Common leadership characteristics are widely known, but are there specific leadership styles that are more effective in different work environments? The author Daniel Goleman believes so. In his book, Primal Leadership, he describes six leadership styles: ‘Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, and Commanding.’ A good leader is an all-around persuader, motivator, and cognizant of employee morale. Successful leaders are flexible in guiding teams based on members and external circumstances.

The Most Common Styles:
  • The ‘visionary’ leader sees the big picture and often has a dream of their own and can see how other members of the organization will help accomplish that dream. A visionary leader thrives best in a situation that needs direction.
  • The ‘coaching’ leader works with the team member on an individual level to offer skill refinement, encouragement, and guidance to help the employee reach their personal goals based off of their personal skill set. The coach will create an environment that will foster the growth of the individual.
  • The ‘affiliative’ leader is empathetic and aware of team member morale and focuses on the connectivity of members. Affiliative leaders flourish in struggling situations, company mergers, and when companies need to be connected and strengthened.
  • The ‘democratic’ leader listens to ideas, collaborates, and brings the team together in a cohesive manner. These skills are necessary to get the whole team on the same page and working towards the same goal.
  • The ‘pacesetting’ leader has high initiative and drive for success, but looses focus on building interpersonal connection. This leadership style is usually seen as ineffective, but has potential positive results in a sales environment.
  • The ‘commanding’ leader motivates with fear and is typically a harsh enforcer of rules, but effective in a crisis situation.


Ideally, a leader will exhibit qualities from all categories, but the visionary leader is most effective in a business setting. The most important quality of a leader is adaptability, in which the leader can pull skills from all areas of management and use what is applicable for the situation, environment, and team. When looking for a qualified leader within an organization, it is important to asses what it is you need from your leader, what skills are necessary to accomplish your organization’s goals, and what personality type will be most effective in your work environment. An effective leader can bring an unbeknownst amount of success to your company if he or she is matched up according to the direction of your company.