Great leaders have the power to ignite passion, inspire the best in us – and get results. Ok, you knew that, right? Well how about this: In a study of over 3,000 organisations, Daniel Goleman, who popularised ideas around emotional intelligence, showed that leadership style is responsible for up to 30% of a company’s profitability.
If that’s not food for thought for you business leaders, I don’t know what is.
So now on to the big question: What makes a great leader? In his book “Primal Leadership: Unleashing the Power of Emotional Intelligence”, Goleman, along with co-authors Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, examine how leaders’ styles and personalities impact workplace culture – which in turn influence employee attitudes and affect bottom-line profitability.
They identify six emotional leadership styles. And while there are many fascinating points about each style and what makes it work, perhaps the most interesting takeaway is how effective leaders tend to move between these styles, adopting the one most suited to each situation.
“Leadership style is responsible for 30% of a company’s bottom-line profitability.”
The six styles of leadership
Identifying which leadership style we are naturally drawn to is one thing, but understanding which situation each style is best suited to – and the qualities we need to develop in order to expand our repertoire of leadership styles so that we can become more effective leaders across a broader range of scenarios – is what will help us build better companies.
So with that in mind, let’s dive into Goleman’s six emotional leadership styles to get an idea of the positives (and even the negatives) of each.
1. The Visionary: Come with me
Visionary leaders inspire people to move toward a common goal or dream.
A visionary leader tells their people where they’re going, but leaves it up to team members to decide how to get there through innovating, experimenting and taking calculated risks.
Do you need to implement changes in the way you do business? This style is useful when your business needs to set a clear direction or put a new vision in place to work towards for the future.
Self-confidence and empathy are key qualities the visionary leader needs to have in order to mobilise a team, get people on board, and make sure they are enthusiastic and excited about working toward change.
2. The Coach: Connecting goals
Coaching leaders connect people’s personal goals with the goals of the organisation.
A coaching leader often works one-on-one with team members, helping and encouraging them to develop and improve their performance.
Have you got a team in place that shows initiative and is hungry for more professional development? This approach can work well to develop and nurture employees who are motivated and have a desire for long-term development.
Done well, a coaching approach to leadership can result in a highly loyal team. However, Goleman and his co-authors warn that this approach can backfire if employees feel that they are being ’micromanaged ’.
Establishing rapport and trust with your team is at the core of this approach. Coaching managers may spend time discussing employees’ long-term life goals in order to find out how these connect with the business’s long-term mission. This may have little to do with short-term work objectives, so patience and keeping an eye on the long-view are skills essential for a successful coaching style.
3. The Affiliate: People come first
Affiliative leaders focus on teamwork to create harmony within a group.
An affiliative leader builds bonds between people by emphasizing collaboration and praising teamwork.
Has morale dipped in your business following a difficult period of change? This type of leadership works well in situations where trust needs to be rebuilt, communications improved or rifts healed. However, the focus is on people rather than goals, so this approach is not suited to being used on its own for long periods of time. The emphasis on praise can allow below-par performance to go unchecked and employees may perceive that it’s acceptable to put in a mediocre effort.
Empathy and strong communication skills are important qualities for an affiliate leader to nurture relationships and restore balance and harmony within a team or organisation.
4. The Democrat: What do you think?
Democratic leaders listen to input from their people to determine a course of action.
A democratic leader draws on the skills and knowledge of their team, tapping into the collective wisdom of the group to set a goal and a path.
Does your business need to set a clear direction? This approach works well to develop team buy-in to a new goal or foster ownership of a project. However, progress can feel slow while a consensus is being reached and momentum is building, so this leadership style is not suitable in times of crises when quick, decisive action is required.
Strong collaborative skills, communication and team leadership are valuable qualities for an effective democratic leader.
5. The Pacesetter: Do as I do when I do it
Pacesetting leaders set high standards for others to follow.
A pacesetting leader often leads by example, setting goals and challenges and expecting their team to demonstrate excellence and self-direction in meeting them.
Is your team highly competent and motivated? Pacesetting can be effective in achieving goals with a skilled team in the short-term. However a constant drive to do things ‘better and faster’ can be draining on employees and lead to flagging enthusiasm and a decline in morale in the long-term.
Goleman and his co-authors warn that prolonged use of a pacesetting leadership style can have a negative impact on the workplace climate as employees become worn down. Effective pacesetters for short-term projects lead by example, demonstrating high (but realistic) levels of performance, and setting exciting challenges to motivate their team to achieve their goals.
6. The Commander: Do what I tell you
Commanding leaders demand immediate obedience from their people.
A commanding leader adheres to the classic model of military-style leadership, frequently criticizing, rarely praising and expecting immediate compliance.
This approach can be effective in a crisis when urgent action is needed. However, Goleman argues that outside of crisis situations, this type of leadership has limited use and ultimately undercuts employee morale and job satisfaction. Accordingly, this style should be used sparingly and only in circumstances that demand rapid, unquestioned action.
Positive attributes of commanding leaders are initiative, self-control and the ability to remain calm and clear-sighted in pressured situations.
Practice makes perfect
So what is clear is that while most people will naturally feel a fit with a particular leadership style, to be a successful, effective leader we must accept that it is not a case of ‘one size fits all’. Matching the right approach to the situation and switching between styles as the moment demands is what gets the best results.
This means that even though you may feel you fit to a particular leadership style – or a particular leadership style best describes you – you will want to start training yourself to adeptly manoeuvre between the different approaches as the situation requires it. This will give your team the best chance to do the job right every time, with the end result being a strong, healthy and growing company.