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Goleman Leadership Styles – What’s Your Style?

Goleman Leadership Styles – What’s Your Style?

Goleman Leadership Styles – What’s Your Style?

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Psychological models help us to better understand people and their interactions with others, and so do styles of leadership. Over the years, leadership styles have been researched in order to understand which ones are beneficial for organizations. Spoiler alert: there is no “one style fits all” among leadership styles. One of the key traits of a leader is emotional intelligence – knowing when to use which style. This article explains the six leadership styles defined by psychologist Daniel Goleman, how to find those traits in people, and when those styles are most or least suitable.

Goleman’s six leadership styles include the authoritative leadership style, which is effective in driving toward a common goal and provides clear direction, making it particularly useful during times of change or when a new vision is needed. The affiliative style focuses on creating emotional bonds and harmony within a team, fostering a positive work environment that can enhance collaboration and trust.

The democratic style involves the participation of team members in the decision-making process, promoting a sense of ownership and engagement. Commanding leaders, also known as coercive leaders, often use a top-down approach, which can be effective in crisis situations but may stifle creativity and morale if overused.

Understanding the competencies required for each style and knowing when to apply them are crucial for effective leaders. Emotional intelligence enables leaders to assess situations and adapt their approach accordingly, ensuring that they can inspire and manage their teams effectively. Each leadership style has its place, and the key to success lies in recognizing when to employ each one for the best results.

What Are the Benefits of Good Leadership?

Leaders guide team members toward a vision, provide an action plan, and keep up the team spirit. When done right, good leadership can unlock the team’s full potential and help the team achieve its goals. This has an effect on your company’s overall performance. Here are some benefits of good leadership.

Align Employees

Having a vision in place is crucial in any company. Leaders are the people who implement that vision and assure your team is working towards those goals. A good leader always has an overview of where the company currently stands and what needs to be changed to get back on track.

Increase Productivity

Leaders are masters in emotional intelligence. They know their team members well and understand not only how to deal with them but also how to unlock their full potential. In good leadership, goals are communicated in a way that makes people feel part of the company’s journey while achieving the necessary productivity levels.

Improve Employee Engagement

To be successful in the long term, a leader must keep the team together and maintain employee engagement. A good leader manages to create a space in which every single team member feels comfortable, is valued, and enjoys working together. That’s the kind of environment that makes people want to stay.

Which Roles Require Leadership Skills?

Effective leadership is the key to increasing employee satisfaction, retaining employees, and boosting productivity. However, there are many ways of doing this. Think about the leaders that inspire you. You will notice that every leader has a different way of motivating people, managing teams, and reaching goals. While not everyone is a born leader, everybody can learn leadership skills. In fact, you don’t even have to be in a leadership role within your organization to acquire leadership skills. Training leaders in your company can boost an individual’s personal development, improve teamwork, and enhance the overall working environment.

Why Use Leadership Styles?

One of the greatest misconceptions about leadership styles is that people need to acquire a single leadership style. It’s about being a leader in different situations. Leadership styles have been researched in recent years and can help you understand how you think, make decisions, and treat people.

One model that has been widely used to describe different leadership approaches is Daniel Goleman’s theory of emotional leadership styles, which is based on the theory of emotional intelligence.

What Is Emotional Intelligence?

Before we start diving into each of the leadership styles, let’s talk about emotional intelligence (or EQ for short). Daniel Goleman has done extensive research on EQ and based his leadership styles on it. So what is emotional intelligence? It is a skill that can help any person and is essential for leaders. Daniel Goleman’s leadership styles are situational, which means you might use a different style depending on the situation you are in. It takes some emotional intelligence to be able to do that. So let’s dive right in.

The four pillars of emotional intelligence are self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, and relationship management.


Self-awareness is about understanding your own strengths, weaknesses, motivations, values, and emotions. People who master this usually have a good feel for how their behavior is perceived by others. It’s for sure not about being perfect in every situation but rather about realizing which actions might be ego-driven, when a certain behavior is inappropriate, and when mistakes are made. Reflection can be a good practice for mastering self-awareness.

What Are Examples of Self-Awareness?

  • Knowing about one’s emotional triggers
  • Being aware of bad habits
  • Acknowledging negative emotions


Self-management is about understanding one’s inner self and what is needed in different situations. Typically, a person who is prone to outbursts in a heated conversation is not very good at managing their own emotions. This skill is about knowing when to take a break and when to push further.

It is also about understanding a situation and adapting emotionally, depending on what is needed in that specific moment. In some situations, it might be appropriate to spread optimism and positivity while in other situations it can be more authentic to talk about what emotions are in the room. In order to handle this, you need to be good at assessing external factors and matching them with what’s going on in the inner self.

What Are Examples of Self-Management?

  • Being able to stay focused and confident even when feeling anxious
  • Sharing information in the right way and at the right time
  • Setting boundaries for a healthy work-life balance, such as not being available at certain times

Social Awareness

Social awareness is about understanding the feelings of the people around us, understanding how they perceive things, and noticing how they interact with one another. This also means understanding the setting within a group, such as relationships and hierarchies. Only when social settings are well understood can you adapt accordingly.

What Are Examples of Social Awareness?

  • Seeking or offering support and help when needed
  • Resisting negative social pressure
  • Sharing thoughts and feelings appropriately

Relationship Management

Relationship management is about creating a space for people to communicate well with one another, make connections, and grow together. You might have realized that there are people for whom everything always runs smoothly and there don’t seem to be any conflicts at all. This is often the case when leaders know very well how to steer a conversation in the right direction. This is a skill about figuring out situations and people and being able to influence individuals as well as whole groups.

