6 Leadership Styles And When You Should Use Them

Not only do the greatest teammates allow different leaders to consistently emerge based on their strengths, but also they realize that leadership can and should be situational, depending on the needs of the team. 

Sometimes a teammate needs a warm hug. Sometimes the team needs a visionary, a new style of coaching, someone to lead the way, or even, on occasion, a kick in the bike shorts. For that reason, great leaders choose their leadership style like a golfer chooses his or her club, with a calculated analysis of the matter at hand, the end goal, and the best tool for the job.

The pacesetting leader 

“Do as I do, now.”

Expects and models excellence and self-direction. 

Works best: When the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results.

 Cons: This style can overwhelm team members and squelch innovation.

The authoritative leader

“Come with me.”  

Mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual. 

Works best: When the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed or when explicit guidance is not required. 

Avoid: When the leader is working with a team of experts who know more than them.

The affiliative leader

“People come first.” 

Works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization.

Works best: When the team needs to rebuild trust or in times of stress.

Avoid: Using exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.

The coaching leader

“Try this.”

Develops people for the future.

Works best: When the leader wants to help teammates build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall.

Avoid: When teammates are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.

The coercive leader

“Do what I tell you.” 

Demands immediate compliance.

Works best: Most effective in times of crisis.

Avoid: Can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.

The democratic leader

“What do you think?”

Builds consensus through participation.

Works best: When the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal.

Avoid: It is not the best choice in an emergency situation.

Bottom line? 

If you take two cups of authoritative leadership, one cup of democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership, and a dash of pacesetting and coercive leadership “to taste,” and you lead based on need in a way that elevates and inspires your team, you’ve got an excellent recipe for long-term leadership success with every team in your life.

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