Effective Leadership Styles

[Infographic] 6 effective leadership styles

Laura-Jane Booker Employee experience, Engagement, Leadership, Motivation Leave a Comment

Leadership style can make or break the success of an organisation, team, or project. While different leadership styles suit different situations, effective styles share one common trait – emotional intelligence (EQ). Daniel Goleman (an EQ expert) proposed that there are 6 effective leadership styles, each stemming from 4 key EQ competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and social skills.

Effective Leadership StylesCoercive/Commanding

Lead by force

Climate influence: This style has a negative impact on the climate and demotivates employees as it eliminates the opportunity for new ideas, reduces accountability for performance, and destroys the rewards system.

Of the 6 styles, coercive is the least effective in motivating employees. But don’t count the style out. It’s very useful in an emergency, during a turnaround or hostile takeover, or with a problematic employee. In these cases, the style can break old, outdated habits and shock people into adopting new approaches.


Lead with power

Climate influence: Authoritative leaders motivate employees by making it understood how their contributions fit with the overall goals of the organisation. These leaders define the end goal and give employees the freedom to explore how to get there.

This style is most effective when a new vision or direction is needed; however, can fail in situations where the leader is working in a team of people more experienced or educated than they are. In addition, this style comes across as domineering at times, so consider switching/pairing it up with another style (e.g. democratic) when needed.


Lead through relationships

Climate influence: These leaders generate trust, which gives employees the freedom to innovate and take risks. They give abundant recognition and rewards driving employee motivation to perform.

The style should be used to mend relationships in a team or to motivate people in stressful times. If used regularly, the exclusive praise focus can enable poor results and outcomes to be uncorrected. The style works best when used together with the authoritative style. Together the styles enable employees to understand visions and standards whilst providing the necessary support and rewards.


Lead by agreement

Climate influence: These leaders ask for opinions, ideas, and concerns which builds trust, respect, commitment, and high morale. Employees create their own goals which allows them to be realistic about their success.

This style is best used to build buy-in or when the leader is unsure of which direction or approach to take and can thus use the knowledge and experience of their co-workers. BUT, this style is not useful when those employees are incompetent and ill-informed. AND this style should definitely not be used in a crisis or emergency.


Lead through example

Climate influence: Obsessed with doing things bigger, better, faster, the pacesetter is quick to point out poor performers and demands improvement. The demand for excellence can tire and overwhelm employees. This paired with the lack of reward and positive feedback causes morale and commitment to plummet.

This leadership style does work, however, when used in highly competent, motivated teams (e.g. legal & research and development teams). In these settings, pacesetters help to get projects delivered in a timely manner and often ahead of schedule. But again, this style should not be used alone and should not be used with inexperienced and incompetent teams. Consider other styles to pair with it (e.g. coaching).


Lead through advice

Climate influence: Coaches identify strengths and potential development needs, giving employees the encouragement and feedback needed for improvement. Coaches also offer challenging opportunities with adequate instruction.

Coaching works best when people need to improve and leaders want to develop the long-term strengths of their employees; and if employees want coaching. Don’t use this style with employees who are resistant to accepting and improving their weaknesses or when the coach lacks expertise and experience.

So which leadership styles are best?

As a general rule of thumb, the more leadership styles you can learn and adopt, the better off your team and organisation will be. The best leaders can switch effectively through different styles depending on the circumstance.

Ask yourself which leadership styles best suit your work environment, project, or, team; consider adopting a style that may improve the climate and productivity. And remember it pays to switch up your style for different circumstances.


Check out Leadership Influence and Leadership Theories for a more detailed review of the leadership literature.

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