A great leader isn't just skilled in their practical role, but is capable of inspiring growth in their followers. They are the foundation of any kind of business success, from the executive level downwards, and they are the drivers of your culture too.
However, some effective leadership styles support a winning culture more than others. Here are a few of them, and how you can encourage them among your employees:
The top four leadership styles
According to psychologist and author Daniel Goleman, there are six leadership styles that yield positive results. These are: coercive, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, pacesetter and coaching. Of these, coercive and pacesetter are the least effective, and if used the wrong way can actually cause more harm than good, so we won’t discuss them here.
The Authoritative King
Authoritative leaders are mobilisers. They inspire and unite others towards a vision. They are excellent and persuasive communicators. The best example is none other than Martin Luther King Jr. and his famous “I Have A Dream” speech that not only united the US to support the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but has since inspired people around the world to strive for greater equality.
The authoritative leader is an excellent style to call upon if your company needs to share its vision or new Big Hairy Audacious Goal. To develop this style in your workplace, find staff who are adaptable, confident, value-driven and an active part of your company’s community. Giving them opportunities to network and speak publicly (i.e. through presentations, lecturing, interviewing), will serve to further build their skills.
“On of the most important tasks a leader can do to contribute to a company is to provide a vision and to plan ahead,” says Dan Gawn, a business strategist and high performance leadership coach at Advisory.Works.
“It’s what everyone is looking for in a leader; the ability to provide clarity for the future so they can get on with the day-to-day.”
Affiliative leaders strive to create emotional bonds and harmony. They are good at building relationships, motivating others, and establishing trust and loyalty. They are are also quick to praise others, and are adept at conflict resolution. As Daniel Goleman describes, they are the “people come first” leaders.
Starbucks ex-CEO, Howard Scultz, is a prime affiliative leader candidate. Under his leadership all US Starbucks employees (or partners as he prefers), are given opportunities for free college tuition, health coverage, and stock purchase options. It is an exemplar form of a “people first” philosophy.
Get a glimpse of Starbucks’ culture under Scultz’s leadership: Working at Starbucks
“A leader has to build trust,” says Dan. “To do that they should have at least monthly one-on-ones with their staff, not to micromanage, but to make sure their staff have the resources and support they need to do their job.”
If you find you have an affiliate in your midst, consider letting them lead collaborative projects and running team building activities.
Democratic leaders build culture through participation. They are excellent facilitators, team builders, problem solvers and tend to be engaged listeners. Since this style of leadership encourages all ideas to be heard, it is well-suited to creative environments.
Warren Buffett, chairman of Berkshire Hathaway and one of the world’s most successful investors, is famed for his hands-off democratic approach. His often-repeated motto, “Hire well, manage little,” reveals the high level of trust and autonomy he gives his employees. All up, it encourages them to make decisions as if they were owners themselves.
To develop staff who show potential for this style, give them the tools, resources and support they need to do their work. Encourage them to take ownership of projects, or assign them to investigate and solve problems as they arise in your business.
Coaching leaders excel at mentoring others and develop people for the future. They work with their employees to find their strengths and weaknesses, and create development plans to aid their growth. They are natural goal setters and expert delegators, often assigning challenging tasks to employees to hone their skills.
In the corporate world, Steve Jobs was, despite being famous for using the authoritative leadership style, also known for putting on the coaching leader hat from time to time. One of his most well-known mentees was with Facebook CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, whom Jobs helped in the early days of the social platform’s growth.
“There’s a saying that a customer's experience is never better than employee’s experience. By upskilling and coaching your staff you form a team that is happier, and this flows through to the service they present to the customer,” says Dan.
Coaching leaders thrive in a feedback culture, so set up ways for your staff to give and receive feedback.
One parting note
The best leaders don’t limit themselves to one style—and you shouldn’t either. On the same score, don’t try to be all of them at once. Choose a few that compliment your personal style and your company, and go from there.
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