6 leadership styles and qualities for effective cultures

6 leadership styles and qualities for effective cultures
April 24, 2022 Linda Murray

It’s a common question: What leadership style should I use to create an effective culture in my team or organisation?

It’s easy to become overwhelmed when you start thinking about leadership styles. There are so many theories and styles to cover. I’ve found Daniel Goleman’s Six Leadership Styles to be one of the best models because it’s accurate, it’s stood the test of time and it’s also quite easy to follow.

Goleman defines the six leadership styles as visionary, affiliative, coaching, democratic, pacesetting and commanding. He says, “Each derives from different emotional intelligence competencies, works best in particular situations, and affects the organizational climate in different ways.” In other words, the best leaders use a collection of styles and adapt them to suit the situation – situational leadership.

Let’s take a closer look at Goleman’s six styles and the impact each has on organisational culture.


This is a directive style, telling people what to do and it expects compliance. This may be the natural style of leaders who are very goal-oriented and have a high need to achieve. 

While in many cases this style of leadership can stifle creativity and commitment, it’s essential in times of crisis or when the team is still learning the ropes.


The natural style of leaders who expect quality performance from themselves and others. When your team knows what to do or is highly motivated, a pacesetting leadership style can guide them to a higher standard of performance. 

Because the style relies on continuous improvement and hard work from the team, it can eventually lead to burnout. 


This style is focused on building consensus and collaboration. It’s a highly effective form of leadership when you are building a team, looking for input, or seeking engagement and commitment to outcomes. 

It’s a time-consuming style of leadership so it would be ineffective when deadlines loom or you’re facing a crisis.


This style focuses on helping people develop and make the best of themselves. It’s an approach that has its eye on the future and is best suited to leading people who understand their need for personal and professional development. 

It’s not a style that would work well when timelines are short or when the leader hasn’t bothered to build a connection with each team member. Coaching is a relationship based on trust and understanding.


At the heart of this leadership style is the belief that relationships matter. Leaders who use this style boost individual and team confidence and help people learn to work together. 

It’s a necessary style when the team is having problems or morale is low. The risk with relying on this style of leadership is that leaders can lose their authority and forget to drive performance.


Sometimes called ‘authoritative leadership,’ visionary leaders are those who can see the big picture and inspire their people to work for it. They show the ‘why’ of what the teams are doing and boost their motivation and engagement. 

This is an ideal leadership style to use at the beginning of a project, during times of change, or when there is a challenge ahead. It’s less effective when the focus needs to be on tasks.

As you can see, each style has a role to play in shaping the culture of the organisation and team. No single style will work all the time. For example, while visionary leadership has a huge impact on the culture of the workplace, it takes the other leadership styles to translate that into action and performance results.

Knowing which style to use and when relies heavily on the leader’s self-awareness and emotional intelligence. Leaders need to have sufficient awareness to recognise when to change their management style and choose the leadership style which suits the situation. Leaders should ask themselves what their team needs from them so they can achieve the required goals. 

As you read this article, did you start to assess your own leadership skills and adaptability? Get in touch with the team here at Athena Leadership Academy and we can discuss how to build the capabilities you’re looking for. 

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