If there were one, straightforward approach to leadership then we would probably have a lot more leaders. There’s no golden rule to becoming a leader. Instead, leaders call upon their own strengths and adopt the qualities that result in effect management. There are many different styles of leadership, and one is not necessarily better than another.
If you’d like to improve your leadership skills, it starts with identifying what type of leader you are. You may find that you practice more than one of these styles- many of the most successful leaders move between styles based on the situation. Fast Company makes the analogy of a golfer choosing his club: “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.” Here are 6 common styles of leadership, all effective for their own reasons, which psychologist Daniel Goleman described in his 2000 study, Leadership That Gets Results.
A democratic leader values collaboration. They draw on the skills and knowledge of others to contribute to shared goals. This style of leadership is most effective when the leader needs to incorporate their team on important company decisions, plans, and goals. It is not always the best style of leadership in emergency situations when the leader needs to act quickly on their own knowledge.
A coaching leader serves as a guide for their employees, coaching them on their professional development and shaping them into better leaders. This type of leader leads by example. In most cases, it is an effective style of leadership. The only scenario where it would be less effective is if the leader is unfit to coach or the team members are unwilling to learn and change.
An authoritative leader, also known as a visionary leader, guides the team toward a common vision. A team with this type of leader is united by a common goal, but the individual members are left to accomplish the goal by their own means. This type of leadership is most effective when the company or team needs to move in a new direction, and least effective when the leader is working with a team of experts more qualified than they are.
A pacesetting leader sets the pace and direction of the team based on their own goals and expectations. This type of leader sets high standards of performance for their team, and this style works best when the team is already highly-efficient and the leader needs to motivate them toward faster results. A pacesetting style can easily turn into micromanaging, however, and overwhelm team members.
An affiliative leader is concerned with forming an emotional connection with their team members. They put the wellbeing of their team members above everything else. The advantage of this style of leadership is that it works well in times of crisis for establishing trust and support. It works less well in serious situations where it may allow for mediocrity and poor performance.
A coercive leader is skilled at demanding immediate action and compliance. However, this style of leadership is least effective overall because it can easily become dictatorial in nature. In times of crisis, a company may require a leader like this, but it should be used sparingly because it can make team members nervous and uncomfortable, and stifle creativity.
Hopefully, what you can take away from learning about the different styles of leadership is that not all of them are effective all the time. Different situations call for different leadership styles, so a true leader will be able to adapt to the different styles as needed.