6 Leadership styles: When to use or avoid each

the 6 leadership styles

6 Leadership styles: When to use or avoid each

the 6 leadership stylesBackground:

Has anyone ever asked you what your leadership style is?  For a good leader, this is not a clear cut answer.  Many people seem to think that good leaders have their own, one specific style and while it’s true that each person exhibits their own unique manner in which they lead, the truth is that great leaders make use of more than one leadership style.

Research by Hay/McBer shows that the best leaders use a variety of leadership styles which affect the organizational climate.  These factors (flexibility, responsibility, standards, rewards, clarity and commitment) are affected to a greater or lesser extent depending on the leadership style used.  Since climate affects a third of all results, positive effects on it are powerful to the organization’s well-being.


The six leadership styles identified were the Coercive, Authoritative, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting and Coaching styles.  The coercive and pacesetting styles had negative overall effects on climate whereas the rest had a positive effect.

The table below describes the styles and provides some pointers on when to use or avoid the various styles.  Click on it to enlarge it.

6 Leadership styles table

Bottom line:

So what does all this mean?  In Daniel Goleman’s article of 2000, ‘Leadership that gets results’, he compares how a skilled leader will use the different leadership styles in the same way a golfer would use different clubs at his disposal depending on what the situation needs.  No one style is best all the time but instead, switching between styles as the situation requires proves to be the best strategy.

But what about authentic leadership?  How can one claim to be authentic if you’re chopping and changing who you are?  The simple answer is that you’re not changing who you are.  A skilled leader will always have a particular personality with which he goes about his business but must be attentive to when one approach might be better than another.

For Goleman’s full article on the six leadership styles, click here.

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