Emotional Intelligence Leadership

Emotional Intelligence Leadership Styles

Leaders have many different ways to get things done through their followers. There are different ways leaders interact with their followers, and different methods have been grouped into six leadership styles by Professor Daniel Goleman. Each of these styles draws on different emotional intelligence attributes of a leader. This framework was published in Goleman's Harvard Business Review article "Leadership that Gets Results" in the March-April 2000 volume. 

This classification system is useful and should be considered by leaders to understand how they interact with followers and the impact of their leadership on their organizations. Switching among these six leadership styles can make managers more effective since some leadership styles create better work environments than others.

Autocratic Leadership

Autocratic leadership is also called intimidating, directive or coercive leadership. Autocratic leaders command followers to do what the leader wants without asking followers for input. The autocratic leader relies only on her knowledge to make decisions. 

If executed poorly or over a long period of time, this style of leadership will make followers feel like the leader is a tyrant who bosses people around and does not care about what they think.

Autocratic leadership’s advantage is that it leads to quick, decisive action. Leaders with little patience often rely on it because it brings quick results. However, to be successful it requires highly motivated followers. It is best used temporarily because it leads to resentment if used over long periods of time.

Autocratic leadership is typically the worst leadership style for an organization over the long term. It does not cultivate new ideas from followers, so it stifles innovation. Followers learn to avoid making suggestions for fear of being yelled at, made fun of or insulted by the boss. Adopting this style of leadership is also usually a bad idea because it requires the leader to make the right decision without help from anyone else. Though “my way or the highway” might appeal to one’s ego, in most cases two heads are better than one.

Autocratic leadership should be used for emergency situations because it does not waste any time on debates or questions about why or if something should be done. For example, the leaders of for-profit firms that are losing money rapidly should not be afraid to coerce employees to change their behavior to avoid financial disaster such as bankruptcy or liquidation. Autocratic leadership is typified by the military where split-second hesitation can lead to death. For life and death battlefield scenarios, autocratic leadership is appropriate.

Affiliative Leadership 

Affiliative leadership puts people and relationships first. Its focus is on harmony. Affiliative leaders try to keep people happy and play the role of peacemaker when there are conflicts. They celebrate accomplishments, take people out for coffee and organize group outings.

Affiliative leadership has many positive effects on the workplace environment. By helping people get along, affiliative leaders foster an environment where people are comfortable communicating with each other. This can lead to idea sharing and innovation.

Affiliative leaders tend to give followers freedom and follow up with feedback. They explain what efforts they thought worked well and problems they see.

This style of leadership develops loyalty and belonging and can later draw on that loyalty. 

Affiliative leadership is the best tool for stressful situations or when there are crises of a personal nature. It is also the most general leadership style. 

Affiliative leadership should not be used when the organization does not have a clear path to follow. When people need extra direction and do not have a clear understanding of what they should do, affiliative leadership fails to show them the way. This style may overemphasize relationships when criticism and drastic change are needed.

Participative Leadership

Participative leadership involves the collaboration of leader and follower in a somewhat democratic process. It is also called collaborative leadership or democratic leadership. In this style of leadership, the leader participates in consensus by collecting ideas from different followers and then having them agree on a course of action.

There are many positive consequences of this leadership method. Workers are more inspired to make a project a success when they came up with the ideas for the project. They are also more dedicated because they agreed to support the direction before starting. The collaborative process is good for morale. It is also good for setting realistic goals and standards for work progress since people on the front lines will relate what is really possible. The involvement of people with the most direct experience often improves the quality of decision making.

One of the biggest drawbacks of participative leadership is the time spent on discussions. It can be very, very slow. It requires many meetings with followers, some of which result only in scheduling another meeting. Patience is often needed.

It can also be used as a crutch for leaders to avoid making tough decisions. Many followers can see through this and feel directionless and confused.

Participative leadership works best when the followers know as much or more about important issues than their leaders do. It also is appropriate when a leader has weak formal authority over followers. In such a situation, a leader cannot simply tell followers what to do and expect them to do it because they do not have authority. Democracy is the only answer when people are roughly equals. In fact, collaborative leaders can be viewed as servants of their followers who facilitate their decision-making process. In this sense, participative leadership can be a form of servant leadership.

Participative leadership is not appropriate when followers are inexperienced as it deprives them of direction from more knowledgeable people. 

Authoritative Leadership

Authoritative leaders communicate to their followers how they fit into the big picture. This leadership style is also called visionary leadership because the leader relates a vision for the entire company to her followers. Under authoritative leadership, workers know why and how their work impacts the organization. Authoritative leaders often give employees the flexibility to do their part the best way they know how. Those who work under authoritative leadership are given clear, specified ends but are given flexibility in choosing how to achieve those ends.

