The 6 Goleman Leadership Styles Explained

Leadership Advisory

The primary objective of a leader is to generate desired results in the organization, but have you ever wondered which leadership style is most effective? Every business requires a particular leadership style based on its individual demands.

Most leaders don’t spend enough time pondering the differences and effects of leadership styles and allow their gut feeling to guide them. Although a good leader does have a certain extent of valuable intuition, an element of self-awareness is necessary to identify the most effective leadership style in every circumstance.

Daniel Goleman’s leadership styles clearly designate six leadership styles most leaders adopt. This author is also the remarkable mind that created “Emotional Intelligence,” “Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence,” and “Primal Leadership,” all highly insightful books.

In this article, we will explore the six Goleman leadership styles and how they relate to daily operations in an organization.

What Are the Six Goleman Leadership Styles?

Goleman’s six leadership styles emphasize the prevailing truth that being the boss of an organization doesn’t necessarily make you a leader. In many cases, managers that lack interpersonal skills drive employees to their co-workers for advice rather than turning to their leader.

The six leadership styles discussed here were designated by Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author who did extensive research on the topic of leadership styles and was able to establish six fundamental leadership styles based on his knowledge of emotional intelligence and how it relates to leadership.

The Foundation of the Goleman Leadership Styles

The foundation of the Goleman leadership styles involves questions regarding who has the most significant impact on the workplace environment and who dictates the atmosphere and makes the rules in the organization. The answer to these questions should be the leader.

Leadership styles are determined by the factors that influence an organization’s workplace environment, including:

  • Responsibility
  • Flexibility
  • Performance
  • Standards
  • Clarity
  • Commitment
  • Rewards
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Specific leadership styles dictate the degree of freedom and flexibility a leader is willing to allow employees, how responsible employees feel, and the importance of standards in the organization. Leaders expect varying degrees of performance, commitment, and determination from their employees.

Daniel Goleman’s leadership styles include the following:

The Authoritative Leadership Style

Authoritative leaders follow a visionary leadership style. They prefer setting goals and having clear insight into the organization’s direction while still allowing employees to be innovative and experiment.

An authoritative leader trusts in their employees’ capabilities instead of trying to control their every move, so they tend to yield excellent results. This hands-off visionary style, in conjunction with setting finite goals, often leads to higher productivity rates and employee efficiency.

When authoritative leaders establish clear visions and show their employees the bigger picture, they’re effectively enabling staff members to act according to what activities will bring them a step closer to their objective. A good visionary leader is likely to generate higher employee retention and engagement.

An authoritative leader trusts that their employees’ skills align with the organization’s goals and that they are contributing to the success of the company due to their strong sense of commitment.

Practicing an authoritative leadership style will effectively motivate employees to do their best because they have a clear view of how their work fits into the bigger picture of the organization and its direction.

People generally don’t like uncertainty much, so this leadership style is effective in that all employees feel informed and engaged in securing the future of the business. Although authoritative leaders are still recognized as the authority, people tend to respect their position because they have the freedom to navigate how their actions contribute to achieving a common goal.

Under authoritative leadership, employees feel free to take risks, experiment, and innovate.

How to Become an Authoritative Leader

  • Set a clear vision and establish common goals
  • Give people something to work towards
  • Allow employees to experiment and calculate risks
  • Welcome free speech
  • Maintain honesty and transparency in the organization
  • Establish a finite recognition and reward system
  • Evaluate all the rules, practices, and procedures in the organization
  • Align all rules, practices, and procedures with the organization’s vision
  • Openly share knowledge
  • Remind employees of the bigger picture regularly
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The Coaching Leadership Style

The coaching leadership style is less common among leaders, as many people associate this leadership style with strict deadlines and time efficiency. However, if the coaching leadership style is executed appropriately, it has the potential to yield exceptional results.

Coaching leaders focus on building trust and rapport with their direct reports by conducting intimate conversations with employees to navigate their professional and personal development goals.

Following the coaching leadership style means taking a genuine interest in the lives, goals, and career objectives of employees, which effectively gains their engagement and loyalty. A coaching leader makes employees feel like the organization sincerely cares about their development and doesn’t solely view them as a means to get the work done.

Employees are more inclined to perform optimally and make improvements if a coaching leader is actively involved in their growth as a person. Leaders often forget that employees are individual people with complex lives, but a coaching leader recognizes the individuality in the workforce and makes an effort to ensure employees feel respected, appreciated, and valued.

