I may be observing a client for a few hours, or shadowing them throughout the day, in order to see how they interact with different people in different situations. When I notice aspects of their style that are incongruent with what they wish to project, it’s eye-opening for them. One of things I assess is their go-to leadership style. The research findings of Daniel Goleman, first disseminated in the Harvard Business Review, identified six primary categories of leadership style.
1. Authorities: Great at setting out a vision and organizing people to support it.
2. Commanders: Those give orders and expect team members to comply with them, and are experts at prompt execution.
3. Consensus Builders: Create environments where everyone is included and all ideas and opinions are valued. Effective leaders for breaking down information silos or smoothing-out mergers.
4. Coaches: Focus on individual development of employees while also developing high-performance teams, and they maximize human resources for the future.
5. Affiliation Specialists: Nurture interpersonal relationships to make sure people work well together and feel camaraderie, high moral, and an emotional connection.
6. Pacesetters: Constantly sets the bar higher, pushes people to raise their game, and sets the example as a driven, ambitious role model.
You may self-identify as one of these six, and wonder which one is the best. But Goleman and other researchers have consistently found that no one style works in all situations. The best leaders master multiple styles – and are nimble enough to seamlessly adapt their style to the situation at hand or the personalities of the people with whom they are interacting.
If you aren’t aware of which way aligns best, you may exhibit a style that contradicts your objectives. I see that happen all the time, because leaders aren’t sure how to read situations that call for unique set of soft skills. Leadership is about being adept at calling up different components of emotional intelligence as needed, to be flexible across the organizational grid. In a more recent article in Harvard Business Review, huge emphasis was placed on not just developing as many styles as possible, but recognizing those you have developed and using them strategically, based on a wide variety of leadership contexts.
Leaders all have blind spots that they will never realize on their own, and they also are strong in one or two areas or styles, but could enhance their leadership exponentially by knowing which other styles to add to their repertoire. Oftentimes I am called in to help a company’s leaders expand their mastery of new leadership styles, to help them meet particular goals or lead a special type of project that needs a slightly different leadership approach.
Or they want me to ensure that their leaders can spot all of these styles and know exactly when to use them, based on a deeper awareness of themselves and their mindset management needs. Similarly, if you are presenting your ideas to senior decision makers a knowledge of their leadership style will inform how you approach them for more persuasive buy-in. Developing these capabilities can really boost your value as a leader, which is the real value of working with an observant and experienced coach.