Entrepreneurial Leadership: Be The Best Part II

Now that we’ve gone through the two negative leadership styles, it’s time for the positive. Positive leadership styles empower its subordinates, but not all styles are effective for sustainable success. In this, the second part of the two part Leadership Styles post, I will identify the four positive leadership styles as identified by Daniel Goleman in his March-April 2000 Harvard Business Review article titled “Leadership That Gets Results”. The four positive leadership styles Goleman identifies are: Affiliative, Democratic, Coaching and Authoritative.

Affiliative – The affiliative leadership style is all about the people. People come first. Affiliative leaders “value individuals and their emotions more than tasks and goals” –Goleman. The leadership approach works by building loyalty amongst subordinates, and creating a culture of “let’s do it for the boss.” Even under poor subordinate performance the leader has a positive approach, cheering-on poor performing employees that they are doing well. Unfortunately, the affiliative style creates the perception that poor performance is tolerated, and lacks guidance to help employees improve. If everyone is performing well the affiliative leadership style can keep the train rolling, but if there are underperformers the train may never get to the point of sustainable success. Knowing when to use the affiliative leadership style to rally the troops is essential for an entrepreneur.

Democratic – As per the Merriam-Webster dictionary the definition of “democratic” is: “relating to, appealing to, or available to the broad masses of the people”, which describes the democratic leader; a leader who asks for his/hers employees majority vote to make a decision. The democratic leadership style increases morale by creating employee buy-in. The best use of the democratic styles is when you, the leader, are unsure about the best direction to take. As entrepreneurs we are notorious for taking risks, but masters at minimizing them, thus we are usually more competent at steering the ship with less risk than our employees. I suggest caution in use of the democratic leadership style; only implementing on rare occasions when you know your employees are more competent than you at a given point.

Coaching – “Coaching leaders help employees identify their unique strengths and weaknesses and tie them to their personal and career aspirations… Coaching leaders excel at delegating; they give employees challenging assignments, even if that means the tasks won’t be accomplished quickly. In other words, these leaders are willing to put up with short-term failure if it furthers long-term learning.” –Goleman

If you are close to retirement and have a chosen successor, then the coaching style may suit you. In most cases the coaching leadership style is too time-consuming to operate effectively (especially in an entrepreneurial environment). Being an entrepreneur may allow you the flexibility to coach your child’s baseball team, but it does not create more time to run your business. For this reason it is difficult to efficiently lead with the coaching style. “Of the six styles, [Goleman’s] research found that the coaching style is used least often.” – Goleman

Authoritative – The authoritative leader is the most positive leader; he/she is a “visionary; he/she motivates people by making clear to them how their work fits into a larger vision for the organization.” – Goleman. The fundamental concept of the authoritative style is to look forward, but do so in a way that is clearly spelled out and easy to follow. With a clear vision subordinates can creatively fulfill their goals; all for the good of the company. “Authoritative leaders give people the freedom to innovate, experiment, and take calculated risks” – Goleman. Most entrepreneurs need to be authoritative; without a clear vision how will your company grow? And without strong employees capable of following through with your vision where will your company go? With a team of capable employees the authoritative leadership style seems natural for an entrepreneur. A clear vision and authoritative leadership style implemented in an entrepreneurial environment will result in a sustainable future.

In closing I would like to identify one last point Goleman makes: “Leaders who used styles that positively affected the [employee] climate had decidedly better financial results than those who did not.”  The most prepared leaders knowingly demonstrate positive leadership styles that best prepares them for sustainable success.


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