What’s in Your Leadership Golf Bag?

This is one of those posts that more or less insists on being written. Last week I started talking about the pronouns that help to define leadership styles. I felt that clearly I needed to bring in Daniel Goleman’s work on Emotional Intelligence, especially his HBR article (linked in that post).

In passing, I mentioned that leadership styles seem to follow business models, and instead of riffing on a 1,500 word post, I decided to come back to the subject this week. So here goes.

golf bagAccording to Dr. Goleman, we lead with one of six styles. Different behaviors work in different situations. We all know it, but seldom think about it when we are shifting from one style to another. They are:

Coercive: Do as I say. A sprinter’s style, where the leader takes on all the decision-making authority and responsibility. Useful in crises, turnarounds and hostile takeovers, but too exhausting to maintain over the long haul. We all have a coercive mode that we use from time to time, but if we employ it too much, our people never learn to think for themselves. Applies to all industries.

Authoritative: I’ll lead, you follow. Probably the most functional all-around style. The leader sets the mission and vision, and expects others to execute. Good with structured incentives and clear metrics, but not so effective for groups of peers, partners or high-level technicians with greater skills than their leader. Most owner-managed businesses function authoritatively, but there is a danger that it can slip into paternalism. If you often say “We are like a family here,” you might want to check with key employees to see how much delegated authority they think they have.

Affiliative: We all need to be happy with what we are doing. Great for team building, motivation and morale, but slow as a decision making process. Affiliative isn’t functional as a sole style. Some high tech and creative firms start out this way, but they eventually have to include another style to become really successful.

Democratic: We’ll decide together. Clearly, partnerships and joint ventures are democratic. It differs from Affiliative in that a democracy, like any other “-cracy,” describes who rules. (Theocracy-the priests, monarchy-the king, etc.) Rule by the majority doesn’t encompass everyone. Few businesses, even partnerships, really function as a democracy. It’s tough to maintain enthusiasm when there are winners and losers. Most tend to confer authority on a sub-group of the owners.

Pacesetting: I’m going forward, you keep up. This is one we see in many professional service organizations, especially those that are sales oriented, such as insurance agencies or litigation attorneys. The leader is the one with the biggest book of business. He or she makes the most money, and chooses which rules to follow and which to break. Not surprisingly, those types of business are often in turmoil, because the leader is more focused on selling than leading.

Coaching: Let me help you be better. I’m not sure if this is a leadership style or a management technique. Because it is one-on-one, it’s challenging to understand how it could apply to a whole organization. That said, it had better be in every leader’s bag (using HBR’s golf club analogy) if the organization is going to develop talent and move forward.

As I mentioned last week, I’ve developed a self-scoring matrix that will help you see what leadership styles you use most frequently. While not “approved” by Dr. Goleman, he’s seen it and agrees that it gets the point across accurately. It isn’t fancy, just a table on two sides of a sheet of paper. Email me if you’d like a copy.

Happy New Year! A few years ago I started sending New Year’s cards with a custom message. Here are my wishes for your New Year.

We hope 2016 is your year for more:

More time for loved ones, more laughter

More growth, more riches, more “firsts”

More satisfaction in what you do

More friends, more insight

More clarity, more simplicity

And more of all you want in life.

Thanks for reading! Please pass this on to another business owner.

Categories: Entrepreneurship, Incentives, Leadership, Managing Employees, Sales, Strategy and Planning... Bookmark this post.

2 Responses to What’s in Your Leadership Golf Bag?

  1. Frank Benzoni P.E. Retired says:


    Great article and Happy New Year; Wishing for MORE of “Awake at Two O’clock”


  2. Cathy Locke says:

    Would appreciate a self-scoring matrix that will help me see what leadership styles you use most frequently.
    As always, I truly enjoy and respect your knowledge and experience reading and sharing your blogs.

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