The mistake of many managers is to believe that the key to leadership is locked within their personality and a further belief that this can no more be changed than the color of their eyes or the size of their shoes. The reality, however, is very much different, because the not-so-secret to effective leadership comes, not from an unchangeable personality, but rather from the ability to judge the situation and then apply the leadership style that is most appropriate to the given circumstances.

Leaders have choices

Daniel Goleman, the best-selling author, psychologist, and science journalist, has commented that:

Many managers mistakenly assume that leadership style is a function of personality rather than strategic choice. Instead of choosing the one style that suits their temperament, they should ask which style best addresses the demands of a particular situation.”

Emotional intelligence is an area of research that Goleman has been heavily associated with in his well-regarded work. His research suggests that effective leaders should have strengths in the following emotional intelligence areas:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-regulation
  • Motivation
  • Empathy
  • Social Skills

And this leads to the 6 basic leadership styles, which make use of these 5 emotional intelligence competencies in varying degrees and depending upon the situation. In leadership there is no ‘one size fits all’, instead the good leader must be able to judge the situation and apply the style of leadership most appropriate to what is happening and what needs to be achieved.

What are the 6 basic leadership styles?

#1: Coercive Leadership

  • What is it: A direct form of leadership that requires obedience to the orders of the leader.
  • When to use it: Sustained Coercive Leadership will sap morale and diminish innovation, but in times of dire emergency, when action and the completion of tasks takes priority, then this has its place in the leader’s lexicon.

#2: Authoritative Style

  • What is it: A less commanding style than Coercive Leadership, nevertheless, the leader outlines the ultimate goal, but gives the team some latitude in deciding on the methods to achieve it, but then drives the team towards the achievement of that goal.
  • When to use it: A leadership style that works best in situations when you have a team of non-specialists and where uncertain objectives may have resulted in a loss of direction.

#3: Affiliative Style

  • What is it: A focus on the people within the team in terms of their needs and concerns.
  • When to use it: Circumstances in which the team is in early stages of bonding or in the aftermath of serious event that has caused concern or loss. Not appropriate when the team is looking for guidance and direction.

#4: Democratic Style

  • What is it: Allowing the team a greater voice in making decisions and choosing direction.
  • When to use it: Where flexibility and the generation of fresh ideas is paramount. The process of consultation can, however, cause issues over the long term with team members viewing the leader as abdicating their responsibilities if sustained.

#5: Pacesetting Style

  • What is it: Basically leading by example and setting the pace for the followers.
  • When to use it: Where the leader is also an expert in a team of experts they can drive performance by reference to their own high standards. The team may, however, become resentful if the leader is seen as being too involved in imposing their own standards upon the group.

#6: Coaching Style

  • What is it: A focus on developing and improving your team and their skills, abilities and confidence.
  • When to use it: In circumstances where team members need encouragement and development, but also where an employee may have an acknowledged area for improvement and is willing to embrace the necessary changes.

Good leaders need to be able to vary their leadership style and move between the styles mentioned here in response to the prevailing situation. These styles used in combination should enable a far more effective leadership that delivers tangible improvements in team performance, but relies upon the judgement of the leader in selecting the most appropriate style.

Published in collaboration with LinkedIn

Author: Will Trevor is the Founder and Training Consultant at Windsor Training. 

Image: A worker arrives at his office in the Canary Wharf business district in London February 26, 2014. REUTERS.