The Impact of Leadership Styles on Psychosocial Risk in the Workplace








As a Senior Consultant at Steople specialising in leadership development, I have seen the profound impact that leadership styles can have on the psychosocial risks encountered by employees in the workplace. Leadership is not just about guiding, directing, and empowering; it’s about shaping the work environment and positively influencing the mental and emotional wellbeing of the team.


Understanding Psychosocial Risks

Psychosocial risks encompass aspects of the work environment and the nature of the work performed, including the way work is executed and managed. These risks are associated with mental health disorders, stress, burnout, and interpersonal issues among employees. Effective leadership can mitigate these risks, while poor leadership may exacerbate them.


Leadership Styles and Their Impacts

Let’s explore how different leadership styles affect psychosocial risks and what can be done to foster a healthier work environment.


  1. Autocratic Leadership: Autocratic leaders make decisions unilaterally, and typically dictate work methods and processes.

Impact on Psychosocial Risks: This style can lead to increased stress and job dissatisfaction among team members. The lack of involvement in decision-making can reduce employees’ sense of control and ownership, leading to feelings of helplessness and increased psychosocial risk.


  1. Democratic Leadership: Democratic leaders share decision-making with the team and encourage open communication, making sure everyone’s voice is heard.

Impact on Psychosocial Risks: This participative nature can decrease stress and increase job satisfaction and engagement. Employees feel valued, included in decisions related to their work, and supported. This can enhance their psychological well-being and reduce psychosocial risks such as low mental health, stress, and burnout.


  1. Laissez-faire Leadership: Leaders who adopt a laissez-faire style generally provide little guidance to employees and delegate decision-making.

Impact on Psychosocial Risks: This can lead to high levels of ambiguity and uncertainty among team members, potentially increasing stress and anxiety. However, it might be beneficial for highly skilled and self-motivated teams, reducing the pressure of micromanagement and creating a more autonomous functioning team.


  1. Transformational Leadership: Transformational leaders inspire and motivate employees by setting high expectations and being role models.

Impact on Psychosocial Risks: This style is often associated with positive workplace outcomes, including lower levels of psychosocial risks. It fosters an engaging and motivating environment where employees feel supported to fulfil their potential.


  1. Transactional Leadership: Transactional leaders focus on the exchange that occurs between leaders and followers, such as rewarding the achievement of specific goals or tasks.

 Impact on Psychosocial Risks: While it can drive performance, it might not sufficiently address employees’ emotional and psychological needs, potentially leading to increased stress if not balanced with supportive behaviours.


Strategies for Leaders to Mitigate Psychosocial Risks

Foster Emotional Intelligence: Leaders with high emotional intelligence can better understand and manage their own emotions and those of their employees. This awareness helps in addressing interpersonal conflicts and reducing stress and anxiety in the team.


Encourage Autonomy While Providing Support: Balancing freedom and support helps employees feel empowered yet guided. This approach can minimise stress and build trust within the team.


Promote a Healthy Work-Life Balance: Leaders who prioritise work-life balance can prevent burnout by ensuring that employees have sufficient time to recover from work-related stress. This may ultimately reduce employee sick leave, presenteeism and increase wellbeing across the organisation.


Regular Feedback and Communication: Open lines of communication and regular feedback helps mitigate uncertainties and clarify expectations, crucial for reducing anxiety and stress among employees.


Leadership styles significantly impact psychosocial risks in the workplace. Leaders must be aware of how their approach to management affects their team’s mental health and well-being. By adopting a style that promotes participation, supports autonomy, and values open communication, leaders can mitigate these risks and foster a healthier, more productive workplace. Developing leadership skills that nurture a positive work environment is not just beneficial for employee well-being but is also a strategic asset for the long-term success of any organisation.


For more information on the impact of your leadership style on psychological risk in your workplace, contact Steople today.