Knowing the pros and cons of different leadership styles can help you become a better leader.

We’ve all had those bosses. The one who doesn’t allow any dissent. The one who can’t ever make a decision. The one who takes all the credit. Bad bosses are easy to identify. But what can you do to be a good leader? While there’s no single best method of leadership for all situations, you can improve your leadership by adopting a style that works with your organization’s culture and your team’s needs. The key is knowing which leadership styles are appropriate for what situations—and which styles aren’t. Using the leadership styles identified by Daniel Goldman in his seminal study on the matter,* here’s a simple guide to help you decide which leadership style is right for you and your organization.

The Pacesetting Leader

This style requires you to set a strong example. You must be good at your job and self-motivated, and expect the same from your team.

Good for: Teams full of skilled employees who enjoy their jobs and derive satisfaction from a job well done.

Not good for: Teams that lack top-level skills and/or need motivational tactics to keep them focused on giving their best effort.

The Authoritative Leader

When you adopt this style, you will articulate a vision and point your team toward end goals. Rather than spending time managing your team’s day-to-day choices and activities, you’ll focus your energy on keeping everyone committed to the overall vision.

Good for: Skilled teams with members who have the personality to thrive in an entrepreneurial environment. It’s best used following changes that have redefined a team’s objectives.

Not good for: Teams that need daily guidance on how to reach a goal. It’s also a poor choice for teams made up of members who are more skilled or knowledgeable than you are.

The Affiliative Leader

To be an affiliative leader, you have to work to create meaningful bonds with your team members. By treating your team members as people—not just as employees—you can motivate them to give you their best.

Good for: Teams that are experiencing high stress levels and/or teams that have lost trust in the organization.

Not good for: Teams that need more than nurturing and praise to motivate them. Since almost all teams need more than your compassion, this leadership style is best used in conjunction with another.

The Coaching Leader

As a coaching leader, your goal is to help your team develop personal and professional skills. You will be a hands-on leader who provides useful, detailed guidance every day.

Good for: Teams that need to develop their skills and/or teams with a lot of members who have the ability to advance within the organization.

Not good for: Teams that are set in their ways and/or have a lot of members who aren’t interested in career advancement. This style is also a bad choice if you lack the expertise needed to improve your team’s skills.

The Coercive Leader

Being a coercive leader means being demanding. You will tell your team what to do, how to do it, and when to complete it by. You expect your team to give you full compliance.

Good for: Crisis situations when tasks have to be completed fast. It can also help manage a problem employee who has failed to respond to other leadership styles.

Not good for: All other situations. This style, if overused, can lead to resentment and can stifle your team’s ability to self-motivate or think for themselves.

The Democratic Leader

To be a democratic leader, you must become a consensus builder. You will not only show interest in what team members think, you will use their opinions to set team objectives and establish the methods of achieving those objectives.

Good for: Teams that have a lot of working knowledge and perform better if they have ownership over ideas and objectives.

Not good for: Teams in the middle of a crisis, or teams that lack the knowledge necessary to provide informed opinions.

What Else Can You Do to Become a Good Leader?

While adopting an appropriate leadership style can help you become a successful leader, there’s a lot more you can do to achieve your career goals. In particular, you can enroll in an online business degree program. By earning an online business degree—such as a BS in Business Administration, an MS in Leadership, or an MS in Management—you can gain the business skills you need to be a truly effective leader. Plus, by earning your degree online, you can continue working—taking advantage of all the flexibility and convenience of online learning.

Good leaders know what leadership style to use for what situation. By understanding the common leadership styles—and by enrolling in an online business degree program—you can put yourself on the path to becoming a great business leader.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering online business degrees. Expand your career options and earn your degree in a convenient, flexible format that fits your busy life.


*D. Goleman, Leadership That Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, available for purchase as a PDF 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.

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