What makes the best leaders in business so effective in different scenarios? Daniel Goleman, Ph.D., is the author of several books, including Emotional Intelligence and Leadership: The Power of Emotional Intelligence – Selected Writings. He was a science reporter for the New York Times, was twice nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, and received the American Psychological Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award for his media writing. Dr. Goleman recently sat down with AMA to discuss the various essential leadership styles in the workplace.
AMA: You previously said that the most successful leaders have learned and could smoothly navigate between four or more leadership styles. How many styles of leadership are there and can you briefly describe each of them?
DG: I am talking about a template that draws on very familiar styles. It uses six. One is a visionary leader, sometimes called transformative. It is someone who can articulate a shared vision that’s genuine, from the head to the heart. Doing this lets a leader be very clear in their feedback. You know where you want to go. You can tell a person what they are doing helps or doesn’t and what to do to fix it. And so it creates great clarity, which is very helpful to people.
The second style is a coaching style, which doesn’t mean mentoring, exactly. It is more about having a one-on-one conversation with a person where you find out about them. What do you want from your life? From your career? From this job? What can I do to help you? That creates intense loyalty. Both of those have a very positive impact on the working climate of direct reports.
Two others that are positive are the consensus-builder, the democratic style, the person who gets other people’s input, particularly when it is going to impact how they do their work or their part of the business. And then there is the kind of leader who is affiliative, who wants to hang out, have a good time, get to know people personally. Celebrate. Go out together. And that builds emotional capital, so people will be there for each other when the pressure is really on. All of those are positive.
The two styles that tend to be negative are the pace-setter and the command and control leader. The pace-setter is someone who has been typically a very outstanding individual contributor, and now is promoted to head a group, team, division, whatever, and they don’t draw on the other styles. They just lead by example. It is basically “do it the way I do it.” This works very well if you have a highly skilled, highly motivated team. Steve Jobs at Apple is probably a good example of it, actually. People self-selected. A lot of people dropped out, but the people who stayed were like him. They worked very hard, were very motivated. It doesn’t work, however, for most people in most situations, because leaders have to draw on a range of styles, not just set an example. They need the coach when that’s called for. They need to articulate a vision and so on.
The sixth style is command and control: people who just give orders by virtue of their position. The pace-setter and the commanding style both tend to have impacts on how people feel about doing their work. The command style, however, is just appropriate in an emergency. You don’t have time to get consensus. You have to tell people what to do. So, there are six styles, four of them tend to have very positive emotional impact, two of them tend to have negative, but in the right situation, they can have a positive impact. What research shows is that the most outstanding leaders, in terms of the actual results they get, business results, are able to draw on four or more of those styles as appropriate to the situation.
Daniel Goleman is an internationally known psychologist who lectures frequently to professional groups, business audiences, and on college campuses. As a science journalist, Goleman reported on the brain and behavioral sciences for The New York Times for many years. His 1995 book, Emotional Intelligence, a Times bestseller for a year and a half—with more than 5,000,000 copies in print worldwide in 40 languages—has also been a bestseller in many countries. He has written books on other topics as well, including self-deception, creativity, transparency, meditation, social and emotional learning, ecoliteracy and the ecological crisis.
Don’t underestimate feedback. As Marshall Goldsmith said, “People will do something—including changing their behavior—only if it can be demonstrated that doing so is in their own best interests as defined by their own values.”