Types and Styles of Leadership


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Briefly About the Types of Leadership

Every leader has his/her own leadership style. Some take over a team with floundering morale and turn it around to become a very effective team. Some manage to do just the opposite. In this essay, I will be exploring about various leadership styles, how each affects teams, and in what situations they are effective or ineffective.

ADP 6-22 only briefly outlines two types of leadership, which are informal and collective leadership. To explore more deeply on different leadership styles, I researched Daniel Goleman’s article. He is a psychologist, an author, and a science journalist on brain and behavioral sciences. According to Goleman, there are six distinct different style of leadership from research by Hay/McBer:

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“… new research by the consulting firm Hay/McBer, which draws on a random sample of 3,871 executives selected from a database of more than 20,000 executives worldwide… …research found six distinct leadership styles, each springing from different components of emotional intelligence..”

The six styles are coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching. Goleman also emphasizes that learning multiple styles and utilizing them depending on the situation and the members is very important. You can also combine multiple styles in the same situation.

Coercive style, or commanding style, is so called “Do it my way” style. Leader with this style has his/her own way of doing things and imposes it on others. It also gives off a strong micromanaging impression, and therefore, it can lower motivation and flexibility. It is not very effective in comparison with other styles, but it has potential to turn a team around from a crisis or with a problematic member. Overall, it is not favorable in many situations.

Some disadvantages and advantages of types

Authoritative style, though it may sound unfavorable, is actually the most effective according to the research. Goleman also labels it a “visionary style” for the following reason. Such leader decides the common goal for the team. He set the vision for the team, but the team members are free to use whatever the means to achieve that goal. Therefore, it promotes critical thinking and brings positive environment with in the team. Goleman states that this style will be less effective when the leader displays this style excessively to a team that has members who are more competent than the leader because it can allow the leader to seem very pretentious.

Next is affiliative style. This type of leadership sees benefit from prioritizing people’s emotions to build harmony and morale. Therefore, it leads to more communication between teammates and is effective when trying to rebuild trust. However, the drawback is, it can allow mediocre performance to go unnoticed or uncorrected. Heavily relying on this style can in fact, lead the team to failure. As mentioned above, you can complement any drawbacks by combining it with another style.

Democratic style is in its name. It encourages team members to participate and generate new ideas to build consensus. Giving each member a chance to voice his/her opinion in decision making promotes sense of belonging and that their participation matters. Downfall to this style is that it can create endless meetings and sometimes too much sharing of ideas can cause the team to steer away from established course, blinding them from the goal they are trying to achieve. However, it still stands out to be a very positive style overall among Goleman’s six styles.

Pacesetting style is where the leader sets high standards and goals and expects to keep up with little guidance. It is not effective in many situations like coercive style because it make some member to feel overwhelmed due to high demand. It can flounder flexibility and responsibility within the team as well. It’s only effective when the team has highly motivated and competent followers who need little guide.

Last but not least is coaching style. It is also one of the most effective styles. Here, the leader behaves more like a counselor by focusing more on members’ personal development. You help soldiers set their long-term goals and give many feedbacks. It also encourages risking short-term failures if it brings long-term improvements. Though this style focuses more on members’ welfare and seems to overlook work related tasks, if you accompany it with other styles, it has very strong potential. However, Goleman states that many leaders us this style least often. Not necessarily because it is ineffective, but because they feel this is time consuming and tedious.


One drawback is that it is ineffective for people who do not want to learn new ways of doing things.

There are many more styles of course, and many ways of categorizing as well. The six styles mentioned above are the distinctive style that spring out from the research that consulting firm Hay/McBer conducted. The more style you learn and the better sense you develop in choosing the right style, the more consistent and effective leader you will be. Some leaders may think they have to stick with one leadership style rather than taking multiple forms, but it is not something intrinsically linked with personality. That is, you can learn and practice different kinds of styles, and choose or mix them strategically. According to Goleman (2000), successful leaders let particular members or situation dictate their leadership style, and he makes an analogy as such:

“Imagine the styles, then, as the array of clubs in a golf pro’s bag. Over the course of a game, the pro picks and chooses clubs based on the demands of the shot. Sometimes he has to ponder his selection, but usually it is automatic. The pro senses the challenge ahead, swiftly pulls out the right tool, and elegantly puts it to work. That’s how high-impact leaders operate, too.”

He also states that if you lack in any of those, you can delegate your powers to others within your team who have different leadership styles. Howard W.C. also makes the same point that utilizing multiple styles is common among successful leaders.

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