Harvard Business Review — Leadership That Gets Results

by Daniel Goleman

Executive Summary

The best leaders don’t know just one style of leadership—they’re skilled at several, and have the flexibility to switch between styles as the circumstances dictate.”

Daniel Goleman is known for his work on social and emotional intelligence. In this article he discusses how managers often fail to appreciate how organizational climate influences financial results, which he suggests can account for nearly a third of financial performance. He ties organizational climate or “culture” to leadership style; providing a motivating environment for direct reports, gathering and using information, making decisions, managing change initiatives, and handling crises.

Goleman further suggests that the six basic leadership styles (this from new research by consulting firm Hay/McBer) are derived from different emotional intelligence competencies and work best in particular situations and affect the organizational climate in different ways.

The research cited in the article indicates that leaders with the best results do not rely on only one style; they use a variety of the six styles in a given week depending on the circumstance.

The styles identified are known to many:

  • Coercive leaders demand immediate compliance.
  • Authoritative leaders mobilize people toward a vision.
  • Affiliative leaders create emotional bonds and harmony.
  • Democratic leaders build consensus through participation.
  • Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and self-direction.
  • Coaching Leaders develop people for the future.

What is new in this research is the implication for action. First, it offers a detailed understanding of how different leadership styles affect performance and results. Second, it offers clear guidance on when a manager should switch between them. It also strongly suggests that switching flexibly is well advised. New, too, is the finding that each leadership style springs from different components of emotional intelligence.

The article concludes that the more styles a leader exhibits, the better. Leaders who have mastered four or more – especially Authoritative, Democratic, Affiliative, and Coaching styles – have the very best organizational climate (culture) and business performance. The most effective leaders switch flexibly among the leadership styles as needed.

Although this skill may sound challenging to master, it was witnessed in the study and mentioned more often than one might assume. Both seasoned leadership veterans in large corporations and entrepreneurs in small start-ups who claimed to lead by gut alone, could explain exactly how and why they lead. These leaders didn’t mechanically match their style to a checklist of situations – they were far more fluid. They are persistently sensitive to the impact they are having on others and seamlessly adjust their style to get the best results.

Engagient recommends this article as valuable reading for those interested in mastering the leadership tools needed to create high performing culture. For a full exploration of this article go to Harvard Business Review.

Harvard Business Review — Leadership That Gets Results

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