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6 different types of leadership styles

What leadership gets the best results?
What kind of leader am I? What are the traits, qualities and characteristics of an effective leader? What leadership style will help me grow my business most?

These are questions many of us, as small business owners and employers, have pondered. In this article we take a look at different leadership styles and help you identify which you most align with and how to be a more effective leader.

Leadership styles have long been studied, but one particularly defining exploration was by Daniel Goleman, an internationally reputed psychologist, science journalist and author. In his article ‘Leadership that gets results’ published in the Harvard Business Review’s March/April 2000 issue, Goleman outlined six basic leadership styles. Drawn from research of more than 3,000 executives, each style ties back to different elements of emotional intelligence.

Below is an overview of Goleman’s six leadership styles, which are you?

The coercive leader

The coercive leader is one that demands immediate compliance and whose catchcry is ‘do what I tell you’. While they have a drive to achieve, initiative and self-control, this leadership style can generally have a negative and damaging impact because it can make employees feel disrespected and unmotivated. That said, on the very rare occasion – such as in a crisis, working with problem employees or to help kickstart a turnaround – it has been found to bring results.

The authoritative leader

Self-confident and empathetic, the authoritative leader gives employees the flexibility to adopt their own style – as long as they work towards achieving a shared goal. Their ‘come with me’ style works particularly well when a new vision or a clear change of direction is needed. While this style is predominantly a positive one, it may not be as effective if the team headed up by the authoritative leader is more experienced than them.

The affiliative leader

The affiliative leader is one that believes that ‘people come first’ and this is reflected in a leadership style that aims to create emotional bonds and harmony. A positive leadership style that centres on empathy, communication and building relationships, affiliative leaders can motivate people during stressful work circumstances and are quick to offer praise for good performance. Their downfall however is that they can lack the ability to provide critical feedback, when required.

The democratic leader

The democratic leader has a positive style where collaboration and communication is key. You’ll often hear them asking ‘What do you think?’ as they often aim to forge consensus through participation. The democratic leader strives to give their employees a voice and to garner input from valuable employees, particularly useful for helping generate new ideas. This approach can sometimes lead to employees feeling that they lack a strong leader.

The pacesetting leader

The pacesetting leader is one that sets high standards for performance and leads by example. Their approach to leadership is ‘do as I do, now’ and they expect excellence and self-direction from their team. Conscientious, with lots of initiative and a drive to achieve, the pacesetting leader can help get quick results from a competent and motivated team. However this can be a negative style for employees that feel overwhelmed by the pacesetting leader’s very high expectations.

The coaching leader

Empathetic and self-aware, the coaching leader is one that develops people for the future. Their ‘try this’ style to leadership is generally a positive one for those that know their weaknesses and have a desire to improve, however is it less effective on those that lack the desire or interest to change their ways. The coaching leader is at their best working with employees to develop long-term strengths and performance.

Why it’s better to be have more than one style…

While some leaders may identify with one leadership style more than another, Goleman noted in his research that the most effective leaders are able to move between leadership styles – particularly the authoritative, affiliative, democratic, and coaching styles – dependent on factors like the circumstances and people involved.

If you are looking to grow your business and need extra funds to do it, talk to Prospa about how we can help you meet your business finance needs.


The information in this post is provided for general information only and does not take into account your personal situation. You should consider whether the information is appropriate to your needs, and where appropriate, seek professional advice from financial, legal and taxation advisors. Although every effort has been made to verify the accuracy of the information as at the date of publication, Prospa, its officers, employees and agents disclaim all liability (except for any liability which by law cannot be excluded), for any error, inaccuracy, or omission from the information for any reason, including due to the passage of time, or any loss or damage suffered by any person directly or indirectly through relying on this information.

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