Leadership Style

In past blogs I’ve utilized and pointed readers to the work of Daniel Goleman.  You likely associate him with emotional intelligence (EQ).  In an article originally published in HBR,Leadership That Gets Results, (2000), Goleman extends the competencies in EQ, (self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills) to addressing leadership styles.  He reminds us that we might mistakenly assume that leadership style is a function of personality rather than strategic choice.  Instead of choosing one style that fits our temperament, we should ask: Which style best addresses the demands of a particular situation?

This shifts us from ingrained style to styles as tools.  Successful leadership is about having several styles/tools in your toolbelt, being flexible, and switching between styles as circumstances require.  What follows is a brief overview of Goleman’s six leadership styles.  For an in-depth consideration, please see HBR’s 10 Must Reads: Managing People(2011) pages 1-27.  Each style has advantages and disadvantages.  That’s why flexibility is so important. 

  1. The Coercive Style: This “Do what I say” approach can be very effective in a turn around situation, a natural disaster, and when working with problem employees.  But in most situations, coercive leadership inhibits the organizations flexibility and dampens employees motivation.
  2. The Authoritative Style: An authoritative leader takes a “Come with me” approach, stating the overall goal but giving people the freedom to choose their own means of achieving it.  This style works especially well when a business is adrift.  It is less effective when a leader is working with a team of experts who are more experienced.
  3. The Affiliative Style: The hallmark of the affiliative leader is a “People come first” attitude.  This style is particularly useful for building team harmony or increasing morale.  But its exclusive focus on praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected.  Also, affiliative leaders rarely offer advice, which often leaves employees in a quandary. 
  4. The Democratic Style: This style’s impact on organizational climate is not as high as you might imagine.  By giving workers a voice in decisions, democratic leaders build organizational flexibility and responsibility and help generate fresh ideas.  But sometimes the price is endless meetings and confused employees who feel leaderless.
  5. The Pacesetting Style: A leader who sets high performance standards and exemplifies them, has a very positive impact on employees who are self-motivated and highly competent.  But other employees tend to feel overwhelmed by such a leader’s demand for excellence, and to resent her/his tendency to take over a situation.
  6. The Coaching Style: This style focuses more on personal development than on immediate work-related tasks.  It works well when employees are already aware of their weaknesses and want to improve, but not when they are resistant to changing their ways.

Weekly Challenge:  What is/are your go-to leadership style(s)?  As you consider your business, in what situations would it be best to use which style?

Supporting Your Success!