Human Resources Management
The Six Leadership Styles

One of the greatest assets of an organization is that strong managers create an environment to encourage members and motivate their high energy (Taggart, 1989). Effective leadership has drawn great attention from organization management in recent years due to its contribution to organizations’ competitive advantage and sustainable profitability. Leadership is as a critical management skill in various organizations, which influences and motivates a group toward the achievement of organizational goals (Rafferty & Griffin 2004). Leadership must be differentiated from management. Some commentators propose the view that management function includes leadership, that it is possible to be a good manager without being a good leader. In contrast, other commentators argued that leadership is different form the “managership”. The difference is obvious, that the leader shows incremental influence beyond his or her authority, he or her will influence instead of purely performing planning, organising, and controlling activities. It is possible, therefore, for an individual to be a good manager without being an effective leader. There are some overlaps between leadership task and management task, and the distinction is not always clear, Davidson and Griffin (2006) summaries the differences between the roles are often difference of degree rather than of kind. “Managers and leaders differ in how they go about creating an agenda, developing a rationale for achieving the agenda and executing plans, and in the types of outcome they achieve”.

There are abundant books and articles on leadership styles and also ‘Leadership Experts’ who have made careers out of testing and coaching of leaders. At the end of it all, one may not be wiser still. The author Daniel Goleman – who is well known for his two books ‘Emotional Intelligence’ and ‘Working with Emotional Intelligence’ – in an article titled “Leadership That Get Results” in Harvard Business Review dated March-April 2000 attributes this reason for lack of quantitative research that demonstrates which precise leadership behavior yield which type of organizational results. He points out the research of consulting firm Hay/McBer on random sample of 3871 executives selected from a database of more than 20,000 executives worldwide which has demystified the effective leadership. The research found six distinct leadership styles, each springing different components of emotional intelligence. It offers a fine understanding of how six different styles affect which type of organizational performance and results. It also offers guidance how an effective leader switches between these styles seamlessly and also uses a combination of these styles depending on the business situation. As such, in the context of the effective leadership, we will discuss it in the following sections. The six distinctive styles of leadership are: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and lastly, coaching style.

The Coercive Style. Leader is one who demands immediate compliance to his dictates. His style is ‘Do What I Tell You’. He creates a reign of terror, bullying and demeaning his executives, roaring his displeasure at the slightest missteps in achieving the business goals. This style is the least effective, because of top-down decision making; it snuffs the ideas and the creativity from the bottom rung of employees. And, high-performing employees who are motivated by more than money, this style erode their performance. But it has its use. It can break failed business habits, shock people into new ways of working. And in turning around a company or when a hostile takeover is looming.

The Authoritative Style. Leader is a visionary; he motivates people by making clear to them how their work fits into a larger vision of the organization. This style maximizes commitment to the organization’s goals and strategy. By framing the individual tasks within a grand vision, this leader defines standards – giving performance feedback positive and negative – which revolves around that vision. This style works well in almost any business situation, particularly, when a business is adrift. But while working with a team of experts or peers, who are more, experienced than the authoritative leader, it gives an impression that the leader is being pompous and out-of-touch. If this leader becomes overbearing, he also undermines the egalitarian spirit of an effective team.

The Affiliative Style. Revolves around its people – its proponents value individuals and their emotions more than tasks and goals. The leader keeps his employees happy and creates harmony among them, which has positive effect on communication leading to sharing ideas, inspiration and building trust. Because of this style, flexibility also rises among employees giving employees freedom to do their job in the way they think is most effective. This leader gives ample positive feedback on their day-to-day efforts, which is all the more motivating. These leaders are natural relationship builders. This style should not be used alone. Its exclusive focus on praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected, employees may perceive that mediocrity is tolerated. If one uses this style in close conjunction with the authoritative style, he would have a potent combination.

