6 Leadership Styles That Will Make or Break Your Business

“Management is doing things right; Leadership is doing the right things” – Peter Drucker

 All business professionals are leaders.  We lead in our business, with our clients, in the community, and certainly for our families. Many believe that leadership is an innate trait, a soft skill that we either have or we don’t.

Yet science tells us that leadership can be taught, it can be learned and it can be improved.    

 As business professionals, our leadership style can have a profound impact on our ability to build our brands, generate revenue, and live the kind of lives we want.   

Therefore it is important that we dedicate some time to understanding different leadership styles and their impact on the climate around us.

 In my travels as a coach, consultant, and professor of leadership I found an excellent study on just this question that makes the academic concepts easy to understand and apply in everyday life.  

These are the main ideas reported by researcher Daniel Goleman’s  Harvard Business Review article identifying identified six distinct leadership styles and the correlation to organizational climate as an indicator of performance.

  • Coercive leadership is the “Do what I tell you – Now!”.  The focus is on immediate compliance.  It can be useful in a crisis, to start a turnaround, or with problem employees.   It can also create passive-aggressive behavior, spur rebellion, demotivate high performers, and kill creativity.
  • Authoritative leadership is the  “Come with me!” approach.  It can motivate people towards a solution, gives leeway on how to achieve a result, and allows freedom to innovate.   Yet in high-performing teams of equals, there may be a negative impact, and overuse of this style can become overbearing.
  • Affiliative leadership focuses on people first.  It can create harmony and emotional bonds with the leaders.  It is focused on communication, team building, and creating loyalty.  This style is helpful for repairing broken trust, increasing morale, and improving communication.  There is the risk with this approach because the team must figure out their own approach in the absence of clear direction and the focus on praise can allow poor performance.
  • Democratic leadership, as you may expect, is characterized by “What do you think?” It helps forge consensus through participation, improves morale, and fosters creativity.  Yet it can result in endless meetings and discussions without results, delay decision making and result in underperforming teams.
  • Pacesetting leadership can be captured with the phrase “Do as I do, Now”. This leader sets high-performance standards, drives people to achieve, and leads by example with a “keep up with me” ethos. This style can foster continuous improvement and get results.  Yet employees can feel overwhelmed by the pace or unclear standards.  Used to an extreme it can lower trust, undermine responsibility and reduce flexibility.
  • Coaching leadership style allows people to “try this”.  It is focused on the long-term development of people for the future, provides instruction and feedback and room for people to fail.   This style of leadership takes significant extra time, effort, and expertise.  It teaches teams to communicate, lead themselves and rise to the challenge.

As you’ve read these descriptions you’ve probably been thinking about which style you are, or perhaps the style used by others in your firm.  You may even have thought that you use a variety or combination of these styles in your day-to-day leadership.   And you would be right.  

Different situations require different styles of leadership – and the best leaders understand when and how to use each style. Yet even the best leaders have a “default” preference – it is the style they revert to when under pressure and the one they are most comfortable with.

Your leadership style drives the culture in your business. And the culture in your business has a direct impact on how you and your staff operate. It affects everything, from hiring and retention to productivity, profitability, client retention, and referrals.

Your Business Is A Reflection Of Your Leadership Style

The style you use, and the style you choose mean everything to your Business. 

You can leave it to your default, or to chance.  Or you can take control.

Knowledge is power. Let’s go.

As you might expect, the coercive style has the most negative impact on climate.  

What I didn’t expect was that the pacesetting style is a close second to coercive for the most negative impact on climate.

The two most positive correlations were authoritative and affiliative, while democratic and coaching were at the mid-point.

The message here is that we, as leaders, must be conscious of the leadership styles we apply to any given situation.  

We must be mindful of our default style and over-using any one style with a given team or situation.   

We must recognize that our own perception of our style may not match the perception of those we lead.   

The first step is always to figure out where you are right now – from a place of curiosity and learning – not judgment.

Taking Action – Making Change

The most effective way to learn how to adapt your leadership style and tactics to the situation is to have a guide at your side. 

That’s the work I do with my clients: helping them see what is happening, what is possible and then making it happen.

If you are really serious about building the business you’ve always wanted – and living the life you deserve then you are ready for the right coach. So email me and let’s talk. 

Along the way, you’ll learn what coaching is right – and whether we’d be a fit.