Authoritative leadership is typically positive for a workplace. It motivates followers by helping them understand the value of their work. It recommits every employee to the larger vision of the organization. It also empowers them to adjust what they do to better meet understood company goals.

Leading according to large organizational goals or mission statements simplifies performance reviews. Positive or negative feedback should be obvious to everyone since it comes down to how an employee’s efforts succeeded or failed in making the organizational goals closer to reality.

Authoritative leadership is good for innovation. Every follower has a clear understanding of what the organization endeavors to do and can make changes to align their work efforts with the company vision.

The authoritative style works best when there are obstacles that require creativity to overcome. It is also effective when morale is low.

Even though it is the most effective leadership style, it is not always the best one for every situation. It does not work when there are experts among the followers. These experts do not want to waste time talking about vision when they are ready to solve the problem with their knowledge. They do not want non-experts to be empowered since the leader knows less and will probably confuse things. In such a scenario, leaders should take care to give experts authority and should temporarily abandon authoritative leadership.

Authoritative leadership behaviors are a component of transformational leadership. The vision and passion of authoritative leadership falls under inspirational motivation, one of the "4 I's" of tranformational leadership theory.


Pacesetting is another leadership method. This is when the leader sets difficult standards for performance and relieves the employees who miss these standards by jumping in or by bringing in other employees to take on the task. This approach identifies underperformers and focuses attention from the leader, who either works alongside the lagging employee or replaces the lagging employee with star workers.

This leadership style is often ineffective. High goals can seem impossible for some employees, who become demoralized in the face of what appears to be unachievable. Employees also do not understand why goals matter or how they were created because they are dictated by the boss.

Pacesetting can also be ineffective because one person, the leader, jumping in may be too little to realistically make a difference. It is often the case that leaders have become so far removed from the work of followers that they are incapable of doing good work. The skills of the leader are often out of date or out of practice, making them poor workers. Jumping in becomes a waste of time for the leader who is not the best fit for the job and a waste of time for followers who will have to clean up after her failed attempts to help. Even if the leader is the best at this role, her attention may be more desperately needed elsewhere.

Pacesetting may also be an inappropriate response since it presumes that a problem can be solved with more effort. This is working harder, not smarter. Instead, leaders should try to find sustainable ways to increase production instead of personal heroics.

Pacesetting should be used only sparingly. It is damaging to the work environment, almost as much as autocratic leadership. It causes followers to feel like their leaders do not trust them to set goals for themselves or solve their own problems. The pacesetting style of leadership works best in the short term among followers who are highly competent and need little supervision.

Among the different leadership styles described in transformational leadership theory, pacesetting falls under transactional leadership.


Coaching leadership involves teaching employees and guiding their personal growth. Leaders coach employees by assessing their strengths and weaknesses and helping them improve to meet their career goals. Self-improvement is a long-term process which the leader monitors and revisits periodically.

Coaching can be good for morale. It demonstrates a leader’s commitment to her followers. It also demonstrates a belief that the employee has the capacity to grow and can do and be more.

Though professional growth to meet career goals takes years, it does not require constant time invested by a leader. After an initial meeting, this leadership style does not require much additional time from leaders. Once coaching is initiated, the most investment that takes place is assignment of challenging tasks that help the employees grow. Sometimes employees will fail to meet these new challenges which can waste time in the short run.

Coaching does not always work. Some followers are not interested in changing themselves. Some are not even aware that they have room for improvement. In addition, coaching doesn’t make much sense if the leader is not qualified or experienced to evaluate the follower’s growth and progress.

Coaching behaviors are a component of transformational leadership. Mentoring and coaching fall under individualized consideration, one of the "4 I's" of tranformational leadership theory.

Comparing Leadership Styles

Ineffective leaders utilize pacesetting and autocratic methods the most. They create toxic work environments that stifle employees.

Effective leaders have mastered at least four different leadership styles. These leaders are flexible and will use an appropriate style to approach a given situation. 

Effective leaders use pacesetting and autocratic leadership infrequently. Instead, they rely on any of the other four leadership styles (affiliative, coaching, authoritative, participative) the most. Utilizing these leadership styles leads to a positive climate in an organization. They increase responsibility that people feel to an organization and the standards they set for themselves. These leadership styles also make the mission of the company clearer and help employees commit to those goals. This clarity gives them flexibility to innovate their work efforts to best achieve those goals.

Emotional Intelligence Leadership532Emotional Intelligence Leadership