Leaders' Edge Advisor

Maximizing Leadership Styles

By Gary De Carolis, President, Center for Community Leadership

Effective leadership requires an enormous amount of skill and diversity. On any given day leaders are confronted with situations, especially in times of system change, which will best respond to a particular leadership style that fits the circumstance at hand. There is an implied realization in that statement that those in leadership positions have a repertoire of leadership styles to choose from. Typically every leader has a preferred leadership style. It is a style they feel comfortable using and it has shown positive results in their previous work.

An example might be the social work supervisor who has been very successful in bringing people together to work on an issue and finding resolution through the group process. Goleman would call this the Democratic Leadership Style. It has great value in building a sense of team within an organization. But what if the situation called for another style of leadership and that same social work supervisor could not call on a style to fit the situation?

The result is that the leader's impact is diminished and the situation is not resolved in a way that will maximize results for the leader, the participants or the organization or community. This happens all too often.

Leaders need to push themselves to develop a variety of leadership styles so that they can be relevant and add value to a myriad of system reform circumstances something of a "leadership styles toolkit," if you will. The necessary ingredients to help prepare that toolkit are a willingness to experiment, some level of risk-taking, being okay with failure as a way to learn and flexibility in the moment.

Next, we will share Goleman's range of six leadership styles and his brief summary of when they work and when they are better left in the quill of the archer. Diversity in styles allows you to be more "on target" with various situations that demand different approaches based on the group you are leading, the task requirements, and the organizational environments, all of which can and do change, sometimes dramatically and with little notice.

Goleman draws a clear line between the first four styles as resonance styles and the last two styles as dissonance styles. He points out that the first four styles will tend to draw people closer to the leader and the last two styles will push people away from the leader. All six styles are important and needed and but the last two styles should be handled with caution! Note that in the last line of each style Goleman has listed a potential weakness of that style.


  • Inspires others
  • "Come with me" approach
  • Frames tasks within the larger vision
  • Maximizes commitment to organization goals
In group of talented peers, can undermine egalitarian spirit of team


  • Listens, counsels and encourages
  • Helps people identify their strengths and weaknesses
  • Delegates
Focus on personal development rather than task orientation


  • Promotes harmony
  • Empathic
  • Boosts morale
  • Stresses relationship-building
Does not address poor performance


  • Superb listener
  • Team worker
  • Builds consensus through collaboration
  • Learns from staff
  • Stresses participation
Sometimes sacrifices efficiency


  • Strong drive to achieve
  • Sets and exemplifies high standards
  • Rewards initiative
  • Results and numbers driven
Low on empathy, feedback, and collaboration


  • Tight control and monitoring
  • Top-down approach
  • Directive, forceful
  • Responds to crises, situations calling for drastic change
Inhibits flexibility/dampens motivation

In the end, you want to have the ability to mix and match these styles with specific situations and relationships in which you as a leader will find yourself. Remember leadership is a journey. Experiment, try new ways of approaching old problems, allow yourself to fail and try again.

Questions to Consider

  1. What is your most preferred and strongest leadership style?
  2. Which style(s) of leadership would you like to work on developing?
  3. What situations have you found yourself in when you felt that your preferred leadership style was inadequate for the situation?

Center for Community Leadership · P.O. Box 3069, Burlington, VT 05408-3069
ph: 802-863-9132 fax: 802-863-6586 · info@centerforcommunityleadership.com

Copyright 2005 Gary De Carolis. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the author.

Printer-friendly version.

VT Nonprofit Web Design