Adapting Your Leadership Style To Fit Any Situation

Laurie Riihimaki

Leaders come in all shapes and sizes. Some are more hands-on and assertive, while others tend to observe and correct as needed. But, a successful leader knows the importance of adapting their leadership style to fit any situation. 

In the business world, leaders must be flexible and able to adapt to any situation. Because business, like life, can be unpredictable. So, in order to roll with the punches, leaders must be willing to change their preferred method of leading to properly align with the problems that arise.

Different teams need different styles. A method that worked for a leader on one team, may not work for them on another because of the makeup of the diverse new team. Also, a leadership style that works for a low-stress situation may not work for a high-stress time-sensitive situation. 

That’s why it’s important for leaders to observe what works and what doesn’t in every situation they face. By analyzing each situation, they can more efficiently tailor their style to handle every obstacle that is thrown their way. 

Let’s face it, being a leader is not always easy. It can be full of high-stress decisions and difficult employees. But, by learning the appropriate ways to approach a plethora of situations, your job can become a whole lot easier. 

How To Adapt Your Leadership Style

Adapting your leadership style may sound easy, but it’s not always. Anyone can learn a handful of different leadership styles, but that doesn’t mean that everyone can apply them as easy as 1-2-3. Adapting takes time. And, it takes letting go of habits and oftentimes your ego. 

As humans, we have reactions to situations that are sometimes out of our control. But, in order to be a good leader, you must learn what exactly your ticks are and how to control them. For example, let’s say you tend to explode in anger every time someone is late. Is that helping or hurting the situation? Does it make the employee want to show up on time? Or, does it make them want to leave the company permanently?

If the answer is it makes them want to leave the company, then your explosive reaction is not helping the situation. It’s not helping them to better their performance. As a leader, you want your employees to work on their own personal development, as well as their career development. 

So, in this situation, maybe a gentle positive nudge explaining why you need them when they’re expected would be more useful in this case. It will help you to show them that they’re important to the company, which will motivate them to do their personal best.

The Six Styles of Leadership

Being a team leader can be a lot of stress on someone’s shoulders. And, leaders often tend to lean toward a specific style when it comes to being the principal force of a team. But, it’s important to be flexible and adaptive. 

Daniel Goleman, the internationally known psychologist, focuses on studies of the brain and emotional intelligence. And, naturally, the subject of leadership follows suit. Leading an organization depends greatly on a person’s ability to communicate with others. A person’s emotional intelligence consists of their ability to handle and interpret different situations empathetically without letting their emotions get in the way. 

With this information in mind, Daniel Goleman developed a list of six different leadership styles which he extracted from a research study done on 3,871 executives in the business field. These six leadership styles are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. 

Goleman believes that by being knowledgable about each style and having the ability to transform from one to another makes for the best possible leader. This is known as conditional leadership. 

Visionary Leadership

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This visionary leader is, you guessed it, all about the vision of the team and the company as a whole. A visionary leader is extremely motivated by the idea of the future or what the team is working toward. 

This is helpful when leading because the leader is able to motivate their workers by telling them how they too can help cultivate the team’s vision. The visionary treats the company and the employees as a positive group working together to reach a common destination. 

Visionary leadership is very useful when it comes to companies that are introducing a new and exciting product into the marketplace. The goal of the leader is to make their team members understand the greatness of this launch and how it will affect consumers. 

The leader must create a clear and concise plan for the new product that is easy-to-understand for its employees. This plan must work to motivate the team to move forward in the right direction. It is vital that everyone must share the same clear vision in order for this style to be successful.

Coaching Leadership

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The coaching leadership style is all about collaboration. And, it’s known for producing a positive workplace environment. Leaders in this situation are coaches, just like your former soccer or dance coach. These leaders encourage creative attempts, even when failure is a possible outcome. This allows employees to make decisions on their own, giving them more freedom in the workplace. 

Employee engagement is a huge problem in the workplace, according to a Gallup study. But, employees who are given the opportunity to make more decisions in their work become more engaged. And, as a result, employees become more self-motivated and gain confidence in their skills which ultimately helps them improve their personal and professional development. 