The Democratic Style. Leader builds trust, respect and commitment by spending time, getting his people’s ideas and buy-in. By letting his employees themselves have a say in decisions that affect their goals and how they do their work, this leader drive up flexibility and responsibility. He also by listening to employees learns to what to do, to keep morale high. In this democratic set-up, his followers are realistic what can and cannot be accomplished. This approach is ideal when a leader is himself uncertain about the best direction to take and needs ideas and guidance. The drawback of this system is, it can lead to endless meetings where ideas are mulled over, consensus remains elusive, and the only visible result is more meetings, particularly when crucial decision have to be taken. In times such as this people end up confused and leaderless. This style also makes much less sense when employees are not competent or informed enough to offer sound advice.

The Pacesetting Style. Leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself. He is obsessive about doing things better and faster. He pinpoints poor performers and demands more from them. If they don’t raise to the occasion, they will be replaced who can. This destroys the organization climate, as employees feel overwhelmed by pacesetter’s demand for excellence and their morale drops. Guidelines for working may be clear in the leader’s head, but he/she does not state them clearly; he/she expects employees to know what to do. The pacesetter either gives no feedback on how people are doing or jumps in to take over when he/she thinks they’re lagging. And if the pacesetter leaves, his flock suddenly becomes directionless. This style should be sparingly used, and works best when all the employees are self-motivated professionals, highly competent and need little direction and coordination, like in R&D and legal firms.

The Coaching Style. Leader helps employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations, encouraging them to establish long-term development goals and help them to conceptualize a plan for attaining them. They give plenty of feedback and instruction. Coaching leaders excel at delegating, even if it meant the tasks would not be accomplished. Their prime motive is long-term learning of their followers. Although this style works best, it is seldom used, because many leaders don’t have time in this high-pressure economy for the slow and tedious work of teaching employees to grow. This style works well in many business situations and works particularly well when employees are already aware of their weaknesses and would like to improve their performance. In contrast, the coaching style makes little sense when employees, for whatever reason, are resistant to learning or changing their ways. The other danger of this style is when the leader lacks the expertise to help the employees to grow.


References, Bibliography and other Readings

Brech, E.F.L. & Aldrich, R.M. 1968, The Principles and Practice of Management, 2nd edn, Longmans, Green and Company Limited, London.


Certo, S.C. 2000, Modern Management: Diversity, Quality, Ethics, and the Global Environment, 8th edn, Prentice Hall, USA


Chapman, A. 2006, Adams’ equity theory, Viewed August 4, 2007, Available online:< >.


Hellriegel, D., Slocum, J. & Woodman, R.W. 1998, Organizational Behavior, 8th edn, South-Western College Publishing, USA.


House, R.J. & Mitchell, T.R. 1994, ‘Path-goal theory of leadership’, Journal of Contemporary Business, vol. 3, pp. 21-36.


Ivancevich, J.M. & Matteson, M.T. 1990, Organizational Behavior and Management, 2nd edn, Richard D. Irein, US.


Kotter, J 1990, A force for Change: How leadership differs from management, Free Press, New York.


Luthans 2005,Organizational Behavior, 10th edn, McGraw-Hill, Singapore.


Mitchell, T. R. 1988, People in Organizations: An Introduction to Organizational Behaviour in Australia, McGraw-Hill, Australia.


Rafferty, A. E. & Griffin, M. A. 2004, Dimensions of transformational leadership: Conceptual and empirical extensions, The Leadership Journal, Vol.15, No. 3, pp. 329–54.


Robbins, S. P. & Mukerji, D. 1990, Managing Organization: New Challenges & Perspectives, Prentice Hall, New Jersey.


Robbins, S. & Coulter, M. 2003, Management, Prentice Hall, USA.


Taggart, J. 1989, Motivation and Leadership: For Executive Members, Managers, Committee Chairs, Factsheet: Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, No.89-178.


Turknett, R. L. & Turknett, C. N. 2005, Decent People, Decent Company: How to Lead with Character in Work and in Life.


Yukl, G. 1994, Leadership in Organizations, 3rd edn, Prentice-Hall, New Jersey.

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