Leadership Styles

Daniel Goleman – a leading authority on emotional intelligence has identified 06 distinct leadership styles. In his article “Leadership that gets results” for Harvard Business Review (2000), he reported that based on a research conducted by consulting firm Hay/Mcber, which studied the leadership styles of 3,871 executives worldwide, leaders can be classified as having the following leadership styles:

  1. Authoritative: Proposes a bold vision and mobilizes people towards this vision. This style is marked by enthusiasm and clear vision. An authoritative leader defines the “end” but allows people flexibility to design their own means.
  2. Affiliative: Establishes strong relationship with and inside the team. An afffiliative leader encourages feedback and inspires loyalty in team. Such leadership also drives up innovation and risk-taking.
  3. Coercive: Imposes a decision or vision on the team and demands that the team complies with this direction immediately.
  4. Coaching: Focuses developing their team members. A leader using this style, will help employees understand their strengths and weaknesses and give them challenging assignments at the stake of slowing down progress. For this leadership style, short term failure is acceptable as long as it results in long term learning.
  5. Democratic: Asks team for ideas and buy-in thereby gaining respect, loyalty and most importantly commitment of the team. A form of participative decision making.
  6. Pace Setting: Sets high performance standards and expects assignments to be completed quickly with little or no guidance. Pace Setting leader is obsessed with doing things better and faster and expect this from his/her team as well. If the team is incompetent, the team or team member will be replaced immediately.

These six leadership styles affect the overall work climate either positively or negatively, which in turn affects employee productivity and business results. As Goleman explained through research that leaders cannot use a “One size fits all” approach rather they must be able to adapt a leadership style based on the business situation which is defined in terms of various factors such as, leader expertise and experience, competence of team members and attitude or relationship within and with the team, etc.

The following table outlines situational favorableness for each style and overall impact on the work climate:

S.No Leadership Style Favorable Situation Impact on work climate
1 Authoritative When clear direction is required; When change needs a new vision. Very Positive
2 Affiliative To resolve interpersonal conflicts within team; Motivate employees during stressful situations. Positive
3 Coaching When leader has the expertise and employees are willing to learn and develop themselves. Positive
4 Democratic When employee buy-in/commitment is required; To get feedback from valuable employees.Positive
5 Coercive During a crisis; When team has problematic employees. Very Negative
6 Pace-Setting To get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team. Negative

As leadership styles can be adopted according to situational demands, it can be proved that leadership is not a personality trait rather can be learnt and enhanced through experiences and knowledge; an important implication for leadership development.

The most successful leaders are those who can effortlessly switch between leadership styles. Research has shown that leaders who have mastered at least four of the leadership styles—especially the authoritative, democratic, affiliative, and coaching—have the very best climate and business performance. The other two styles may be used if situation arises; however, they yield a negative work climate therefore should be used discretely.


  1. Casali, Erin. “The Six Styles of Leadership.” Intense Minimalism, 14 July 2019, intenseminimalism.com/2015/the-six-styles-of-leadership/.
  • Goleman, Daniel. “Leadership That Gets Results.” Harvard Business Review. 78.2 (2000): 78-90.

Written for LEADIN

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