June 2000

Follow the Leader


Every manager has his or her own method of managing. Most of the time, our style of leadership is determined by how we, as managers, feel most comfortable; it develops without any active decisions on our part. As a result, management is very uneven. We all know very competent managers as well as incompetent managers. Daniel Goldman, in his article, “Leadership that Gets Results,” in the March-April 2000 issue of the Harvard Business Review discusses leadership styles. He describes six basic styles.

Coercive Leadership: Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance to their orders. Their message is, “Do what I tell you.” These managers want to achieve initiative and control.

The coercive style has its place in emergency situations, where quick action is necessary or in dealing with very difficult employees. However, it should be used sparingly because it tends to defeat self-confidence and initiative among team members.

Authoritative Leadership: Authoritative leaders move to mobilize people toward a vision. Their actions say, “Come with me.” The authoritative manager wants to promote self-confidence and empathy among their teams.

The authoritative style motivates team members by making clear to them how their work fits into the larger vision for the organization. This understanding maximizes commitment to the organization’s goals. The authoritative style may not work well when the manager is less experienced or less technically competent than some members of the team.

Affiliative Leadership: Affiliative leaders promote harmony and build emotional bonds among the staff. They say, “People come first.” Affiliative leaders try to heal rifts inside a team and to motivate people during stressful circumstances.

The affiliative style promotes team harmony, increased morale, and improved communication. However, this style can lead to poor performance, particularly if mediocrity is tolerated. Ultimately, this tolerance may lead to loss of morale.

Democratic Leadership: Democratic leaders forge consensus through participation of team members. They ask, “What do you think?” Democratic leaders believe in collaboration, team leadership, and communication.

The democratic style builds respect by considering the opinions of all of the team members. It works well when the team is highly motivated. A drawback to this style is that it may lead to endless meetings and conflict between members of the team. It will not work if the team members are inexperienced or incompetent.

Pacesetting Leadership: Pacesetting leaders expect their teams to follow the same high standards for performance that they set for themselves. Their message is, “Do as I do.” They expect the team to be conscientious, have the drive to achieve, and have the same initiative that they do.

The pacesetting style works best when team members are self-motivated and highly competent. The pacesetter frequently gives no feedback on how well team members are doing. Sometimes the expectations of pacesetting leaders are too high to be attainable by team members.

Coaching Leadership: Coaching leaders develop people for the future. They try to develop team members, improve performance, and develop long-term strengths. Coaching leaders say, “Try this.”

The coaching style focuses on personal development and works best for highly motivated employees. Because the focus is on development and not on immediate work-related tasks, this leadership style can be too slow to respond to some situations.

Goldman feels that all of these styles have a place in leadership. The best leaders use a variety of styles, depending on the specific leadership need. Goldman feels that all styles have a place in management. However, coercive and pacesetting leadership have negative effects on team morale. The most positive form of leadership in terms of morale is authoritative.

Goldman offers a variety of case studies to illustrate these leadership styles; we recommend that you read the article to fully understand them. CIDMIconNewsletter