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What Kind of Leader Are You? And What Type Should You Be? 


As a leader, your only job is to get results. However, it’s easier said than done, with many leaders unsure of exactly how to attain these results. The key question they should be asking themselves, is not what style of leadership suits their personality the most, but which style addresses the demands of a particular situation.

A consulting firm called Hay/McBer drew on a random sample of 3,871 executives selected from a database of more than 20,000 executives worldwide to take the mystery out of what effective leadership is, and came to the conclusion that there are six leadership styles to draw from.

Very few leaders have all six styles in their repertoire, and even fewer know when and how to use them, but as the business environment is continually changing, a good leader must learn to respond quickly, and be present all the time. It is through different leadership styles that they will be able to do that.

1. Coercive Leadership

The first type of leadership to point out is the most aggressive one: Coercive Leadership demands immediate compliance to the tasks administered. Even if for the short-term it is effective, as it sends a direct and clear message, it is known to be the most aggressive effective style, as it offers no flexibility and thus leaves employees feeling shot down, with no space for their ideas or opinions.

Furthermore, it is important to note that when a leader is so over-powering, taking care of everything the way they want it, employees often lose a sense of responsibility for their own work. It is also undermining in the long-term for the leader’s tools.

The most important tools for strategic leadership surround emotional intelligence. Vibrant enthusiasm and a clear vision are signs of emotional intelligence, as well as self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and social skills.

The biggest problem with coercive leaders, is that they don’t use these tools for good leadership, and this creates an irreparable void on their style. As they are so strict with their rules, they don’t give enough space to motivate people and show them that they can build a shared mission together as equals.

2. Authoritative Leadership

The other five kinds of leadership involve the use of emotional intelligence as their tools. Authoritative leaders are the most effective, clear, and visionary. With the use of emotional intelligence, they motivate and maximise commitment to the organisation’s goals and strategies. They ensure their employees feel heard and are treated inclusively within the vision of the company.

3. Affiliative Leadership

The third type of leadership style is Affiliative. Such leaders create emotional bonds and harmonious connections with employees. It’s all about them, valuing them and their emotions, more than their tasks and goals. The main trait of this type of leader is their delivery of positive feedback. Leaders tend to only give out negative feedback, and not reward employees with recognition of their work. As positive as Affiliative leadership may seem by contrast, it should not be exercised alone.

Valuing emotions over tasks and goals in the workplace seems after all counterproductive. An authoritative type of leadership used in conjunction would compensate for this lack of efficiency, by promoting an enthusiastic vision of the company, as well as creating standards for employees to thrive and be motivated in their work.

4. Democratic Leadership

The fourth type of leadership figured out by the consulting firm is Democratic Leadership. This type builds consensus through participation. Once again, like the Affiliative, it is very people focused. Incorporating people’s ideas into company projects and goals is very empowering for the employee, as it makes them feel part of something bigger than themselves, and it drives them to work harder and better.

It does, however, have a big downside. Such a democracy can escalate into conflicts easily, as leaders are unable to take a definitive stance on crucial decisions. Furthermore, for this type of leadership to be effective, a very specific group of people are needed. They need to be confident in their ideas, educated in the area and organised enough to push the company forward, without stigmatising it. It is for this reason as well that democratic leadership must be combined with another long-term leadership style, such as Authoritative.

5. Pacesetting Leadership

The fifth style is defined as Pacesetting Leadership. This style expects excellence and self-direction. It is so strict that flexibility and responsibility evaporate. Just like for the coercive style, work becomes so task focused and routinised that it becomes boring. This style also targets a certain category of people: all the employees must be self-motivated, as they are not getting that motivation from their leader, as well as highly competent and in need of little direction or coordination.

This style of leadership is great for producing quick results from a highly motivated and competent team – but that’s the extent of it. Such high expectancies and demand over a group is detrimental in the long-term as it soon becomes exhaustive, and this reflects on the work.

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6. Coaching Leadership

The final style of leadership to note is the Coaching style. It prepares employees for the future, encouraging them to establish long-term development goals and helping them to conceptualise a plan for attaining them, within or out of the company itself. This style is used the least often as it is focused on personal development, not on immediate work-related situations, it is thus necessary for it be used in addition to the other styles of leadership mentioned above.

Furthermore, just like the other people-focused types of leadership, employees must be very motivated themselves, and willing to learn and change their ways, as they don’t have as much leader guidance.

To find out which style of leadership is the most appropriate, one must look at their group of employees and identify their dynamics; as said before, your style does not depend on you, but on the others.

It is evident that the organisational climate of the leader is not the only driver in the performance of a company, there are the economic conditions as well as the competitive dynamics. Nonetheless, leadership gets results like no other.

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