Leadership Styles: Discover the Best Approach for Your Team

leadership styles

Did you know that your leadership style can significantly impact your team’s success? According to Gallup, teams with highly engaged managers see a 21% increase in profitability.

As a leader, you hold the power to unlock your team’s potential and drive results. But with so many leadership styles out there, how do you choose the right one?

The truth is, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. The ideal approach depends on your team’s dynamics, project goals, and even your own personality. However, understanding different leadership styles can equip you to adapt and become a more effective leader.

Six Leadership Styles


Daniel Goleman, outlined six distinct emotional leadership styles in their book “Primal Leadership” (2002). These styles are all centered around the idea that a leader’s emotional intelligence directly impacts those they lead. Here’s a rundown of the six leadership styles:

1. Coercive Leadership Style


This style involves giving clear instructions and expecting immediate compliance. The leader makes decisions independently and expects employees to follow instructions without question.

  • When to use: In crisis situations or when quick, decisive action is needed.

  • Drawbacks: Can be demoralizing and stifle creativity and innovation if overused.

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2. Authoritative Leadership Style


An authoritative leader sets a clear vision and inspires others to achieve it. This style fosters a sense of purpose and direction within the team.

  • When to use: When a new vision or clear direction is needed.

  • Drawbacks: Can come across as overbearing if the leader is not attuned to the team’s needs.

3. Affiliative Leadership Style


Prioritizing harmony and building strong relationships, this leader fosters a collaborative and supportive environment.

  • When to use: To heal rifts in a team, motivate during stressful times, or strengthen connections.

  • Drawbacks: May result in poor performance if not balanced with constructive feedback.

4. Democratic Leadership Style


Leaders who use a democratic style involve team members in decision-making processes. This approach can boost engagement and innovation within the team.

  • When to use: To generate new ideas, build trust, and when the leader needs the team’s buy-in.

  • Drawbacks: Can lead to indecision and procrastination if overused.

5. Pacesetting Leadership Style


Pacesetting leaders set high standards for themselves and others. You know how important it is to set a good example for your team and to expect high-quality work from them.

  • When to use: When quick results from a highly motivated and competent team are needed.

  • Drawbacks: Can overwhelm employees and diminish morale if expectations are unrealistic or the pace is unsustainable.

6. Coaching Leadership Style


Leaders who adopt a coaching style focus on developing their team members’ skills and capabilities. This approach can enhance long-term growth and performance within the team.

  • When to use: To help employees improve performance or develop long-term strengths.

  • Drawbacks: Requires time and patience, which might be challenging in fast-paced environments.

Each of these Goleman Leadership Styles has its strengths and weaknesses, and effective leaders know when to adapt their style to suit the situation and the needs of their team.

Identifying Your Leadership Style


Effective leadership isn’t just about authority; it’s about understanding the nuances of different leadership styles and knowing which one best suits both you and your team. Identifying your leadership style is a critical step towards becoming a more impactful leader.

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  1. Strengths and weaknesses: Just like your team members, you have a unique leadership profile. Take personality assessments or solicit honest feedback to understand your strengths (e.g., decisiveness, communication) and areas for development (e.g., patience, delegating tasks). within various leadership styles.

  2. Natural tendencies: Reflect on situations where you thrived as a leader. Did you provide clear direction or empower individual creativity? These natural inclinations can be a valuable starting point in identifying your preferred leadership styles.

  3. Values and goals: Consider your core values as a leader. Do you prioritize efficiency, innovation, or collaboration? Understanding your values will help you gravitate towards leadership styles that align with them.

Matching Leadership Styles to Team Needs


1. Understanding team dynamics

A successful leader tailors their approach to their team and its unique dynamics. Are they a high-performing group seeking autonomy, or a newer team needing clear guidance?

Understanding their needs and preferences is crucial for applying appropriate leadership styles that foster productivity.

2. Flexibility in leadership approach

Effective leaders adapt their style based on the situation and the needs of their team. This flexibility allows them to address challenges promptly and provide the necessary support for their team members.

3. Communication strategies

Clear communication is essential for effective leadership. Leaders should ensure that their communication style aligns with the preferences of their team members, fostering understanding and collaboration.

4. Empowering team members

Empowering team members leads to increased motivation and productivity. Situational leadership is particularly effective for this because it allows managers to adjust their style to fit their team and the task at hand.

Employee Performance Readiness level is taken into consideration under this approach, assessing both their capability and eagerness to carry out assigned tasks.

By adapting the amount of direction and support provided, leaders can tailor their approach to each situation, using the leadership style that will best empower their employees and help them excel.

Techniques for Transitioning between Styles as Needed


Transitioning between leadership styles as needed is a skill that separates adaptable leaders from the rest. Here are some techniques to help you navigate these shifts seamlessly:

1. Situational awareness

The key to transitioning leadership styles is being highly aware of the circumstances and needs of the team and organization at any given time.

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Leaders must continually assess factors like the team’s skill/experience level, the urgency of the task, the team’s motivation levels, organizational constraints, etc.

2. Gradual transitions

Rather than making abrupt shifts, transitioning gradually can make the change feel more natural and manageable.

For example, a leader moving from a hands-on to a hands-off approach in leadership styles could start by delegating more tasks while still providing guidance, then slowly remove themselves from the process over time as the team becomes more self-sufficient.

3. Set boundaries

In leadership styles that are highly directive or authoritarian, setting clear boundaries around decision-making authority is crucial. The team needs to understand when the leader will be making final calls versus soliciting input to prevent confusion and ensure clarity in roles and responsibilities.

4. Model the behavior

When transitioning to a more collaborative style, the leader should model the open, participative behavior they want to see from the team. This demonstrates the new approach is genuine rather than just empty rhetoric.

5. Reflective practice

Take time to reflect on past experiences and the outcomes of different leadership styles. Use these reflections to refine your approach and improve your ability to transition between styles.

Find Your Unique Leadership Approach


While a single leadership style might seem ideal, the reality is far more nuanced. Improving self-awareness helps you adjust your leadership style to suit different situations, giving you the ability to effectively lead in any scenario.

Whether it’s providing clear direction in times of uncertainty or fostering collaboration and autonomy in moments of innovation, the ability to transition seamlessly between different leadership styles is a hallmark of truly impactful leaders.

What kind of leader do you want to be? The answer lies within you, waiting to be discovered on this continuous journey of leadership development.

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