Six Effective Leadership Styles — Which One Do You Use?

Effective leadership is essential to getting the best out of your employees. It takes time and experience to achieve a leadership style that works, though. In order to speed up the learning curve and become a great leader quickly, it’s often helpful to study how others lead. You can pick up tips and tricks by looking at those around you, and those who are incredibly successful leaders.

There may not be a large variety in leadership from those around you, however, so to quickly learn you can look to broader studies for inspiration. Daniel Goleman created a study in 2000 that looked at the myriad management styles of over 3,000 managers and helped codify leadership styles. His results can help you identify the leadership styles you can employ! The Goleman model of leadership has six styles of leadership that are often successful (commanding, visionary, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching).

Leading a team is not the same as managing a team, as leadership emerges from demonstrable strengths, not necessarily a title. These leadership styles should be implemented by managers as needed to help his or her team succeed. As a Fast Company discussion of the Goleman leadership styles puts it, “[L]eadership can and should be situational, depending on the needs of the team. Sometimes a teammate needs a warm hug. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a new style of coaching, someone to lead the way or even, on occasion, a kick in the bike shorts. For that reason, great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal and the best tool for the job.”

Below, we’ll dive into each leadership style uncovered by Goleman, and in which situations you can use the style to help you operate more effectively as a team leader.

Commanding

This style of leadership is a one-way interaction.  The leader tells his employees what he wants and expects them to follow his instructions.  While a commanding leadership style can be very effective for employees that haven’t been productive, it can create a negative environment if it continues for too long.

Visionary

Visionary leaders empower their employees to complete their tasks, while setting the vision of the organization’s direction.  The leader creates a roadmap and allows his employees to walk the path on their own.  This is incredibly empowering for the employees, but can create problems if they can’t motivate themselves or don’t have the necessary skills to perform their duties adequately.

Affiliative

This leader focuses on the human aspects of the workplace. They understand that communication and effective relationships are vital to productivity. Affiliative leaders seek to create bonds with each employee in order to generate high-quality work. Unfortunately, affiliative leadership is tested with uncooperative employees and with individualistic tasks that do not require much communication to complete.

Democratic

A democratic leader allows all the employees to have a say in the direction of the team. The leader controls the environment, but places a high value on employee input. This can create very strong team bonds and efficiency is improved with the increased amounts of communication. The high degree of latitude offered employees will not resonate with every employee, as it negates much of the hierarchy of a team. Democratic leadership also struggles to succeed when employees place more weight on their own opinions. Finally, it can be difficult to effectively distribute tasks across a team to meet a tight deadline.

Pace-Setting

A pace-setting leader sets the tone of the organization and expects his employees to follow suit. The perfect group of employees for this style of leadership are highly competent, but looking for a leader to follow. A pace-setting leader will recognize the skills of his team, but provide them a strong direction to unite around and work towards. According to a Wall Street Journal discussion on the leadership style, a pace-setter “is obsessive about doing things better and faster, and asks the same of everyone.” Pace-setters can be incredibly effective with the right group, but if the standards are too high or employees disagree with the direction chosen, a breakdown will occur.

Coaching

A coach’s main goal is to develop the skills of her employees and to focus on their long-term growth.  Coaching makes apparent the strengths and weaknesses of each employee and allows the coach to adapt his or her team to be the most productive, given the components of the team. Communication between the leader and employee improves when a deep interest is shown in the relationship between the two. Coaching can be ineffective for individuals who have already mastered the fields they focus on, but can drive deep relationships to better serve both the employee and the manager in the future.

Everyone has the capacity for effective leadership, but it takes time and experience to find the mix that works best for you. The best leaders will adapt their styles to the situation their organization is in. After seeing the styles that are out there, which combination works best for you and your team?