The Classic 6 Leadership Styles

The effective leader is flexible.  S/he is possessed of self-awareness and knows that the style of leadership must fit the demands of the circumstances. What methods can a leader use to persuade team members to give their best performance? How can a leader inspire trust and confidence, obtain buy-in on a vision and goals, encourage bonding and build a cohesive team, build skills where necessary, acknowledge and respect skills where present, create loyalty and produce extraordinary results? The leader must assess the staff with whom s/he will work and employ the most effective leadership style.

I.      Directive

No-questions-asked coercive style that demands compliance. “Do as I say” and controlling.  Motivation is “encouraged” via threats and discipline. Are you looking for a way to kill motivation, persuade the staff to lose commitment and enthusiasm and squelch any respect the staff may have had for you? Look no further.

Most effective:       In a crisis when decisive action must be taken ASAP and there is no room for deviation from a tightly prescribed rescue strategy.

Least effective:       With highly skilled team members, who will quickly resent micro-management and the disrespect of an authoritarian culture.

II.    Visionary 

Inspires the team. Employees come to feel that they are a team and understand how and why their work contributes to the realization of the vision. Moves people toward shared goals/outcomes through empathy and clarity.  This leader states the vision clearly and compellingly, gets buy-in and then steps back and allows the team to work, stepping in from time to time to reiterate the vision and reinforce commitment and enthusiasm.

Most effective:     When seeking to help the team create and achieve goals for the long-term.

Least effective:    The leader is not credible and employees do not trust the vision and goals proposed.

III.   Affiliative 

Creates harmony that boosts morale and resolves conflict.  Builds trust between the leader/manager and employees. People first, task second. The focus is on helping the team to bond, but there may be hesitation when it’s time to take charge and get down to business.

Most effective:     When stepping into an environment where conflict has damaged commitment and morale.

Least effective:     When producing results is imperative and where clear direction, strategies and action plans are needed.

IV.   Participative 

Superb listener, team builder, collaborator and influencer.  A primary objective is to build commitment through consensus. Employees know that their input is valued and this generates commitment.  However, constantly seeking consensus can impede progress toward completing projects.

Most effective:     The staff are highly competent and mutually respectful. Turnover is low and the team is cohesive.

Least effective:     Close supervision is required for the inexperienced. There is no time to build commitment and consensus.

V.    Pacesetter  

Leads through example, has great initiative and a strong drive to achieve through his/her own efforts.  This leader has high personals standards and high energy,  but little patience and can become a micro-manager.  The team is a meritocracy and only A + results are acceptable.  Anything less and the under-performing employee will be pulled off the project.  Nevertheless, team members are inspired and remain engaged and motivated by a leader who “walks the talk”.

Most effective:    Managing highly motivated experts.

Least effective:   When skills development,  coordination and coaching are necessary.

VI.  Coaching 

Good listener who helps employees identify their strengths and weaknesses.  Knows how to delegate,  which provides skills training for staff members.  Encourages peak performance by providing opportunities for professional development and building the employee’s long-term capabilities.

Most effective:     When professional development is needed and employees are motivated to achieve.

Least effective:    The leader lacks expertise and/or the ability to teach or coach. Results produced by highly skilled employees are immediately needed.

Thanks for reading,



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