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Leadership Styles


Juliette Phillipson - 2024

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist and author known for his work on emotional intelligence, describes six distinct leadership styles, each arising from different components of emotional intelligence (Goleman, 2000).

These styles are:

Coercive Leadership: This style demands immediate compliance and is characterised by a "do what I tell you" approach. It's effective in a crisis or with problem employees but can stifle innovation and reduce team morale.

Authoritative Leadership: Visionary leaders who mobilise people toward a common goal. This style works best when a clear direction or change is needed. It motivates people by making clear how their work fits into a larger vision.

Affiliative Leadership: This style promotes harmony and builds emotional bonds by focusing on people, their needs, and their emotions. It's particularly effective for healing rifts in a team or motivating people during stressful circumstances.

Democratic Leadership: This style seeks consensus through participation, valuing input from team members and fostering a sense of commitment and cooperation. It is particularly effective in getting buy-in or when the leader is unsure and needs ideas from valuable team members.

Pacesetting Leadership: The leader sets high standards for performance and exemplifies them himself. They expect excellence and self-direction and can quickly get results from a highly motivated and competent team. However, it can overwhelm team members and sap morale.

Coaching Leadership: This style focuses on personal development rather than immediate work-related tasks. It’s effective in helping employees improve their strengths and develop their performance by providing a lot of feedback and encouragement.

Effect on workplace climate

In his research, Goleman was able to investigate how the different leadership styles affected climate/atmosphere in the workplace, which he found to be directly correlated with business performance.

Both pacesetting and coercive leadership styles had an overall negative effect on climate. Coercive leadership because it relies on fear of repercussions, which can stifle innovation and make employees feel that they are not trusted to make their own decisions. Pacesetting leadership because the high standards and fast pace can lead to burnout and decrease morale if employees feel they are never able to meet expectations. Goleman recommended caution in using either of these styles in isolation.

The remaining four leadership styles (authoritative, affiliative, democratic and coaching) had an overall positive effect on climate, with authoritative leadership being the most strongly positive. These styles had beneficial effects through various avenues such as mobilising people towards a common vision, valuing emotions, increasing morale, fostering respect, increasing trust and showing commitment towards personal development.

Goleman emphasises that the most effective leaders are those who master multiple styles and switch between them as needed, adapting their leadership style to the demands of the situation as well as to the state of their team and its individuals. He comments that few leaders have a good grasp on all six styles, but recommends that leaders work on expanding their style repertoirs by focusing on developing the underlying emotional intellligence competencies.


Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, 78–90.

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