A successful coaching leader teaches their employees how their individual work and input is valuable to the team. They make it clear to the employee where exactly they fit into the overall goal. This also helps the employee to know what is expected of them as a worker. 

Coaching leaders also focus on individuals to help them reach their highest potential because they understand that strong team members create a strong team. It can turn a totally weak employee into a superhero of an employee. Coaching leaders believe personal mentorship is the key to the foundation of a team. 

Affiliative Leadership

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An affiliative leader works to promote a peaceful workplace among his or her employees. They also believe in solving conflicts in a harmonious and calm way. 

To ensure that this method of problem-solving happens, leaders will strategically build their teams so that there is proper chemistry. Typically team members will feel connected and happy to work with one another. There should be no animosity at the beginning stages of a team under an affiliative leader.

Employees tend to enjoy working under an affiliative leader because of the comfortable low-stress atmosphere. However, a downfall with this leadership style is that poor work ethic and performance may get swept under the rug in order to keep the team peaceful and content. 

Democratic Leadership

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A democratic leader essentially shares their leadership with their employees. It is a style in which the team members are able to share their thoughts and participate in the decision-making process of the group. This process works well to make employees feel appreciated as well as an important asset to their team.

In a democratic led group, discussions are encouraged among all team members. No team member is higher-ranked than the others. And, all diverse opinions are welcome to the table. 

Though this may seem as if the leader in this situation is not a leader at all, that is just not true. The leader’s job in the democratic group is to encourage the free-flow of ideas and keep the team structured and respectful. The leader must remain in control of the team for this style to be successful.

A democratic leadership style has been proven to increase team member’s morale while also heightening the productivity of the team. But, in order to be a good democratic leader, a person must be honest, respectful, creative, and fair. 

Pacesetting Leadership

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A pacesetting leader has high standards when it comes to the performance of their team because they have the same standards for themselves. They are goal-drive and productivity-based. Goleman explains that a pacesetting leader wants everything done, “better and faster.” 

This style can work well when the pressure is on and a team must be challenged. For example, if a deadline must be met quickly or there is a competition with another company.

However, Goleman warns his followers about this style because of its ability to make people feel as if they are failing, which is not something you want your team to be impacted by. A pacesetting leader wants to challenge their employees. But, it’s important to use this method sparingly in order to keep the team’s morale intact. 

Commanding Leadership

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A commanding leader lives at the top of the totem pole and delegates tasks onto their employees. They make decisions on their own, rather than encouraging a collaborative and participatory work environment. This helps to save time during high-stress situations because it cuts out the discussion. 

Commanding leaders are often respected highly because they demand respect and they take the lead on every situation. Leaders who use the commanding leadership style are oftentimes politicians and high-ranking military men. 

What’s Your Style?

Daniel Goleman’s six leadership styles have helped many leaders analyze and adapt their own styles. Though it is important as a successful and efficient leader to learn all six, there may be one or two that you lean toward. 

Being able to properly adapt to different situations and the problems that arise will help you to become the best leader you can be. And, it will help you remain calm, cool, and collected when unexpected roadblocks pop up. 

FAQ

  • Why Should You Adapt Your Leadership Style?

Adapting your leadership style is important in order to successfully problem-solve depending on the given situation.

  • Who is Daniel Goleman?

Daniel Goleman is an internationally-known psychologist, famous for his studies and works on emotional intelligence, the brain, and leadership styles. 

  • What Are The Six Leadership Styles?

The six leadership styles are visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding. 

  • What is A Visionary Leader?

A visionary leader is one that creates a vision for the whole team to follow. 

  • What is A Coaching Leader?

A coaching leader acts as a coach to work on an individual’s personal development within a team while giving them creative freedom to fail or succeed. 

  • What is An Affiliative Leader?

An affiliative leader’s main goal is to create a harmonious yet comfortable team for their employees. 

  • What is A Democratic Leader?

A democratic leader is in charge of leading a team full of free-flowing yet respectful idea-sharing. 

  • What is A Pacesetting Leader?

A pacesetting leader has extremely high standards for their team. They believe everyone should be better and faster. 

  • What is A Commanding Leader?

A commanding leader sits on the top, makes decisions, and delegates tasks to the team members. 

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