Leading Others with Style

Scott J. Allen, Ph.D.

In the game of golf, a person has several clubs that can be used, depending on their location on the course. In his HBR article Daniel Goleman (2000) suggested that the leadership styles presented in this short article are like metaphorical golf clubs. There are seven basic styles or approaches an individual can use when leading others. Each of these styles has benefits and drawbacks, depending on the context. Skilled individuals will intentionally choose an appropriate style (or styles) for the situation (Vroom, 2000) - similar to choosing a course of care for a patient under your care. In the end, each style has benefits and drawbacks, and you likely have one or two that you consistently “default” to when working with areas. Sometimes that’s great, and other times it’s like teeing off with a putter.

As you lead others, work to use the appropriate “club” for the situation. 

Share your vision (Authoritative) – Leaders using this style have a clear vision of where they think the group should go. They have a strategy in mind and are comfortable asserting their viewpoint and thoughts. And while this can feel comforting for the followers (“Phew, someone has the answer!”) – be careful. As soon as someone says, “I have done this before,” or “I know the answer,” ensure that the groups stay alert and closely monitors progress. At times, this individual can take over the group. If you are the assigned leader, be sure to manage people and process.

Teach and Coach (Coaching) – Leaders who use a coac(Vroom, 2000). hing style are sharing their expertise with others. They pause, slow down, and take the time to guide others to the correct path. For instance, a leader who is an expert at negotiation will actively coach others to improve their skills as well. The coaching style is highly personalized, but it can take too much time. The leader needs to pay close attention to time and resources. 

Yell, tell, and the hard sell (Coercive) – This is the most high-risk style of leadership because using this style can alienate others, cause hard feelings, and disengage individuals who do not feel a part of the process. On the flip side, it can be expedient and in an emergency situation or may be an entirely appropriate style under heavy time stress. However, over-use of this style will likely damage relationships in the long run.

Listen and engage others (Democratic) – This style can be extremely useful when the leader needs a high level of buy-in from the group. The adage, “people support what they help create” comes to mind when exploring this style of leadership. And while there are many positives, the style can take too much time and stall progress if the leader is trying to please everyone. A skilled leader using this style will need to have an eye on the time and know when it’s appropriate to vote, table the discussion, or make a decision.

Energize and push (Pacesetting) – A pacesetting leader defaults to raising the heat – perhaps too often. Like the other styles, there is a time and place for this approach – especially when time stressors are involved. However, individuals who are consistently pushing can marginalize themselves or come off as a little too into it. On the positive side, sometimes groups settle into a slow-moving pace or a low energy level. A leader using this style will “raise the heat” and re-energize the group to meet mission.

Simply delegate – Young leaders often take on too much themselves. In fact, if you pay close attention, you will notice some of your team members taking on multiple roles (trying to lead, keep time, and facilitate the meeting) – especially early in their development. This is a recipe for disaster – especially for inexperienced leaders. This style challenges you to practice delegation (see GOALS). As the leader, you are simply assigning the roles/tasks, and then monitoring process, adjusting as needed, and paying attention to the energy of the group. 

Bonus Style - Affiliative - In a nutshell, a leader using this style focuses on people and leading through relationships. Through these relationships, the leader gets his/her work done. People using this style like harmony amongst the team, and often have a committed band of followers. A potential downside is when there’s a clear and distinct “in-group” and “out-group.” At an extreme, a leader that defaults to this style may avoid conflict, play favorites, or get “too close” and struggle to make tough decisions (smile).

To see many of these in action, go to YouTube and search for the clip "Apollo 13 (1995) - A New Mission Scene (5/11) | Movieclips". Which Four styles do you see the leader (Gene Krantz) use in the context of this two-minute clip? Next, open your eyes at work - you will see all of these used multiple times a day - sometimes correctly, and sometimes not.

1. Blanchard, K., Zigarmi, P., & Zigarmi, D. (1985). Leadership and the one-minute manager. New York, NY: Morrow.

2. Goleman, D. (2000) Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, March-April, 78-90.

3. Vroom, V. H. (2000). Leadership and the decision-making process. Organizational Dynamics, 28(4), 82-94.


Dr. Allen may be reached at

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Website: https://www.scottjallen.net/

Podcast: https://www.buzzsprout.com/979897