6 Most Effective Leadership Styles

There are many different styles of leadership in business today. A Study by Daniel Goleman identified 6 styles of leadership that are the most effective. Each of the styles has their positives and negatives and they also have a different effect on people’s emotions and However he puts forward the idea that a good leader uses a combination of these leadership styles.

“… the research indicates that leaders with the best results do not rely on only one leadership style, they use most of them in a given week – seamlessly and in different measure – depending on the business situation.” (Goleman, D. 2000. 78-79)


“The authoritative leader is a visionary; he motivates people by making clear to them how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization.” (Goleman, D. 2000)

People who work for this type of leader understand what their roles is and why it is important. This type of leadership maximises an employees commitment to the goals and strategy of the organisation. This leader in this case, states  the end result but does not tell their team exactly how it is to be done. They give there team a lot of leeway in figuring out how to get there, the employees have the freedom to experiment, innovate and take risks. This style tends to work well in most business situations as a result of its positive impact. It works particularly well in instances where the business is off course as this type of leader can sell their new vision to the team. There are however situations where this style may not work such as if a leader is working with a team who is more experienced than themselves. The research carried out by Goldman suggests that this is the most effective of the 6 leadership styles


“This leadership style revolves around people—its proponents value individuals and their emotions more than tasks and goals.” (Goleman, D. 2000)

This type of leader works hard to create harmony among the team and make sure their employees are happy. They do this by creating strong emotional bonds with the team and in return receive benefits such as a strong sense loyalty from employees. As well as this, the affiliative style also has a positive effect on communication. People who like each other and have a connection tend to talk to each other a lot, this means sharing ideas. Flexibility also comes with this type of leader as they tend not to be strict in how employees do their work as long as it gets done. They give their team freedom to do the job in whatever way they think is the most effective. This leader is also great at creating a sense of belonging, they are likely to for example take their team out for a drink or have a one on one to see how they are doing. This style should be used in instances where a leader is trying to increase morale, create harmony or improve communication. This style however, should not be used alone as its focus on praise may let poor performance continue without being addressed and if it is overused can actually aid in team failure.


“Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations.” (Goleman, D. 2000)

This leadership style encourages employees to create development goals and help them to come with a plan which will help achieve these goals. This type of leader gives a lot of instruction and plenty of feedback and are extremely good at delegating. They are not afraid to give their employees challenging assignments, even if that means the tasks are done at a slower pace. Goleman’s research shows that this is the least utilised style of leadership, as the leaders studied said that they don’t have the time to teach people and help them to grow. This style is however positive, employees get regular feedback and the ongoing dialogue makes sure that employees understand what is expected from them.


“By spending time getting people’s ideas and buy-in, a leader builds trust, respect, and commitment.” (Goleman, D. 2000)

This leader builds consensus through participation. By letting their employees have a say in decisions that are going to affect how they do their work and achieve their goals, the democratic leader drives responsibility and flexibility. This leader also listens to concerns their employees may have and as a result, knows what to do to keep morale in the team high. The disadvantages of this style make it less effective than some of the others. One significant disadvantage is that when it comes to meetings, they can be endless and ideas are tossed back and forth and often a consensus evades the team, which results in scheduling more meetings. This style can be effective in situations where the leader is unsure of the best road to take and needs some fresh ideas.


“The leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself.” (Goleman, D. 2000)

This leader is obsessed with doing things faster and better and expects the same from their employees. They are quick to point out the poor performers and demand that they do better, and if they don’t this leader is quick to replace them. Goleman states that this style of leadership overwhelms employees by demanding excellence, and as a result there is a huge drop in morale. This leader tends to expect their team to know what to do and thinks if they don’t know what to do then they are not right for the job. Employees under this leader often begin to feel as though they are not trusted to do the job their way or take initiative. As a result there is no responsibility or flexibility and work becomes monotonous. This style isn’t always bad and can work when employees are highly competent and self-motivated, however as with the other styles it should not be used on its own.


“ This “Do what I say” approach can be very effective in a turnaround situation, a natural disaster, or when working with problem employees” (Goleman, D. 2000)

This leadership style hits flexibility the hardest. The top down decision making makes the team feel as though they may as well not bother making suggestions or presenting their ideas as they will only be shot down, employees then start to feel devalued. The employees lose their sense of responsibility and they lose their sense of ownership which leads to them taking very little accountability for their performance. They can also then feel resentful and as a result will refuse to help the leader in the future. This style of leadership also damages the rewards system. The majority of workers are motivated by more than just money, they are motivated by praise and recognition of a job well done, they do not receive this with this leadership style. Goleman’s study shows that this is the least effective style of leadership.

It is important to remember that these styles should be used interchangeably and a leader should not focus on just one style. If a situation occurs, the leader needs to be able to analyse the situation and apply the style that best fits the situation.


Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, March-April, pp 78-90