Coaching leaders often guide their employees to identify their strengths and weaknesses, so they can set appropriate short- and long-term goals. By drawing the connection between employees’ daily tasks and their aspirations, coaching leaders help motivate employees and establish strong emotional bonds with them.

The coaching leadership style challenges employees to step outside their comfort zones and take on more demanding tasks so they gain confidence in their abilities. By improving a person’s abilities and skills, coaching leaders enable employees to grow and develop within themselves without the fear of failing.

How to Become a Coaching Leader

  • Establish deep and emotional connections with employees
  • Ask staff members many questions about their lives and their work
  • Show sincere interest
  • Arrange frequent meetings with employees
  • Have more intimate and personal conversations
  • Listen to what employees have to say
  • Help employees identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Help staff members set goals
  • Connect daily operations with long-term objectives
  • Delegate difficult assignments
  • Challenge people to leave their comfort zones
  • Believe in each employee’s potential
  • Tolerate minor failures
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The Affiliative Leadership Style

The fundamental basis of the affiliative leadership style is shifting the focus to the emotional states and needs of the employees rather than putting too much emphasis on achieving goals.

Affiliative leaders are skilled at creating meaningful relationships with employees and promoting loyalty and a sense of community by maintaining a harmonious working environment.

The affiliative leadership style is an incredibly effective tool for building relationships and trust in teams, and affiliative leaders usually implement this leadership style when the organization is facing issues involving poor communication, trust issues, or low employee morale.

This leadership style is not as effective when it comes to performance enhancement, but the affiliative style is useful in resolving issues among employees. Affiliative leaders tend to view personal time and downtime as an opportunity to gain emotional capital that may be required in pressured situations.

Affiliative leadership aims to make employees feel respected and valued by focusing on their feelings and emotional needs. The immense degree of empathy and emotional intelligence of an affiliative leader goes a long way in creating a more resilient team dynamic.

An Affiliative leader avoids setting too many restrictions and limitations for their employees and instead fosters innovation and risk-taking. Such leaders effectively support employees’ creativity and self-belief by allowing them to decide how they want to proceed.

The affiliative leadership style shouldn’t solely revolve around praising employees without delivering constructive feedback, as this may result in mediocrity and poor performance.

That is one of the main reasons why the affiliative leadership style is most commonly implemented in combination with the authoritative leadership style.

How to Become an Affiliative Leader

  • Create strong relationships with employees
  • Focus on the human aspect of employees
  • Pay close attention to employees’ feelings and needs
  • Have deep and meaningful conversations with employees
  • Praise the success of employees
  • Support innovation and risk-taking
  • Promote team harmony and resonance
  • Encourage employees to take some downtime
  • Don’t implement inflexible rules
  • Allow employees a lot of freedom
  • Give positive feedback generously
  • Create a sense of community and ensure a positive work environment
  • Never take credit for employees’ success
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The Democratic Leadership Style

Democratic leaders are typically well-versed in communicating and listening to employees’ perspectives. Even if some employees don’t necessarily say what leaders want to hear, democratic leaders maintain an open mind.

The democratic leadership style creates an honest and safe work environment where all employees can speak their minds and collaborate to develop better solutions.

The democratic leadership style works best when a leader needs the input of their employees to create a vision or new ideas. A democratic leader fully comprehends that a vision cannot be realized without the support and acceptance of the entire team.

A democratic style is the best approach when you want to build resonance and commitment, as democratic leaders are often viewed as team members instead of authority figures. A democratic leader is always open to employees’ thoughts and opinions, leading to practical feedback sessions.

The democratic leadership style is particularly effective in diverse teams where members have varying viewpoints, and the leader needs to establish common grounds for better collaboration. In such instances, the ability of a leader to understand and relate to employees’ needs and perspectives is crucial.

Democratic leaders are skilled at involving all team members in the decision-making process by openly inviting people to share their opinions and ideas. Furthermore, when employees play such a significant role in making decisions, they gain a sense of accountability for the outcomes.

The democratic leadership style is most suitable in organizations where the employees are skilled, qualified, and competent in their respective fields and can actively promote the company’s success. Conversely, a democratic approach is not the right leadership style in organizations with reluctant employees, as a highly competent team is required for democracy to be effective.

How to Become a Democratic Leader

  • Listen attentively to employees’ thoughts, opinions, and concerns
  • Never criticize an idea or opinion
  • Never punish people for speaking their minds
  • Take ample time to comprehend a person’s perspective
  • Involve employees in the decision-making process
  • Maintain high employee morale
  • Create an environment of trust, respect, and commitment
  • Learn to manage conflict constructively
  • Become a trusted team member
  • Use democratic leadership to gain acceptance of unpopular choices
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The Pacesetting Leadership Style

The most distinctive element of the pacesetting leadership style is the consistent pursuit of excellence. Pacesetting leaders value precision and success above all else and continuously set higher standards for both themselves and their employees.

