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Just as there are as many different personalities in the world as there are people, there are also different leadership styles. In fact, experts agree there are six distinct styles employed by successful leaders. These styles, outlined below by consulting firm Hay/McBer, are important to understand because they can have varied effects on employees.

There is no perfect leadership style because individuals and organizations have different needs. For instance, some departments may require a more hands-on leader than others. A truly great leader knows when to shift their leadership style for a particular person, situation, or organization.

Here are the six key leadership styles and when they may be the most useful for your organization:

  1. The Coercive Style is routinely summarized as the “do as I say” style. While effective during crisis situations or when working under strict parameters, coercive leadership tends to lower motivation and ignite feelings of resentment among employees – especially highly skilled workers who loathe micromanaging.
  2. Leaders with the Authoritative Style take charge of their employees’ directions. These leaders offer long-term visions or goals and monitor employee performance along the way. This style can be useful when a department needs to be set back on course. However, it is less effective if employees have more experience or relevant knowledge than the leader.
  3. Leaders who use the Affiliative Style tend to focus on individuals over tasks. They are mostly concerned about team harmony and morale. This can be beneficial for employee happiness, but it can also allow performance issues to slip through the cracks.
  4. Leadership in the Democratic Style is focused on getting input from all employees and empowering them with responsibility. Giving a voice to employees can help generate ideas and increase motivation. However, this style can also overburden employees with meetings and be difficult to maintain amidst conflicting schedules.
  5. The Pacesetting Style can be described as leading by example. Leaders who employ this style typically have high standards, are self-motivated and expect their employees to keep up in terms of performance. This can be great for other self-motivated individuals, but it can also spark resentment from those who feel like the leader takes over every situation.
  6. Finally, Coaching Style leadership focuses mostly on personal development, opposed to immediate tasks. This style can be useful for employees who are open to self-improvement and need direction. However, coaching is ineffective for those who are unwilling to change their behavior and who continue to have performance issues.

Do any of these leadership styles sound familiar? You’ve likely experienced all of these at some point in your career as a leader or an employee.

Are you looking for leaders in your own organization? Take some time to reflect on the specific needs and strengths of your department. Different members of your team might benefit from varied approaches, or even a mix of these styles. By recognizing which tactics your employees best respond to, you may be able to motivate more effectively, increase efficiency, and improve morale.

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