpful when dealing with highly skilled experts, it often leads to unclear responsibilities and a lack of drive.

3) Strategic change

Lewin observed that teams lacking direction due to members blaming and condemning one another for mistakes, refusing to accept personal responsibility, and resulting in a lack of work and advancement were the result of individualistic leadership care.

This style of leadership, however, may also be successful in groups that are:

  • Designed
  • Highly Skilled
  • Capable of retaining information

The group has a lot of faith in the leader. This organization type is sometimes called an autonomous or self-managed unit. It’s possible that these teams don’t require a lot of guidance at this point and that, as a leader, you’ve helped them get here.

4) Communication & observation:

Instead, the kind of leadership and methods that are most appropriate for a specific situation are crucial.

The leader needs to identify the nature of the task and implement an appropriate leadership style, whichever is needful, including the nature of the task at hand, the composition of the team, the degree of personal risk involved, and the general vibe of the environment.

Successful leaders are among those who are willing to make changes pro re nata to get the most out of their teams. Consequently, they will need to be adaptable, understanding the importance of being situationally sensitive.

Think about each of Lewin’s leadership styles and the contexts in which it functions best. If you can successfully implement this at work, you will be well on becoming an effective leader.

Real-life Examples:

A real-life example of this leadership is Sundar Pichai. However, Google itself has a very democratic culture. Here, Pichai takes the opinions of several employees for the prototype. On the other hand, this man is laissez-faire too. It signifies that the company’s CEO believes employees should learn from their experiences.

Moreover, after Google company owned Youtube, on that day, he found that one of his employees was so worried that his son watched certain content, which was quite unpleasant. Being a kid, it is not acceptable for his father. At the time such an employee shared the story, Mr. Pichai immediately found to resolve such a problem, and to mitigate this issue, he announced Youtube Kids for children. However, it can be observed that the CEO of Google often used three different leadership according to the situational needs.

Conclusion –

In Kurt Lewin’s leadership styles, it can be analyzed that a leader might have undergone various strategic situations, and the leader must identify the required leadership style.

The most crucial elements are a solid team and an outstanding leader who are needed to recognize these situations and act appropriately.

The Kurt Lewin amendment model is still in use due to its efficiency. This is because it is frequently founded on reliable activity science. It is intended to identify the causes of people’s resistance to change and set up the conditions that will encourage people to change their acceptance and support.

References –

Burnes, B. and Bargal, D., 2017. Kurt Lewin: 70 years on. Journal of Change Management, 17(2), pp.91-100.

Burnes, B., 2004. Kurt Lewin and the planned approach to change: a re‐appraisal. Journal of Management Studies, 41(6), pp.977-1002.

Gandolfi, F. and Stone, S., 2018. Leadership, leadership styles, and servant leadership. Journal of Management Research, 18(4), pp.261-269.

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