leadership styles
How can I adapt my leadership style to meet my teams’ needs better?

Great leadership often means tailoring your leadership approach to the situation and the people that you’re working with. Figuring out your leadership style—and knowing when to adapt—can be tricky. To help you begin to unpack this, let’s take a look at Daniel Goleman’s Six Common Leadership Styles and how you can better adapt your style to lead more effectively.

You have heard us talk about Psychologist Daniel Goleman (best known for his work with emotional intelligence (EI)). In a 2000 Harvard Business Review article, Goleman identified six common leadership styles. Each of the six leadership styles draws from different aspects of EI, and each can be very effective depending on the situation. Skilled leaders know how to shift their leadership style to suit both the situation and the people they’re leading. Review the following six styles and ask yourself, “When do I find myself portraying this style?” What style do I use most often?” “Is this style appropriate for every situation?” What other styles could I try to be more effective when leading my current team?”

With this in mind, let’s explore the six distinct leadership styles:

  • Coercive: “Do what I tell you.” This style is effective only in limited situations. Think: a crisis that demands immediate action with a clear chain of command. Or when a swift turnaround is needed, whether in a particular project or with a problem employee. This style typically leads to disengagement and turnover when used for long periods of time.
  • Visionary: “Come with me.” This style mobilizes people toward a vision, where leaders can motivate people to see the big picture and work toward it in tangible ways. It creates a positive climate during times of change, but it can also create uncertainty when a clear direction is needed.
  • Affiliative: “People come first.” This style is emotional, promoting team spirit and creating a positive, trusting environment where people feel free to open up, contribute, and cooperate toward a common goal. However, this style needs to be balanced, as leaders still need to be able to exert their authority when necessary and make tough decisions.
  • Democratic: “What do you think?” Leaders who practice the democratic leadership style empower their teams to participate in decision-making and reach a consensus on how to act. It’s a good way to promote ownership among the team and foster engagement and collaboration. This style can be time-consuming, and leaders must be able to step in and make the final call when the team can’t agree.
  • Pacesetting: “Do as I do, now.” A pacesetting leader is performance- and goal-driven, making assignments and setting timelines. It can be very effective with highly skilled and motivated teams, especially when quick results are needed. When overused, it can lead to burnout and leave less accomplished performers behind.
  • Coaching: “Try this.” Leaders who coach focus on developing team members over the long term by understanding each individual’s goals and helping them achieve them. By taking an interest in employees and giving feedback for improvement, coaches help people feel valued and motivate them to stretch and grow. This leadership style is not always possible to use effectively in a short period of time to get results.

How did it go? Did you notice the style you use most often? Which style are you going to try this week?

Each of the six leadership styles has a time and place. Part of the art of leadership is knowing when—and being able—to apply each one. Start practicing other styles today to strengthen your adaptive leadership muscle and lead your team more effectively in a variety of leadership situations.

Want more guidance or practice for these skills? Consider a Leadership Program or Executive Retreat with the Nally Ventures team!

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