Knowing the different leadership styles can improve your management techniques.

A senior manager addressing his team.A leader can be a politician, a teacher, an industrialist, or philanthropist. In fact, a leader can be anyone who’s charged with advancing their field and guiding people forward. But knowing what any specific leader does tells us little about how they actually lead, or how effective they are.

Currently, 40% of Americans rank their bosses as “bad” and 90% think we’re facing a crisis of leadership.* Clearly, if you want to be a great leader, you have to do more than hold a title. While even the best business schools can’t turn just anyone into a strong leader, there are plenty of ways you can improve your leadership skills. One of the best ways is to focus on your leadership style.

The Importance of Leadership style

Your leadership style influences everything from how you approach problem-solving to how you manage employees. While no leader is 100% identical to any other leader, research conducted by renowned psychologist Daniel Goleman reveals that leadership style can be divided into six distinct types. By understanding the advantages and disadvantages of each type of leadership style, you can learn how to adjust your own style to best fit your organization, goals, and team.

The Six Styles Of Leadership

  • Pacesetting
    This style of leader leads by example, working hard and expecting others to do the same. While this leader admires self-direction, they aren’t comfortable with employees who go outside the bounds set by the leader’s example. This style works best in well-organized organizations and with teams that are highly skilled and motivated. It’s less effective in more chaotic environments and with lesser-skilled teams that can’t keep up.
  • Authoritative
    Goal-oriented and often visionary, the authoritative leader directs teams toward a specific end-point, expecting the team to figure out the best path there. This leader appreciates innovation and has a high tolerance for uncertainty, making the style a good fit for teams full of enthusiastic, creative people. The style is not particularly good for highly structured tasks or for teams of experts who know more than the leader.
  • Affiliative
    This type of leader seeks out emotional connections, bonding with team members and offering praise and encouragement in order to rally the team toward the goal at hand. In chaotic, high-stress work environments, the affiliative style can help teams feel connected and supported even when the work feels draining. However, in more stable environments, the praise and support can lead to complacency and mediocrity, as teams often believe they’re performing well even when they’re not.
  • Coaching
    Focused on development of team member skills, the coaching leader believes that training people to follow best practices and helping them grow professionally will lead to strong results. They are process-focused, which makes the style a good fit for teams that are inexperienced and/or are driven by the desire to improve. It’s not a good fit for teams that are more experienced than the leader or in high-pressure environments where results—not process—matters most.
  • Coercive
    The coercive leader demands immediate and complete compliance. It’s not a style that gets results in most organizations or situations, as it tends to stifle creativity and alienate team members. However, the style can be effective in a crisis, helping avoid confusion and delay.
  • Democratic
    A believer in consensus and cooperation, the democratic leader acts as a facilitator, giving team members plenty of latitude to express opinions and offer ideas. This can be an excellent style for teams of experts and/or for projects that have plenty of lead time but no clear solution. The style is less effective with inexperienced teams and/or in situations where a quick turnaround is needed.

Learn More With an MBA Degree

Most of us gravitate to one of the six leadership styles. However, great leaders are flexible, changing between styles and even combining aspects of multiple styles when the situation demands. Perfecting this, however, takes experience and the proper business knowledge. And the best way to gain that knowledge is with a business degree—specifically a Master of Business Administration.

Designed to be both an advanced business administration degree and an advanced management degree, a business administration master’s can prepare you for a successful career in business leadership. On top of that, you can earn your MBA degree without having to take time off from your job. That’s because many of the best business schools and top MBA programs are now accessible through online education programs, giving you more opportunity than ever to earn a master of business administration.

If you want to improve your business knowledge and put yourself in position to become a great leader, earning an MBA online can be the right choice for your career.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an online Master of Business Administration degree program. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*Barna Group, The Different Impact of Good and Bad Leadership, on the internet at www.barna.com/research/the-different-impact-of-good-and-bad-leadership.

†D. Goleman, Leadership That Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, on the internet at https://hbr.org/product/leadership-that-gets-results/an/R00204-PDF-ENG.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.