Understanding the impact of Goleman’s 6 Leadership Styles on culture

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The 6 Emotional Intelligence (EI) leadership styles

According to Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee (Primal Leadership) there are 6 different leadership styles we need to be aware of. The book shares the premise that it is not IQ or skills that make a truly great leader but a high level of emotional intelligence. The 6 leadership approaches comprise of four resonant (visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic) and two dissonant (pacesetting and commanding) styles.6 EI leadership styles Infographic

We each have our own natural style, but depending on the context it can be good to alternate between these different approaches to achieve our goals. It is also important to recognise that each approach has an impact on the culture of the organisation. 

Impact of 6 leadership styles on culture

Resonant (helps build a positive culture):

A Visionary Leadership style

A visionary leader moves their team towards a shared vision. It’s not just about how they need to get there, but about getting the team to understand where we want to go and why. According to Goleman et al (2002) this style is best when a new direction is needed.  This style encourages autonomy, innovation and experimenting to achieve the goal. Employees are encouraged to try new things that will help move you forward and failures are something you learn from. The authors claim this style has the highest positive impact on company culture.

The Coaching Leadership approach

This style is all about coaching employees to increase competence and confidence, helping them get better at what they do. However, this leadership style can backfire if the coaching is badly managed as it can be seen as micromanaging. To avoid micromanaging it is essential to ensure employees understands that they are able to direct the one-on-one sessions, enabling them to focus on opportunities to develop as well as their weaknesses. The Primal Leaderships authors maintain that this approach can have a significant positive impact on your culture when used effective. This approach is most impactful when we use it to help our teammates build personal strengths that make them more successful over time. It is least effective with defiant teams that are unwilling to change or learn, or when we lack coaching skills.

The Affiliative Leader

This type of leader acts as an connector – building relationships throughout the organisation. This approach aims to help employees manage disagreements, developing a more harmonious workplace where everyone knows and works well with each other. When trust is broken in an organisation then, according to the authors, this leadership style is ideal for helping to fix it. This style can be summed up in the phrase “People come first.” This approach works best in times of distress, when the organisation needs to heal from a trauma, or when teams needs to rebuild trust. Warning: using this approach exclusively can encourage mediocre performance and a lack of direction.

The Democratic Leadership approach

A democratic approach is about creating buy-in towards a specific result. This approach is best used when you want to use the wisdom of the crowd to help you make better decisions and drive engagement. However, this is often not be the best approach for time-sensitive decisions. Getting buy-in can be a powerful way to engage team members, but where a decision is sensitive leaders may need to confidently make the decisions for the team. The Primal Leadership authors maintain this style has a positive impact on culture.

Dissonant leadership styles (contributes to culture breakdown):

The Pacesetter 

A pacesetting leader sets a demanding pace for their team. They set goals and often expect the team to reach those goals no matter what. Beware: a results at all costs approach can lead to short cuts and unethical behaviour. These leaders demand a lot from their teams, tend to offer very little or no guidance, and may expect their teams to know it all already. The authors conclude that this style often has a negative impact on culture. This approach is most effective when your team is already motivated and skilled, and quick results are needed. Overuse if this style can squash innovation and overwhelm team members.

The Commanding leadership style

This style uses fear to lead. Unfortunately this style is still common in many organisations, even the author’s data demonstrates it is the least effective approach. These leaders can come across as cold or emotionless. This style tends to use criticism instead of praise to drive compliance. This type of leader demands immediate compliance. This style is most effective in a time of crisis such as in a takeover attempt, or during a catastrophic emergency like an earthquake or a fire. However, except in the case of an emergency this approach should be avoided as it leads to alienation and stifles collaboration and innovation.

Goleman's 6 leadership styles explained

Which leadership styles do you use?

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Richard Riche

Engagement and communication specialist at One Clear Message
Richard specialises in helping you build real human communication skills.TED style speaking and presentation skills, Emotional Intelligence skills, Employee Engagement/Experience, building high performance teams and a great place you want to work. One Clear Message offers training, consulting and coaching.
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