What Is Traditional Leadership Style? Definition, Example Pros And, Cons

Mashum Mollah 1 December, 2022
traditional leadership style

“The servants are not personal servants of the lord but independent men” 

– (Max Weber 1958, 4)

A king is born from a king and a leader from a leader. The tradition of leading has long been a thing of heredity. It was supposed to be stemmed from a bloodline. A trueborn king or a trueborn leader is who you call a traditional leader, and the leadership style followed by them is what we call traditional leadership style.

These leaders are said to be born with the qualities expected of a leader. Their charismatic presence, persuasive nature, intelligence, and authority are characteristics of their leaderly personalities.

These qualities are not innate in a person and can be developed with experience. However, according to this leadership style, leaders are said to be born with these qualities. Therefore, leaders following this leadership inherit their titles instead of earning them.

This article is a complete breakdown of the traditional leadership style. Here, you will learn the different characteristics, benefits, and drawbacks of a traditional style of leadership.


What Is Traditional Leadership Style?

What Is Traditional Leadership Style?

According to Max Weber’s leadership framework, traditional leadership is an authoritative power bestowed upon a person legitimized by the sanctity of the tradition. The right to rule in this leadership framework is hereditary and is passed down throughout generations.

This leadership style follows a top-down method where the leader is responsible for making the rules and giving direction and motivation to achieve the organization’s goal. Leaders control the resources, rules, time, and people within the organizational boundary.

Followers serve under the absolute authoritative power and control of the leaders. Leaders set up rules, offer guidance, and issue orders to the followers. According to Weber, this only maintains and perpetuates the status quo of the leaders. A modern adaption of the same leadership style tweaks a few things and calls it a top-down type of management.

Modern Adaption Of Traditional Leadership Style

A traditional leader usually reflects an authoritarian approach. They are on the top of the rung and can issue orders, give directions, and command attention. In a modern setting, the police force and the military are fine examples of this leadership style. 

Even a company run by a family can also resort to a traditional leadership style, making their decisions more autocratic or directive in nature. A crude adaption of the leadership style in the modern type might end up in nepotism or dictatorship. 

However, adopting this leadership framework in a business would also be effective in the modern setting. But, that would require the leader’s ability to diversify their thoughts and be more open to listening and empathizing with the followers. Instead of only ordering, guiding and helping the team members can be a positive and more modern approach to this leadership style. 

Background/History Of Traditional Leadership Style

Max Weber

Max weber, the proponent of different leadership styles, is responsible for outlining the various facets that characterize a traditional leadership style. Weber described this leadership model in his 1947 work. Traditional leadership style has been around for centuries, but Weber was the first person to point it out.

Weber describes this leadership style to be embodied in feudalism or patrimonialism. A leadership structure formed around the traditional approach is conspicuously patriarchal. Although the followers are not said to be servants of the leaders, the power and position of authority do not change. 

Weber included this leadership approach alongside two other approaches of leadership – bureaucratic and charismatic leadership styles. Robert House, an American management consultant, also outlined this leadership style in the 1960s.

He studied several leadership styles implemented in different companies and devised what we know as a traditional leadership style. Robert House created his theory based on the idea that leaders have to have charisma, intelligence, and social skills to succeed as leaders.

You May Like To Read About Relationship Oriented Leadership Style

Characteristics Of Traditional Leadership Style

Traditional leaders upholding moral and social virtues can set good examples even when they are at the pinnacle of power. As a result, they can have a good impact and help bring out the potential of their followers. Some merits of this leadership style include guidance, motivation, and the leader’s persuasiveness. Here are the different facets of this leadership style. They must not go unnoticed. 

1. Authority Over Power

Rosalynn Carter

A traditional leader comes from power. They are free to exercise their power over their followers to order, guide, provide direction and create rules. Leaders are also responsible for making necessary decisions. They gain these powers hereditarily. For example, the princes of the British monarchy are excellent representations of the traditional leadership style. Followers of such leaders possess and exhibit fierce loyalty to their traditional leaders. 

2. Hereditary Leadership 

John Maxwell

Traditional leadership is hereditary in character. Leaders are said to be born with different qualities like persuasiveness, charisma, and intelligence to lead. It is conceived that leaders are born and not made through experience and the evolution of their different skills.

