There’s a common misnomer that all leaders are created equal because all leadership styles are the same. That’s obviously not the case. Of course, there are a few staples to most styles. Almost all leaders assert themselves as the authority. Most lead by example or with the type of approach that they personally respond to. That being said, “Good leaders need to assess every situation individually and adapt their leadership style to the task at hand. They need to know how their employees react to different styles and which will maximize the company’s performance.” As a result, leadership styles develop and expand based on the environment.
Back in 2001, Daniel Goleman identified six main types of leaders in his Harvard Business Review Study that became the basis for modern day leadership styles. Goleman identified them within the categories of coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting and coaching leaders.
As he says,
“Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance.
Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision.
Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony.
Democratic leaders build consensus through participation.
Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction.
Coaching leaders develop people for the future.”
Through his work, we can identify pros and cons of each in order to apply them to the workplace setting better. If your employees or peers respond to a certain level of directness, then a coercive or authoritative approach may be most appropriate. If they are particularly passionate about their work, they may respond better to affiliative or democratic leadership styles. If you are directing a new or younger group, coaching or pacesetting styles become the most effective.
No matter the case, you need to be adaptable and cognizant of your audience. While one day one approach might be most efficient tomorrow, you may need to adopt another. Flexibility becomes the backbone of your success. As Goleman says, “The research indicates that leaders who get the best results don’t rely on just one leadership style; they use most of the styles in any given week.”
To hone your skills, get a head start. As explained on Entrepreneur, you don’t have to be in a leadership position to begin developing your personal approach. “As soon as you’re in a position of leadership, you’ll likely have to start making tough decisions right away. That’s why it helps to have a clear idea of what’s most important to you.” Be prepared to take responsibility and be aware of your strengths and weaknesses. If you know you want to move up the ranks, it’s never too early to start preparing.