The Most Common Leadership Styles and How to Find Your Own

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Leadership styles reflect specific behaviors and methods leaders use to manage their teams. This includes making strategies, providing direction, motivating, and encouraging employees to create and innovate. 

In 2001, Daniela Goleman, the acclaimed author of the Emotional Intelligence book, came up with an interesting theory. He argues that there are six common types of leadership: visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, commanding, and pacesetting — which we will cover further in this article.  

Six Goleman Leadership Styles You Should Know About

1. Visionary Style

Visionary leaders aim to inspire their team and constantly come up with novel ideas. They attract progress, foster confidence among employees, and establish an unbreakable organizational bond.

As leaders, they are persistent, bold, charismatic, optimistic, strategic, and oftentimes possess a risk-taking attitude.

The most advantageous situation where the visionary leadership style works well is when a company undergoes radical transformations and organizational restructuring. Moreover, visionary leadership is helpful in small and fast-growing companies because it inspires confidence and strengthens the belief in the company’s mission.

2. Coaching Style

The leaders who approach a coaching style focus on growth and foster a positive and motivating work environment. Generally, they provide constructive feedback and promote continuous skill development by giving employees new tasks and challenges to discover themselves. 

This type of leader directs their team with a “Consider this” attitude. As a result, they unlock people’s potential while nurturing and identifying the strengths of each team member. 

The coaching-style leadership is effective because it encourages the development of each individual in part and fosters a growth-oriented organizational culture. 

3. Commanding Leadership

This type of leading is focused on results, efficiency, and instant compliance. Commanding leaders are strict, self-motivated, and confident rule-followers with a ”Do as I say” attitude. They believe in supervised workflow, valuing structure and order. 


Commanding leadership promotes productivity, clear communication, and quick decision-making. This style is extremely helpful for an organization that functions under strict guidelines. Furthermore, in times of crisis, or when dealing with new and inexperienced team members. 

Although it drives quick results, this type of leading lacks flexibility and can inhibit creativity. Many compare this style of leading with the military. However, some say it’s more “typical of the past and doesn’t hold much water with today’s talent.”

4. Democratic Style

Democratic leaders encourage transparency, communication, and cooperation among their employees by sharing information about anything that may affect their work. In terms of decision-making, this type of leader always asks for opinions and makes collective decisions. 

Experts found out that this style of democratic leadership leads to better contribution, higher productivity, and promotes equality among group members

While it may seem like one of the most effective so far, full of benefits, like growth, commitment, innovative ideas, productivity, democratic leadership can also have potential downsides. 

For example, in situations where roles are not defined properly, or there is a need for prompt decision-making, a democratic approach can result in communication failures or unmet deadlines.

5. Pacesetting Style

The pacesetting style describes a motivated leader who constantly sets high standards and aims to achieve tough goals with minimal management. 

Although this style of leadership is highly effective when it comes to getting things done, it’s not efficient in every work environment. 

For it to work well, it needs a highly skilled team, a manager who knows how to lead properly, and growth-oriented organizational culture. And even then, it may not function in the long run because employees are under constant pressure, which ultimately leads to burnout and demotivation.

6. Affiliative Leadership

Affiliative leadership describes a leader striving to build a positive and conflict-free work environment. They focus on communication and building a sense of community and trust between managers and team members. 

Implementing an affiliative leadership style results in a unified team that feels safe and included. Moreover, increased productivity, job satisfaction, increased morale, great conflict management, flexibility, and many more are part of the outcomes of such a leadership style.

This type of leadership is one of the most appropriate styles because it has everything a company needs to foster an environment where everyone feels valued and included.

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How to Find Your Own Style

Knowing which leadership style works best for you marks the first step in your journey to becoming a competent and effective leader. 

Whether you manage a big or small team, adopt a leadership approach that suits your personality and style because this will heavily impact how your team perceives you and how you work together to achieve the company goals.

Here’s our advice on how to find your leading style:

  • Experiment

Approach each situation with an open mind and observe the outcome. Be flexible and adapt to what comes your way. 

  • Learn continuously

When we stop learning, we stop developing. Read — there are many resources available for a quick learn or for deeper content dives. Additionally, network! Attend conferences, webinars, and training to further develop yourself.

  • Be authentic

Authenticity brings success to you. When you are authentic, you draw the right people and situations to you. As Brene Brown, the inspirational professor who has inspired millions with her books, pointed out: 

“Authenticity is a collection of choices that we have to make every day. It’s about the choice to show up and be real. The choice to be honest. The choice to let our true selves be seen.”

  • Ask for feedback

Feedback is the greatest tool you can use to discover where you should improve. Listen to feedback with an open mind and act accordingly. Although sometimes it is hard to hear it, you will benefit tremendously!

  • Find a mentor or a coach

A mentor can support you in learning from their experiences which can be beneficial in your development process. A coach can support you in gaining extraordinary insight by holding the space and asking powerful questions.

Final Words

By identifying and understanding your leadership style, you will be able to maximize your potential and achieve optimal results.  

Remember— no leader is completely one style and most leaders possess a combined set of behaviors that stem from all of the six styles. 

Decide your leadership style today! Revisit the summary of each style and identify the strengths and potential pitfalls. Make a plan to identify where you can make small changes to your leadership style to exponentiate the benefits. 

Contact us now and discover how we can help you with our variety of training and coaching services. 

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