Thanks to the new leader’s family relation to the previous leader, it is easier for them to assume their new position. Also, they share the same surname in most cases, making the name more significant than the skills needed to lead an organization.

3. Guidance And Direction

Jimmy Dean

Indeed traditional leaders are able to issue orders and make rules. However, they also guide their followers toward a planned direction which they come up with. Traditional leaders are responsible for pointing out the path to the followers and guiding them to achieve the goals foreseen. 

4. Motivation

Ken Poirot

Traditional leaders can take charge and command an audience with their followers. They can motivate the followers to follow their lead with fierce determination. Such a display of this leadership style is clearly evident in the military and the police force. They emit a certain energy to explain the objectives and fulfill them at the cost of loyalty and sweat.

5. Persuasiveness & Charisma 

Yusuf A. Leinge

A traditional leader has the charm and charisma to create a make-believe appearance. They can make their followers follow them to hell. Their charismatic nature and flawless persuasive nature can influence and inspire. 

6. A Loyalty To The Position 

Tommy Lasorda

A good interpretation of the traditional leadership style can be visible through the followers’ eyes. Followers have a fierce loyalty to the position/power and what it represents. The followers are driven by the leader’s expectations and the results they can deliver. They take the results of their evidence as evidence of success and strive to achieve the ordered goals. 

Traditional Leadership Style: What’s Good…And What’s Not So Good?

Certain aspects of this leadership style– including the power to order, command, decide, and set up rules – are indeed authoritarian. As a result, there are both flaws and merits of running an organization following a traditional way of leading. Here is a small display of both of those flaws and merits. 

The Benefits Of Traditional Leadership Style: Pros

 Abraham Lincoln
  • Traditional leaders are usually trained with the required skills to benefit their imminent position as a leader. They become experts at navigating through complex situations and making tough decisions. 
  • Traditional leaders are highly respected by their followers due to their position and their skills as well. 
  • They can provide a sense of reliability and security during times of crisis. They can help their followers adapt to change and battle any threat. 
  • Due to their charismatic and persuasive nature, traditional leaders tend to be inspiring. They are often held as role models by many of their followers.
  • This leadership style often instils a sense of pride and tradition both in the leader and the followers. 
  • Organizations that follow this leadership style often create a strong bond as a community. 

The Disadvantages Of Traditional Leadership Style: Cons

Rear Admiral Grace Murray Hopper
  • Traditional leaders are usually resistant to change.
  • There is a possibility for this leadership style to become autocratic in nature. 
  • Leaders following this leadership style may resort to different red tape and regulations, creating a chain of command-like bureaucratic leadership style. 
  • Followers, if they give into the structure and hierarchy alone, might run out of creative and innovative ideas. 
  • It is possible for a work culture following this leadership style to instill a sense of fear and intimidation. An uncomfortable work environment might occur from this.
  • Leaders can often be narrow-minded and resistant to new ideas.
  • Traditional leadership style is prone to become inflexible and lead to stagnation in the near future.

Traditional Leadership Style: Case Studies (Examples)

Different leaders have set examples as traditional leaders in their approach to wielding power and confidently handling a large organization. For example, you can take Franklin D Roosevelt and George Washington.

1. Franklin D. Roosevelt

Franklin D. Roosevelt

Roosevelt was known for directing the federal government during the time of the Great Depression. His confidence and authority in implementing the New Deal domestically as a response to the then the economic crisis in US history are remarkable. He has shown traits of being a traditional leader.

2. George Washington

George Washington

Another important name following the traditional leadership style would be George Washington. He was known for his strong moral conscience. His patience, attention to detail, and his sense of responsibility made him a charismatic personality. His persistence, integrity, and persuasive nature make him a great traditional leader.

How To Become A Traditional Leader

The authoritarian approach of the traditional leadership style is becoming obsolete in the modern setting. However, if you assume the position of a leader hereditarily, it partially makes you a traditional leader.

But, you can curb the way your predecessors led and come up with a positive way to adapt this leadership style to your organization. Here are some positive ideas on how to become a better traditional leader.