What Are Examples of Relationship Management?

  • The ability to make everyone in the team feel valued
  • Being able to resolve conflicts in a team
  • The skill to meet multiple stakeholders’ expectations

As you can probably tell, these four skills are connected and even depend on each other. Without self-awareness and social awareness, you will have a hard time assessing the needs of the people in the room. With self-management and relationship management, you can start moving things, bring people together, and steer everyone toward reaching goals. Developing emotional intelligence should be a focus of any leader in order to know when to use which leadership style.

The 6 Goleman Leadership Styles

In 2002, psychologist Daniel Goleman and his co-authors Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee created a model of six leadership styles in their book Primal Leadership. Each style affects people differently on an emotional level and has its strengths and weaknesses in different situations. Four of these styles (Authoritative, Coaching, Affiliative, and Democratic) promote harmony and positive outcomes, while two styles (Coercive and Pacesetting) can create tension and should only be used in specific situations. Choosing the right style to use depends on the situation and the person.

The six leadership styles are Coercive Leadership, Visionary Leadership, Affiliative Leadership, Democratic Leadership, Pacesetting Leadership, and Coaching Leadership.

1. The Coercive Leadership Style

A coercive leader is the best when steering a company out of challenging times. This is an authoritarian leadership style, where the power lies with the leader who makes the decisions and usually doesn’t entertain any suggestions or initiative from their team. This authoritative leader takes charge in a crisis situation, gives orders, and presents their plan to the people.

Usually, there is no room for debates, and that’s why this style is to be used with care. In the long term, this leadership style can become very demotivating, leading to a decrease in employee productivity or in the worst case even leaving the team.

However, this style may be used in the short term. It is ideal to work effectively in high-pressure situations, manage crises, find solutions urgently, and make good decisions under pressure.

Coercive leaders have a clear plan and give clear directions, which can calm down people in a crisis. People usually know exactly what to do, follow commands, and can complete tasks very efficiently.
This leadership style is not ideal for day-to-day situations. It can have a negative effect on the employee’s motivation and sense of belonging as they have no say.
The coercive leader takes charge in a crisis situation, gives orders, and presents their plan to the people.

2. The Visionary Leadership Style

A visionary leader has a goal in mind and is very good at communicating what the team should be aiming to achieve. How to get there is up to the team members. The leader takes on a supporting and motivating role and acts as a kind of cheerleader on the way there. This type of leader has the big picture in mind, is able to share this with employees, and knows how to unlock the team’s full potential.

While keeping the big picture in mind, visionary leaders create a positive work environment that encourages creativity and productivity.
When embodying extreme forms of the character traits of visionary leadership styles, these leaders often have very high standards for a team while struggling to delegate effectively. This can lead to a frustrated team.
The visionary leader has the big picture in mind, is able to share this with employees, and knows how to unlock the team’s full potential.

3. The Affiliative Leadership Style

The affiliative leader promotes harmony and focuses on emotions. In times of tension, conflict, or mistrust, this type of leader can bring your team back together. This style invites people to open up and share their thoughts and emotions.

Following this style creates a basis of trust, ideal for crisis management, team building, creative tasks, and innovation.
People with traits of an affiliate leader often have trouble putting their foot down. It can be challenging to speak their mind, give solid feedback, and make tough decisions while still wanting to make every single team member happy.
The affiliative leader invites people to open up and share their thoughts and emotions.

4. The Democratic Leadership Style

The democratic leader shares power equally with team members. It’s about collaborating and finding a solution together. In this role, the leader acts as a facilitator and gives the floor to the team members, while sitting back, listening, and reaching a consensus within the team.

The democratic leadership style makes people feel involved, motivates employees, and increases employee engagement.
Democracy takes time, so this style is not very effective in situations where fast moves are required. Also, the leader has to be able to handle situations where team members don’t agree on one solution.
The democratic leader acts as a facilitator and gives the floor to the team members, while sitting back, listening, and reaching a consensus within the team.

5. The Pacesetting Leadership Style

The pacesetting leader knows how to drive performance and reach goals. This style is about holding people up to their performance in order to work efficiently. Assigning tasks and setting a timeline are typical traits of a pacesetting leader.

The pacesetting leadership style can be very efficient when goals need to be reached quickly. Measuring an individual’s performance can be motivating for some people.
Maintaining this leadership style over a long period of time can be tiring and stressful and might even lead to employee burnout. Also, poor performers are often left out.
Pacesetting leadership is about holding people up to their performance in order to work efficiently.

6. The Coaching Leadership Style

A coaching leader acts encouraging and empathetic with the aim of developing employees for future success. Compared to other leadership styles, the focus is on long-term goals rather than short-term ones. A leader using this style plays a very supportive and assisting role in motivating the employees to grow.

The coaching leadership style boosts trust and personal development, which increases the employees’ sense of belonging and leads to an overall increase in employee retention.
This leadership style might take up a lot of time and will not work in larger teams.
The coaching leader plays a very supportive and assisting role in motivating the employees to grow.

Finding Your Style

Which styles can you identify with best? And which characteristics remind you of leaders who inspire you? Maybe you already know which styles or behaviors you want to cultivate next and which roles you might want to step into more often. Understanding these different leadership styles, assessing yourself, and reflecting on the impact on others can be a good exercise to make yourself and your team successful leaders and create high-performance teams.

Find out your style and discover how flair’s performance review features can support your leadership style, especially in a remote setting.


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