Leadership Styles: Why It’s Important to Know Your Style or Where You Fit

Andrew Silver, Founder of 360 Growth Partners shares his thoughts on growth mindset

“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.”

- Albert Einstein

We all know that strong leadership is central to business success. To motivate teams and harness talent, leaders must effectively communicate with, delegate to, and mentor employees, while inspiring them to pursue the company’s business purpose and mission.

This requires the flexibility to switch among different types of leadership styles – which doesn’t always come instinctively or easily.

People tend to use leadership styles that are rooted in their own underlying preferences, personalities, and backgrounds. This isn’t a bad thing; knowing which leadership style naturally works best for you is part of being a good leader, but rigidly sticking to one style can repress company and employee growth.

To enhance leadership effectiveness, it’s therefore crucial to embrace a flexible approach that integrates various leadership styles and allows you to adapt to new situations as they arise.

What is a leadership style?

A leadership style refers to a leader’s methods, characteristics and behaviours when directing, motivating, and managing their teams.

Their leadership style is also the determining factor in how leaders develop their strategy, implement plans and respond to changes, whilst managing the expectations of stakeholders and the wellbeing of their team.

When you consider some of the people who you think of as being a great leader, you’ll immediately see that there are often vast differences in how each person leads.


Why is it important to know your own leadership style?

As a leader, understanding your own leadership style is critically important. When you do understand your own leadership style you are able to determine the affect this has on those that you directly influence.

Evidence from a Harvard Business Review study* found that a leader’s emotional state can resonate throughout an organisation, affecting its culture and productivity.  According to Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, in their book ‘Primal Leadership’ there are six “emotional leadership” styles, each one springing from different components of emotional intelligence.

Each style works best in different situations, resonating differently with your team, and producing different results. Leaders who get the best results don’t rely on just one leadership style; they use most of the styles in any given week.


The Six Leadership Styles

The Commanding Leader ‘The Boss!’

Commanding Leaders demand immediate compliance from their teams that often relies on “Do as I say” style orders, the (often unspoken) threat of disciplinary action, and tight control.

They tend to employ an autocratic approach which often jars with employees needs for flexibility, autonomy and control over their lives and their work.

The Commanding leadership style is best used in crises to initiate fast-paced change and when dealing with problem team members. However, you must be cautious when setting out to develop a Commanding leadership style – this style is very easily misused, and it should only be used when necessary.


The Visionary Leader ‘The Visionary’

Visionary leaders are very effective at mobilising their people towards a vision by demonstrating empathy, being an inspiration and using a “Come with me” approach.

They tell their teams where they’re heading, but don’t dictate how they’re going to get there, instead encouraging their team members to use their own initiative to solve the problem or meet the target.

The Visionary leadership style is best used when your organisation needs a new vision, clear direction or to help your team to manage change.


The Affiliative Leader ‘The Carer’

Affiliative leaders are best at creating emotional bonds and harmony amongst teams by emphasising emotional connections and using a “People come first” approach.

They connect individuals by encouraging inclusion, valuing other emotions and resolving conflict.

The Affiliative Leader style is best used to heal rifts in a team when trust has been broken, or if the team needs to be motivated through a stressful time.


The Democratic Leader ‘The Listener’

Democratic Leaders forge consensus through participation and collaboration amongst their teams, using a “What do you think?” approach.

They actively seek input from their teams, and they rely more on listening than directing.

The Democratic Leader style is best used when you need to get your team on board with an idea or build consensus. It’s also effective when you need your team’s input. However, you must be cautious of using this style when your team are inexperienced, lack competence, or aren’t well informed about a situation. It is most effective when you have participation from team members who are motivated, knowledgeable and capable but overuse might slow down progress in an organisation


The Pacesetting Leader ‘The Hustler’

Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction from their teams as their focus is on performance and achieving their goals.

They hold their team up to a high standard, often taking a “Do as I do, now” approach and will jump in themselves if required to make sure that targets are met.

The Pacesetting Leader style is best used when you need to get high-quality results from a motivated team, quickly. However, while this can be a successful style, it can have a negative effect on the team, leading to burnout, exhaustion and high staff turnover.


The Coaching Leader ‘The Mentor’

Coaching leaders are successful in connecting team member’s personal goals and values with the organisation’s goals using a “Try this” approach.

They are empathic and encouraging, often having in-depth conversations that may have little to do with people’s current work, instead focusing on long-term life plans and looking at ways to develop their people for future success.

The Coaching Leader style is best used when you have a team member who needs help building long-term skills, or if you feel that he or she is “adrift” in your organisation and could benefit from a coaching or mentoring relationship.  It establishes rapport, trust, and can increase motivation.

Leadership styles download

Know Your Leadership Style to Become a Better Leader

Leaders with the best results do not rely on only one leadership style. Imagine the styles as an array of golf clubs in a golf pro’s bag. Over the course of the games the pro picks and chooses clubs based on the demands of the shot.

Similarly, the ideal leadership style depends not only on the leader’s personality, but also their individual team members and the situation at hand. Knowing your leadership style can put you on the path to become a more effective leader, while being able to adapt your method for certain circumstances, can help enhance your overall effectiveness, benefitting employees and the business as a whole.

Whether you manage a big or small team, your style heavily impacts how your direct reports see you and how effectively your team works together to achieve your company’s goals. Whatever your style the first step is to do some personal reflection and don’t be afraid to ask your colleagues for their opinion – you might uncover a ‘blind spot’ which in itself can be the start of the journey to becoming a more effective leader.

*Study of more than 3,000 executives, click here to find out more