Becoming an effective leader

Outcome 1 

1.1 - Evaluate own ability to use a range of leadership styles, in different situations and with different types of people, to fulfil the leadership role

Leadership theory and approaches

An Introduction to Leadership Styles

Playing a successful round of golf is a useful metaphor for being a successful leader. Like golfers, managers must frequently match the tools they have at their disposal (golf clubs for golfers, ways of behaving for managers) with the particular context in which they find themselves.[1] Here we outline some of the main classifications of leadership styles.

You might think comparing golf and leadership is a bit strange – think about it a little longer. The skilled golf player has a wide selection of tools available, in the form of various woods, irons and putters, and yet must assess several other factors (crosswinds, distance from the hole, etc.) before deciding which club to use.

To do this, the able golfer must draw on their own knowledge, skills and experience in order to fit the right club to the right situation. Consider a team leader or department head. They also have various tools available to them, in the form of different ways of behaving.


Although many think of behaviour as something that just happens, the fact is that it can, and should, be controlled.

So a leader should be able to select a mode of behaviour, or leadership style, in just the same way a golfer picks a club. Of course, the skill comes not just in using the leadership style, but in knowing when to use it; being able to use these styles is no good if they are applied in the wrong context. For instance, a leader might find that an open, democratic style of management is highly effective most of the time, but that when workload suddenly increases, or in times of crisis, a more coercive style is needed. The more leaders are familiar with styles, the more sophisticated they become in using them, perhaps changing style several times a day according to what is going on around them or who they are dealing with.

The Emotionally Intelligent Leader

The emotional intelligence theory states that for leaders to be able to adapt their style successfully, they must be able to tune in emotionally to their surroundings, and to themselves. This sensitive awareness to emotion has been termed emotional intelligence.[2]


Read the following extract, which describes how emotional intelligence applies to leaders:

Emotional Intelligence for Leaders Imagine the benefits for work of being skilled in the basic emotional competences – being attuned to the feelings of those we deal with, being able to handle disagreements so they do not escalate...Leadership is not domination, but the art of persuading people to work toward a common goal.[3] There are six basic ‘emotional intelligence’ leadership styles. They all serve very different purposes and have very different impacts on working atmosphere.


The box below gives a quick indication of the differences between the styles.



















The Level 5 Leader

New findings from research spanning over 30 years suggest that a highly specific combination of leadership style and personality were responsible for the transformation of ‘good to great’ companies.[4]


Surprisingly, the leaders were not charismatic, highprofile personalities. Instead, Level 5 leaders are characterised by an apparent dichotomy of personal humility and professional will.


These are leaders who are modest yet wilful, shy yet fearless. They embody a contradiction that makes them stand out in terms of their personalities, and the results they bring with them. They are enthused with a profound ambition, but it is an ambition channelled away from them and into the company.


They motivate their employees, not via an infectiously charismatic personality but rather through a quiet devotion to high standards and added value. Such a leader is unlikely to admit that their contribution has anything to do with corporate success; they usually put it down to good luck or other colleagues.

The Autocratic/Democratic Leader

These two leadership styles are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Skilled leaders will blend the use of authority and empowerment of their team to different degrees appropriate to the situation. Indeed, leading thinkers,


Tannenbaum and Schmidt[5] identified seven different points on a continuum, each representing a slightly different style of leadership running from high use of authority by the leader to high amounts of freedom given to ‘subordinates’.


So, for instance, some situations, such as an emergency, require a quick decision which needs to made in an autocratic style. On the other hand, there are times when a more consultative or democratic approach may be better suited, e.g. when reviewing quality initiatives.

The Transformational Leader

There are periods in every organisation when radical change is necessary for survival, and times when the organisation needs to be renewed or reinvented. This requires a different sort of leadership.


Transformational leadership has often been described as inspirational or charismatic. It is about getting people to do more than they believe they are capable of, inspiring people to sacrifice their own interests for the good of the organisation.


Above all, it is about handling, and indeed initiating, change. The more you are familiar with the various leadership styles, the more sophisticated you can become in using them, perhaps changing your style several times a day according to what is going on around you or who you are dealing with.


[1] Analogy originally used by Daniel Goleman in ‘Leadership That Gets Results’, Harvard Business Review (March-April 2000), p 80. [2] Term coined by Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1996). [3] Daniel Goleman, Emotional Intelligence (Bloomsbury Publishing, 1996), p 149. [4] Jim Collins, Good to Great (Harper Business, 2001). [5] R Tannenbaum & W H Schmidt, ‘How to Choose a Leadership Patt