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7 Highly Successful Leadership Styles

7 Highly Successful Leadership Styles

Years ago, as a young leader, I was asked by my superior what was my Leadership Style. I pondered and reflected before I answered.


What is your leadership style? Do you know?


Of course, there are a host of leadership styles developed over the ages. Fortunately we can learn from masters in school leadership and Daniel Goleman, author of Emotional Intelligence, has been researching leadership for many years.


Goleman* outlines six leadership styles arising from different components of emotional intelligence that successful leaders utilize.


  1. The Coercive Style or “Do what I tell you” approach demands immediate compliance and is used by leaders driven to achieve, who take initiative and have mastered self-control. This style works best in a crisis or to kick start a turnaround in challenging times.
  2.  The Authoritative Style or “Come with me” approach mobilizes people toward a vision and is used by leaders who are change catalysts, self-confident and empathetic. This style is effective when changes require a new vision or when a clear direction is needed. A more formal leadership curriculum for middle school, high school or primary school may be needed in environment where things have gotten very far off track.
  3. The Affiliative Style or “People come first” approach creates harmony and builds emotional bonds and is used by leaders strong in empathy, communication and building relationships. This style works best to motivate people during stressful circumstances or to build staff morale.
  4. The Democratic Style or “ What do you think?” approach forges consensus through participation and is used by leaders with strong collaboration, team leadership and communication skills. It works best to build consensus or to get input from valuable employees. School leadership conferences work well under this model, but make sure they are structured and led well to ensure productivity.
  5. The Pacesetting Style or “Do as I do, now” sets high standards for performance and is used to get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team. It works with the school principal as leader when they bring years of experience or innovative new ideas to the role.
  6. The Coaching Style or “Try this” develops people for the future and builds on developing others, empathy and self-awareness. This approach helps employees improve performance and develop long-term strengths. A school building leader program or school leadership conference would be in line with this leadership style.
  7. Michael Fullan outlines another style that I believe all school leaders should adopt. Fullan calls it ‘The Lead Learner’ or ‘The Instructional Leader’. Focusing on core learning priorities and leading the school’s teachers in a process of learning to improve their teaching, while learning alongside them about what works and what doesn’t is key in school leadership. Being humble as a principal is also imperative for leaders of a new school, and would work well combined with the aspects of the Democratic Style.


Well, and this may surprise you, it is crucial for a successful leader to understand that if you rely on any one of these styles all of the time you will be an ineffective leaderIn fact, two of the styles above can have an overall negative impact on the climate of your organization if applied in every situation.


Leaders with the best results do not rely on one leadership style alone! Highly Successful Leaders use most of the styles listed above at various times depending on the situation and create space for innovation and entrepreneurship.


So when you are asked what is your leadership style, I hope you answer that you are proficient in 7 Highly Effective Leadership Styles and use each of them regularly and effectively when your contextual situation requires it.


If you would like to learn more about 21st Century Leadership why not attend ‘Leadership for the 21st Century’ 2-day workshop on 7 & 8 November at iCAN British International School in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Click here for more information.

*This article makes reference to “Leadership that Gets Results” by Daniel Goleman, published in the Harvard Business Review

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