Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all concept. Different situations require different styles of leadership, and effective leaders must be versatile and able to adapt their leadership style as the situation demands. In 2000, consulting firm Hay/McBer (now part of Korn Ferry) conducted a study on 3,871 global executives to explore the different styles of leadership and their effectiveness in producing results. This study found that there are six general styles of leadership that leaders can adopt depending on the situation.
The Coercive Style
The coercive style of leadership is characterized by leaders who demand immediate compliance from their subordinates. They are driven by achievement and self-control and believe in the mantra “Do what I tell you.” This style of leadership can be effective during a crisis or emergency when quick decisions are required, or when dealing with a problem employee who has failed to respond to other forms of leadership. However, this style is generally ineffective and can have a negative impact on morale, creativity, and the sense of ownership among subordinates.
The Authoritative Style
The authoritative style of leadership is characterized by leaders who mobilize people toward a vision. They are self-confident, empathetic, and want to drive change, and believe in the mantra “Come with me.” This style of leadership helps people understand the vision and how their work connects to it, creating clarity and establishing clear standards. An authoritative leader gives people freedom to innovate, experiment and make decisions to achieve the vision. This leadership style generally has a strong positive impact on culture and is most useful when a new vision or clear direction is needed.
The Affiliative Style
The affiliative style of leadership is characterized by leaders who create emotional bonds and harmony among their subordinates. They are communicators and relationship builders who value people above all else and believe in the mantra “People come first.” This style of leadership inspires fierce loyalty and drives teamwork, and is most effective when a team needs to be brought together. However, leaders who rely solely on this style can create an environment of mediocre standards, subpar performance, and a lack of direction and accountability.
The Democratic Style
The democratic style of leadership is characterized by leaders who build consensus among their subordinates. They are driven by collaboration and teamwork and believe in the mantra “What do you think?” This style of leadership builds buy-in, trust, and respect among subordinates and creates ownership as goals and plans are co-authored. However, this style can be inefficient and, at worst, drain a team. Use this style when a leader wants different ideas and perspectives, or when buy-in is essential, but know when to balance it with an authoritative style.
The Pacesetting Style
The pacesetting style of leadership is characterized by leaders who demand excellence from their subordinates. They are drivers with extremely high standards for performance and believe in the mantra “Do as I do.” While some “Type A” high-performers may thrive in this environment, this style of leadership crushes most people, and employees can feel overwhelmed by the demands and crippled by pressure. If you have a highly motivated team and need quick results, this style can be effective, but use it sparingly, and balance it with more positive styles.
The Coaching Style
The coaching style of leadership is characterized by leaders who develop people for the future. They are driven by learning and growth and believe in the mantra of personal development and continuous improvement. Coaching leaders have a positive impact on culture and excel at delegating. They give employees stretch goals and assignments and are patient with the short-term struggle in exchange for long-term excellence.