Why Does Leadership Style Matter?

Your leadership style is a combination of your personality, your life experiences, your communication style, your decision making preference, your level of emotional intelligence, and your overall perspective and way of thinking. Leadership style can be defined in numerous ways and the most simplistic and common definition refers to the manner in which an individual leads others.

Daniel Goleman’s Leadership That Gets Results, a Harvard Business Review three-year study, reviewed and analyzed over 3,000 middle-level managers. The goal was to uncover specific leadership behaviors and determine their effect on the corporate climate and bottom-line profitability.

The research discovered that a manager’s leadership style was responsible for 30% of the company’s bottom-line profitability.

Think about how hard you and your respective team work to shed costs and improve profitability for your organization? A tremendous amount of effort, time, and money is spent on process refinement, implementing new policies and procedures that yield little to no benefit on results and profitability. Throughout my 20+ years of working in the corporate world, I experienced this first hand and I now see this happening inside some of the organizations that I work with. Little to no time is invested in developing their leadership bench strength and it results in an upward battle to achieve results.

What is your leadership style? Do you understand the impact your style has on your performance and those around you? Individuals can exhibit a combination of styles but we all have a predominant style that is the most natural and comfortable manner in which we lead. Through self-awareness, you can learn to adapt and try new approaches as well as learn how to best leverage your predominant style.

Here are six leadership styles that Daniel Goleman uncovered in his study and a brief synopsis of the effects that each style has on an individual’s direct team and organization:

  1. The pacesetting leader expects and models excellence and self-direction. This style works best when the team is already motivated and skilled, and the leader needs quick results. Used extensively, however, this style can overwhelm team members and discourage innovation.
  2. The authoritative leader mobilizes the team toward a common vision and focuses on end goals, leaving the means up to each individual or team. This style works best when the team needs a new vision because circumstances have changed, or when explicit guidance is not required. Authoritative leaders inspire an entrepreneurial spirit and vibrant enthusiasm for the mission. An authoritative style will not be effective when the team is comprised of experts who have more expertise than their leader.
  3. The affiliative leader works to create emotional bonds that bring a feeling of bonding and belonging to the organization. This style works best in times of stress or when the team needs to rebuild trust. This style should not be used exclusively, because a sole reliance on praise and nurturing can foster mediocre performance and a lack of direction.
  4. The coaching leader develops people for the future. This style works best when the leader wants to help individuals and teams build lasting personal strengths that make them more successful overall. It is least effective when teams or individuals are defiant and unwilling to change or learn, or if the leader lacks proficiency.
  5. The coercive leader demands immediate compliance. This style is most effective in times of crisis, such as in a company turnaround or a takeover attempt, or during an actual emergency situation like a fire or mass customer impacting event. When this style is used outside of these circumstances it can alienate people and stifle flexibility and inventiveness.
  6. The democratic leader builds consensus through participation. This style is most effective when the leader needs the team to buy into or have ownership of a decision, plan, or goal, or if they are uncertain and need fresh ideas from their team. It is not the best style of choice in an emergency situation, when time is of the essence and decisions need to be made swiftly.

Leadership style matters far more than most organizations are willing to admit. Millions of dollars are spent annually on leadership assessments, tools and survey’s to help individual’s uncover their leadership style. What happens after analyzing the results is critical to helping leaders understand how to best leverage their strengths and opportunities in order to deliver exceptional performance.

Understanding your style and learning how to adjust based on circumstance will yield the following additional benefits:

  • Increase employee engagement and retention
  • Improve communication; teamwork, and collaboration
  • Enhance personal and team effectiveness
  • Position you as a strategic leader and an asset to the organization
  • Better equip you to develop other leaders

There are many other insights that support why leadership style matters and has a direct impact on the bottom line results for your business. Stay tuned for our series on how to best leverage your leadership style, improve your effectiveness, and get results for your organization.

What are your thoughts on why leadership style matters? Please share your ideas and experiences, we would love to hear from you.

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