The challenge of running an organization full of independent, smart, willing-to-learn people can be a bit overwhelming. Helping our CEOs and leaders understand that managing people isn’t a One Size Fits All approach. The reality is they need all six of these leadership styles to effectively manage.


First, recognize that leaders bring a ‘blend’ of styles to their approach with employees.  A Stage 1 leader’s best blend of leadership styles are:


Dominant:  Visionary

Secondary:  Coaching

Auxiliary:  Commanding



A Visionary Leader strongly drives emotional climate upward and transforms the spirit of the organization.


A Visionary leader articulates where they are going, not how they are going to get there. They leave people the opportunity to innovate, think and then apply their ideas to reach the vision. People need to know the big picture and how their job fits into that vision in order to give them clarity.


Visionary leaders are better at retaining talented people. They excel at helping people understand the ‘why’. This is the most effective leadership style.


Inspirational leadership and empathy are the emotional intelligence competencies needed most to support this style. Use them with self confidence and self awareness. Transparency, the ability to allow people to see who you really are, is another key competency that a Visionary leader must develop.


Visionary leaders understand that distributing knowledge is the secret to success.



For a Stage 1 company, this style is secondary. A coaching style helps people identify their strengths and weaknesses and ties these to career opportunities. Coaches are good at delegating – giving employees challenging assignments that stretch them versus simple tasks that might not engage the employee in the overall vision for the company.


However, this style is difficult to use with people who lack motivation or who require excessive direction and feedback. Coaching works best with employees who show initiative and want to professionally develop. Again, that’s why it’s critical that there is a combination of styles a leader brings to the plate. They must be able to assess each situation and each employee and determine the right style to fit at the right time.


Pacesetting leaders, focused on high performance, often think they are coaching when in fact, they are micromanaging. An example would be a leader who gets overly focused on short term results like sales figures, putting more emphasis on the task of selling (which can create customer service issues and competition among employees) than emphasis on the overall company revenue goals. (what is the ‘end result’ and how can we get there?)


A Coaching Style is a tough style to develop as it takes patience and the ability to ask inquiring questions that allow the employee to think for themselves and solve problems. Coaches facilitate action, they don’t necessarily solve the problems.


Key competencies for this style include developing others, emotional self-awareness and empathy. Emotional self-aware leaders are authentic. Empathetic leaders listen first before reacting or giving feedback.



This is a style that has to be used sparingly and with sound judgment. This is the least effective leadership style as it is sometimes called the ‘coercive approach’. With that said, it does have its place in a company at very specific times and for specific reasons. For a Stage 1 company, this is the auxiliary style and it only shows up as an auxiliary style for a Stage 1 and Stage Two company. It never shows up again as a leadership style.


However, the reason it shows up in Stage 1 and Stage 2 is that these are critical stages in the life of a company, sometimes requiring tight control and compliance to help a company make it through in tough situations. This style is used most frequently in the military and is a holdover style from the 20th century when most companies were based on a ‘command and control’ mentality. 


It’s a style that can work when there is an urgent need for a turnaround or to unfreeze useless or unproductive business habits. It can be used to literally ‘shock’ people into action. It can be effective when dealing with problem employees.


To be effective, this style must be used with specific competencies such as influence, achievement (leader exerts forceful direction in order to get better results) and initiative (takes forceful steps to get things done). The most important competency that must be a part of this style is emotional self control – a leader must keep their anger and impatience in check.


These styles are from Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership and when using them please provide attribution to Goleman and his book.


Your success. My passion.
Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!