Developing an effective leadership style

There is more to being a leader than merely having a high ranking title and a team underneath you. But you don’t have to be a leader to develop an effective leadership style. 

What is a leadership style and why do I need to develop it?

On some level, all of us act as leaders, whether it is in the workplace interacting with other employees or at home marshalling the children for breakfast before school. Some people will always ask others for their input first before making decisions, others will simply tell people what to do. Some methods are better than others but leadership studies show qualities such as assertiveness, conscientiousness, adaptability and intelligence are some of the qualities people rank highest.

We all have our own default leadership style in certain situations but by developing your leadership skills and incorporating other styles, your experience and capacity to act in the most productive way possible  will grow.

What are the different types of leadership styles and how do I choose one?

Psychologist Daniel Goleman studied 3,000 executives to develop his definition of the six leadership styles: coercive, pace-setting, authoritative, affiliative, democratic, coaching.

A coercive’s default stance tends to be: “Do what I tell you.” This works in many situations but doesn’t encourage others to take the initiative.

Pace-setting leaders lead by example but this only works if they have a highly competent, and efficient team. It can’t be sustained for long either before the team starts to flag.

The authoritative leader is visionary, offers clear direction and is very positive. They empathise strongly with their team, motivate them and draw them into their vision.

"Next time you’re in a stressful situation which requires you to take the lead, take a breath before acting and think about how to do so"

An affiliative leader creates bonds and is strongly empathic. They are great when a team has been through a difficult time and needs to recover but their goal is team harmony rather than specific tasks.

The democratic leader constantly asks others what they think. They have a strong sense of collaboration but the need to consult with others and get a consensus going can delay the decision-making process.

The coaching leader style is to let people try different ways of solving a problem. They have a high degree of empathy, self-awareness and skills in developing their team.

You may well recognise your own style in these descriptions but you shouldn’t try to pick any one style. The most inspirational leaders, the ones who motivate and empower people, will take the most positive aspects of each style and incorporate them into their own.

How do I develop effective leadership skills?

Next time you’re in a stressful situation which requires you to take the lead, take a breath before acting and think about how to do so. Once you have established your strengths and weaknesses you can use them to become a better leader.

Improving your communication will also help. Not only do you need to be able to communicate your vision and ideas effectively but you also need to be able to listen to your team.

What are the common mistakes with leadership and how to avoid them

No one respects a negative person, make sure you stay positive and practice what you preach – the best leaders act as inspiring role models. Always make sure you lead situations with enthusiasm. If you’re not passionate your team won’t be either.

Leadership is just as much about devolving responsibility and giving it to your team members as it is about taking it yourself. If you don’t do it, you won’t build trust.

Don’t forget to set goals. You can’t really lead properly if you don’t define what you expect from your team and create a solid action plan to follow.


And finally, developing leadership skills isn’t a one-off challenge you have to pass. The best leaders are constantly educating themselves, reviewing their behaviour and continuing to learn.

Browse our jobs