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What are the different leadership styles?

In the world of business, leadership is one of the most important components to creating an effective company environment. In our last article, we looked at emotional intelligence and the leadership qualities that are required to lead your team. This week we will be discussing Daniel Goleman’s six different styles of leadership, as well as considering how you could implement them to boost employee engagement and motivation. One of PANDEK’s roles is to deliver facilitation workshops, meaning we have plenty of experience working with leaders and taking on leadership roles in our facilitated discussions. We will give you a basic understanding of the various types of leader which can hopefully help you to obtain your team vision.  

THE SIX DIFFERENT LEADERSHIP STYLES: 

1. Commanding leadership style 

This is the classic model of leadership: military-like, demanding, regimented etc. Whilst this is the most common style, it is also the least effective. Commanding leaders exemplify the phrase, “I am the boss, do what I tell you.” In times of crisis or when a problematic employee needs reining in, it can be an effective approach. However, this approach favours criticism and rarely involves praise, meaning that it can have a detrimental impact on employee engagement, morale and job satisfaction.  

A PANDEK meeting facilitation class with a presentation and an audience.
Leadership takes all sorts of different forms.

2. Visionary leadership style 

This attitude is most suitable when an organisation needs a new direction or requires greater employee engagement in order to connect with the team vision. Goleman notes that these types of leaders help a group to identify its goals, enacting a sort of liberating environment that gives them the freedom to innovate, experiment, and take calculated risks. Visionary leaders identify the team vision and encourages employee engagement by working towards a shared goal.  

3. Democratic leadership style 

Democratic leaders are the ones who are likely to ask, ‘how do you see it?’ Wherever possible, they share information with employees and seek employees’ opinions before making a final decision. Similar to the visionary leader, these leaders liberate and empower their employees so that they feel part of the company mission. There are numerous benefits to this participative leadership style. It can create trust, promote team spirit, and actively engage employees, as well as allowing for creativity and helping employees to grow in line with a team vision. Not only that, but this leadership style also leads to effective team meetings because every employee feels able to speak their mind.  

4. Coaching leadership style 

When someone has a coaching leadership style, they seek to unlock people’s potential and often view their team as a reservoir of talent to be developed. Leaders like this open their hearts and doors to others and believe that everyone can reach their goals. Employee engagement in an organisation can be driven by fostering a sense of belonging – if your organisation has a leader who takes time to talk to employees about their lives, dreams, and goals, chances are this will facilitate a sense of belonging. This approach is often under-utilised by leaders because they think it takes too much time. However, when you invest time in this method, you could well make your organisation more efficient. This leadership style deliberately fosters a positive workplace environment and is most effective with responsible, experience and engaged employees.  

5. Affiliative leadership style 

The saying “people come first” sums up this particular style of leadership. Affiliative leaders pay attention to and support the emotional needs of their team members. They try to create a connection between them and their team. Ultimately, taking this leadership style encourages harmony, employee engagement, and collaborative relationships. It is especially beneficial when it comes to resolving conflict in the workplace or reassuring stressed team members.  

6. Pacesetting leadership style 

Leaders who take this attitude are very driven and set the bar high. Their approach pushes employees hard and fast so as to meet the company targets. It is an effective leadership style for getting things done, but at the same time it can be problematic. Even highly motivated employees could struggle to work effectively under that amount of pressure. Being flexible in your leadership may be the best way to engage with your team.  

Does that mean you should avoid this leadership style altogether? Not quite. If you are an energetic entrepreneur working with a like-minded team, this style may suit you all. Even so, it is not a great idea to stick with this approach for long periods, as it can create stress and lead to burn out.  

A group of people in discussion surrounding a flipchart
Democratic leaders take on board the views of many employees.

Choosing a different leadership style 

So far, we have given you an overview of the different leadership styles that are available. Each on has its pros and cons. Some may boost employee engagement or help to facilitate team meetings, whereas others might detract from team unity or add to employee unhappiness.  

Develop a signature style, but you should also make use of useful leadership qualities from other styles depending on the situation. The most effective leaders are able to adapt their approach and know when and where to apply each one. So, how do you reach this point? 

Know yourself. Start by learning what your dominant leadership style is. Then, ask trusted colleagues to describe the strengths of your technique. Once you know your strengths, start to familiarise yourself with the different leadership styles. Understanding the various leadership methods, and how yours fits into them, will help you to become a better leader. For example, maybe the liberating structures of a democratic style can be applied so that your employees feel empowered to participate in team meetings.  

Practice. Be genuine with the approaches you use. Changing leadership style can be a challenge for even the best team leader. Don’t abandon who you are, but practice the qualities you want to add to your roster until they become natural. The best leadership style often comes naturally to you and sometimes just needs tweaking a little. Small changes can help you to evolve and gain your employees’ trust and loyalty.  

Stay agile. The traditional leadership styles still have some relevance in the modern workplace. However, new leadership approaches need to be integrated in order to keep pace with other companies. By staying agile, you allow yourself to adapt to a changing workplace, which in turn leads creates the best working environment for employees.  

four people in a room writing on paper
Every leader has their own leadership style but it is important to understand other approaches.

Strengthening different leadership styles

It is important to recognise and understand different leadership styles, as well as their best uses. Leadership is about using strengths to inspire and motivate others. Leadership coaching can help you to understand alternative approaches and strengthen your own. The best of these courses will teach you about human behaviour, but also will raise your own self-awareness and will offer chances to practice too.  

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