Leadership That Gets Results

November 19, 2017

Research indicates that six distinct leadership styles have a direct impact on the work environment and financial performance, particularly in terms of revenue growth and profitability. These styles are coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching. Importantly, the most successful leaders don't rely solely on one style but adapt based on the organization's circumstances. Effective managers transition between various leadership styles, and the impacts are observable in several areas, including flexibility, responsibility, adherence to standards, and the quality of feedback.

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To begin with, coercive leaders seek immediate compliance. While effective during turnarounds, this top-down decision-making approach can stifle innovation and discourage team initiative. "When Steve Jobs was upset about anything, it got rectified at a pace I have never seen; people reacted so fast out of fear," noted one former Apple employee.

Secondly, authoritative leaders unify their team around a common goal, often resulting in higher levels of commitment because people understand how their work contributes to the larger vision. However, this style can fail when team members are more experienced or have stronger opinions than the leader. Investor John Doerr remarks, "Classic entrepreneurs do more than everyone believes possible with less than anyone thinks possible."

Thirdly, affiliative leaders prioritize emotional bonds, valuing individual feelings over tasks and goals. While this fosters open communication and risk-taking, exclusive reliance on praise without constructive feedback can be detrimental.

Fourthly, democratic leaders build consensus by actively involving their team members in decision-making. This approach is most effective when working with skilled individuals who can offer valuable input. However, it can lead to prolonged discussions and delays when there's no consensus, leaving the team leaderless in times of crisis.

Fifthly, pacesetting leaders expect high performance and self-direction. Although effective in motivating a highly competent team, this style can be counterproductive if it erodes trust and fails to clearly articulate expectations.

Lastly, coaching leaders focus on developing future leaders by helping them identify their unique skills and align them with career goals. This approach is especially impactful when employees are aware of their weaknesses and are open to improvement.

The most effective leaders are versatile in their approach, adapting their style to meet the specific needs of their organization. Few leaders are proficient in all six leadership styles, but they can assemble a diverse team or expand their own techniques to fill in the gaps. Improving emotional intelligence competencies can further refine one's leadership abilities.

In conclusion, understanding and appropriately applying these leadership styles can offer leaders a comprehensive toolkit for success, especially in an ever-changing corporate landscape.

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Victor Leung, who blog about business, technology and personal development. Happy to connect on LinkedIn