Leadership Styles

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In his book Primal Leadership (2002, with Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee), Goleman introduces six leadership styles. To properly understand the six leadership styles, you should first understand his human communication / interaction concept of resonance.

Leaders create resonance

In the view of Goleman, good leaders are effective because they create resonance.

Resonance comes from the Latin word resonare. Again creating sound. Effective leaders are attuned to other people's feelings and move them in a positive emotional direction. They speak authentically about their own values, direction and priorities and resonate with the emotions of surrounding people. Under the guidance of an effective leader, people feel a mutual comfort level. Resonance comes naturally to people with a high degree of emotional intelligence (self-awareness, self-management, social awareness and relationship management) but involves also intellectual aspects.

Creation of resonance can be done in six ways, leading to Six Leadership Styles. Typically, the most effective leaders can act according to and they can even skillfully switch between the various styles, depending on the situation.


Visionary Leadership

Coaching Style

Affiliative Leadership

Democratic Leadership

Pacesetting Leadership

Commanding Leadership

Leader characteristics

Inspires. Believes in own vision. Empathetic. Explains how and why people's efforts contribute to the 'dream'. Listens. Helps people identifying their own strengths and weaknesses. Counselor. Encourages. Delegates. Promotes harmony. Friendly. Empathetic. He boosts moral. Solves conflicts. Superb listener. Team worker. Collaborator. Influencer. Strong urge to achieve. High own standards. Initiative. Low on empathy and collaboration. Impatience. Micromanaging. Numbers-driven. Commanding. "Do it because I say so". Threatening. Tight control. Monitoring studiously. Creating dissonance. Contaminates everyone's mood. Drives away talent.

How style builds resonance

He moves people towards shared dreams. Connects what a person wants; with the organization's goals. Creates harmony by connecting people to each other. Appreciates people's input and gets commitment through participation. Realizes challenging and exciting goals. He decreases fear by giving clear direction in an emergency.

The impact of the style on the (business) climate

+ + + + + + + Often  ―  ―  when used too exclusively or poorly Often  ―  ―

When style is appropriate

When changes require a new vision. Or when a clear direction is needed. Radical change. To help competent, motivated employees to improve performance by building long-term capabilities. To heal rifts in a team. To motivate during stressful times. Or to  strengthen connections. To build support or consensus. Or to get valuable input from employees. To get high-quality results from a motivated and competent team. Sales. In a grave crisis. Or with problem employees. To start an urgent organizational turnaround. Traditional military.

Book: Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, Annie McKee - Primal Leadership -

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