A pacesetting leader strives to execute every activity optimally and promotes efficiency and productivity to boost performance in the work environment. Poor performers who don’t have the ability to deliver these high standards are often replaced by those who can.

The primary characteristic of a pacesetting leader is to be the best and continue improving. They don’t have much tolerance for lagging or lazy employees that don’t rise to the occasion. The persistent emphasis placed on results and achievements inevitably influences the dynamic of a team under the management of a pacesetting leader.

The risk of burnout is much more threatening under pacesetting leadership as employees are constantly pushed to exceed expectations and work harder to meet the demands of their leader.

Therefore, it is essential that a pacesetting leader provides their team with ample support, direction, and encouragement because the absence of positive feedback and morale boosters may result in poor performance.

The key to executing the pacesetting leadership style successfully is working with a highly skilled team of professionals who are both competent and motivated and don’t need excessive support and direction to succeed. When such circumstances are possible, pacesetting leadership will prove to be extraordinarily effective.

Pacesetting leaders are most effective in the initial phases of an organization’s life cycle. In these entrepreneurial stages, a pacesetting leader will serve as the engine that drives development and business growth.

Various leadership styles can be implemented in conjunction with the pacesetting leadership style to yield the best results. For instance, affiliative and visionary leaders may practice certain characteristics of the pacesetting leadership style to achieve exceptional outcomes.

How to Become a Pacesetting Leader

  • Continuously strive for perfection
  • Focus solely on objectives
  • Become an expert in as many areas as possible
  • Set your standards very high
  • Don’t over-communicate
  • Be sparse with collaboration
  • Demand only the best performance from employees
  • Identify and replace poor performers rapidly
  • Expect comprehensive and self-direction
  • Restrict initiatives among employees
  • Be sparse with feedback
  • Give little to no praise
  • Maintain a high level of pressure
  • Remain oblivious to your own weak points
  • Don’t delegate tasks
  • Stay focused on numbers and results
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The Commanding Leadership Style

This leadership style demands complete compliance from employees. Commanding or coercive leaders give their employees orders and assignments without going into detail regarding the purpose of the task. A commanding leader does not tolerate it when employees question their decisions and require team members to fall in line with their objectives.

Coercive leaders tend to practice complete control over every situation and procedure, and if employees don’t want to submit to their needs, they tend to resort to anger and threats. A commanding leader seeks obedience and loyalty from their team members, and they are likely to think they are always right.

By constantly criticizing employees’ performance and actions, commanding leaders significantly undermine their team members’ confidence and morale, leading to little to no motivation among employees.

Coercive leadership yields a disengaged workforce with little understanding of how their contributions fit into the organization’s direction. Employees become less committed and productive with every criticism and are more inclined to pursue other opportunities.

Although the pitfalls of the commanding leadership style are hefty, there are benefits associated with this style. For instance, if a commanding leader practices coercive leadership reasonably, it could greatly benefit an organization experiencing a crisis or emergency.

Forceful and decisive leadership is sometimes necessary to mitigate a disastrous occurrence that demands fast and effective actions. Coercive leaders must seize every opportunity and take the initiative to set the whole organization on the right path and ensure the appropriate measures are in place in a commanding style.

Coercive leadership involves quick thinking and targeted actions in dire circumstances, and only highly skilled leaders can practice this leadership style without causing discord in the organization.

How to Become a Commanding Leader

  • Demand obedience
  • Exercise complete control over every situation
  • Focus on the mishaps of employees
  • Never give employees praise
  • Never delegate authority
  • Be demanding, cold, and intimidating
  • Criticize every action of employees
  • Restrain from explaining employees’ roles in the organization
  • Be forceful and demand immediate compliance
  • Discourage innovation and initiative
  • Make fast and precise decisions
  • Disregard employees’ reactions and feelings
  • Fire staff members erratically
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Based on individual circumstances, successful leaders must have the ability to exercise all six styles appropriately instead of relying on only one leadership style to generate the desired results.

All these styles have respective and equally significant benefits in various situations, although some may be more suited for long-term sustainable leadership. A sound comprehension of the Goleman leadership styles can equip leaders with all the tools they need to manage and inspire their team members to exceed in their fields and effectively drive the organization to success.