1. Self Confidence

Self Confidence

A leader cannot depend upon anyone but their follower to carry out their visions. However, as a traditional leader, you have to make decisions alone. This requires unwavering confidence built upon knowledge and experience. So, the first step should be building this self-confidence.

2. Ability To Handle Difficult Situations

Ability To Handle Difficult Situations

Leaders often face difficult situations. But, if they don’t know how to deal with these situations, it will create difficulty for the organization. That is when their strong will and confidence come into play. Their ability to handle pressure is an important skill that you should master.

3. Empathetic


Traditional leaders have an ordering personality. However, it would help the followers if the leaders were more empathetic toward them. Even from a position of power, traditional leaders can show empathy and truly listen to what their followers have to say.

4. Mastering Decisiveness

Mastering Decisiveness

As a traditional leader, you must be able to make decisions with full confidence. In the face of a crisis, leaders have to become more decisive and make quick decisions for both the organization and themselves.

5. Focus On Business Growth

Focus On Business Growth

One of the key characteristics of the traditional leadership style is the leader’s focus on business growth. Traditional leaders often want to save their business to pass it on to their heirs or successors. While focussing on business growth is indeed a good cause. But, doing it solely for personal interest does not seem too leaderly. 

A better approach to this would be adding some flares of a servant leadership style to it. You should focus and work on your business growth as a traditional leader so that your employees have a reliable source of employment. Operating your business with an organizational goal that aligns with employee benefits is still the best decision.

6. Become A Leader But Be Recognised First

Become A Leader But Be Recognised First

The previous leader appoints a traditional leader. They usually share the same surname as the previous leader because of family relationships. Some leadership choices can be made traditionally according to the situation or tradition in that sphere. However, a blend of democratic process or wayward recognition post-judgment can add some characteristics of servant leadership style to it.

To exemplify, the leader can inherit the title of the previous leader but with the recognition of the board members and shareholders. This way, a new leader can inherit their position through the recognition of others as well. 

7. Put The Organization First

Put The Organization First

A traditional leader usually operates as the sole decision-maker of the organization. They are responsible for making all the decisions for the organizational growth. These leaders also have few trusted individuals working under them to assist them with specific guidance. But, the leaders do not share a massive amount of power or authority with them. As a result, they already have the scope to pass their chair on to their successors traditionally. 

Choosing a successor traditionally cannot always be right for the organization. The successor, a traditional leader, chooses might not be suited for the organization’s current needs and growth. 

However, if choosing a successor needs to happen traditionally, a leader can make it compulsory for the new candidate to have different skills. The successor in line should have a democratic mindset where they opt for organizational growth with employees in mind. It is critical for them to learn to put the organization first.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Here are some popular questions and answers about traditional leadership styles. 

1. Who Uses Traditional Leadership Style?

The traditional leadership style is a century-old style of leading an organization. This style was prominent at the time of the dictators, kings, and some family-owned businesses. Military officials and political leaders are often seen to exercise this leadership style.

2. What Is Traditional And Modern Leadership?

Traditional leadership is all about control, regulations, rules, and boundaries. On the other hand, a modern business approach focuses on freedom of thought, action, and expression.
A modern approach to leadership always facilitates a better room for creativity and innovation. New ideas are always welcome in modern management styles; also, the employees are more valued than in the traditional style of leadership.

3. What Are Traditional Methods Of Management?

A traditional management style emphasizes the importance of relaying clearly defined objectives and goals to employees. Leaders following under this leadership offer the Workers honest feedback on their performance.
Leaders can also take the initiative to coach, guide, and motivate employees under a traditional style of management.

Is Traditional Leadership Style Effective? 

The effectiveness of any leadership style depends upon the leader following the leadership style. The workplace they are adapting the style to is also important. One must go through the different advantages and disadvantages of this leadership style before deciding to adapt it. If a leader is able to implement the ideals of the traditional leadership style and use it with a modern approach, it can be effective. 

Did you find this article helpful? Please share your feedback on the same. If you have any questions, you can also leave them in the comment below.

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Mashum Mollah

Mashum Mollah is a tech entrepreneur by profession and passionate blogger by heart. He is on a mission to help small businesses grow online. He shares his journey, insights, and experiences in this blog. If you are an entrepreneur, digital marketing professional, or simply an info-holic, then this blog is for you.

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