Leader Volume 10, Number 1
to Lead for Results
by Wolf J. Rinke, Ph.D.
Rinke is a speaker, management consultant, executive coach and
editor of the free electronic newsletters The
Winning Manager and Make
It a Winning Life. He can be reached at 410-531-9280, firstname.lastname@example.org or at www.wolfrinke.com.
is author of Winning Management: 6 Fail-Safe Strategies for Building High-Performance
Organizations (Achievement Publishers, Clarksville, MD, 1997).
strategies will give you the results you want? The answer has
become a lot clearer as a result of exciting new research reported
by Daniel Goleman in the March-April 2000 issue of the Harvard
Business Review. Goleman and investigators from the consulting
firm Hay/McBer studied a random sample of 3,871 executives and
found that the most effective leaders choose from six distinctive
leadership styles, depending on the situation, and what they want
to get accomplished.
The research investigated how each of the six leadership styles
correlated with the specific components of the organization’s
climate. The six climate drivers are: flexibility--employee’s
ability to innovate without excessive rules and regulations;
responsibility--how responsible employees feel towards the
organization; standards--the level of standards prescribed in the
organization; rewards--the accuracy of performance feedback and
rewards; clarity--how clear employees are about the mission,
vision and core values; and commitment--employee’s commitment to
a common purpose. They found that leaders who used styles that
positively impacted on an organization’s climate had
dramatically better financial results. Climate, the researches
found, was responsible for a third of a leader’s desired
results. (The other two were economic conditions and competitive
Here are the six leadership styles in order of their impact on an
organizational climate (correlations are shown in parentheses) and
the situations in which they provide the best results:
1. Coercive. This is a leader who demands immediate
compliance. The phrase most descriptive of this leader is:
"Do what I tell you!" This style can destroy your
organizational climate. Because the downside is far greater than
the upside, it should only be used with extreme caution. It is
useful in an emergency, and may work in a crisis, a
"turnaround" situation or as a last resort with a
problem employee. This leadership style has the most negative
impact (-.26) on the overall organizational climate, especially on
responsibility and flexibility. Avoid this style except in an
2. Pacesetting. This is a leader who sets extremely high
standards for performance. The phrase most descriptive of this
leader is: "Do as I do, now!" This style can destroy a
good climate. It only works with a highly motivated and competent
team who are able to "read the leader’s mind." Others
will feel overwhelmed and give up, because they cannot see
themselves reach unrealistic standards. This style has virtually
the same negative impact (-.25) on the overall organizational
climate, especially on rewards and commitment. Use this style
3. Coaching. This is a leader who is focused on developing
people for the future. The phrase most descriptive of this leader
is: "Try this." Coaching leaders are great delegators,
and are willing to put up with short-term failures, provided they
lead to long-term development. This style works best when you want
to help employees improve their performance or develop their
long-term strengths. This style has a positive impact (.42) on the
overall organizational climate, especially on rewards, standards
and clarity. Use this style when employees are interested and
willing to learn and be coached.
4. Democratic. This is a leader who achieves consensus
thorough participation. The phrase most descriptive of this leader
is: "What do you think?" This style builds trust,
respect and commitment, and works best when you want to receive
input or get employees to "buy-in" or achieve consensus.
It doesn’t work under severe time constrains or if employees are
confused or uninformed. If handled correctly, this style has a
positive impact (.43) on the overall organizational climate,
especially on rewards and clarity. Use this style when you have
ample time and are working with employees who are knowledgeable
5. Affiliative. This is a leader who is interested in creating
harmony and building emotional bonds with employees. The phrase
most descriptive of this leader is: "People come first."
This style works best when you want to motivate employees,
especially when they face stressful situations, when you want
build team harmony, improve communication, increase morale or
repair broken trust. This style has a positive impact (.46) on the
overall organizational climate, especially on rewards and clarity.
Because this style has virtually no downside, it is the best
overall approach. So if in doubt use the affiliative style.
6. Authoritative. This is a leader who mobilizes people with
an incredible level of enthusiasm and a clear vision. This is a
visionary leader, who gives people lots of leeway to innovate and
take calculated risks, provided that they move in the direction of
the stated vision. The phrase most descriptive of this leader is:
"Come with me." This style works best when change
a new vision or when employees are looking for a new direction.
This style fails when employees are more knowledgeable or
experienced than the leader, or if the authoritative style becomes
overbearing. Provided that it is used with finesse, this style has
the most positive impact (.54) on the overall organizational
climate, especially on rewards and clarity. Use this style if you
have a clear vision of the future and you can mobilize people to
buy into your vision.
Back to our original question--which leadership style will give
you the best results? The answer is: it depends on the situation.
However Goleman's research has shown that leaders who have
mastered four or more styles, especially the authoritative,
affiliative, democratic and coaching styles, and who can move
seamlessly from one to the other, depending on the situation,
produce the most positive organizational climates and enjoy the
greatest business successes.