Every leader has their own unique style, and way of doing business.  As a leader, you may tend to rely on ‘gut instinct’ and a general sense of what is best based on years of experience and training, but there’s more to it than that.

As we continue to train leaders and managers, it’s become evident that there are a variety of ‘leadership styles’, and knowing yours will make a huge difference in the results you get from your team and even from yourself!

(Please note that this is just a quick overview – we’d encourage you to take our short diagnostic to identify yours!)

The Directive Style

The “JFDI” manager who closely controls employees and motivates by discipline and authority.

 A manager with this style:

  • Provides clear directives
  • Maintains tight control of employees through frequent visits, reports and other forms of monitoring
  • Relies on corrective feedback to emphasise what is being done wrong and what must be put right
  • Uses occasional attention getting strategies (ribbing, ridicule, name-calling) to embarrass an employee into compliance
  • Clearly indicates the negative consequences of an employee’s failure to comply


 Most effective:

  • In crisis situations where deadlines are looming and/or serious failure is imminent.
  • When employees urgently need clear no-nonsense direction and the manager has more information than the employees
  • When protocol must be followed  to the letter and minor deviations will result in serious problems (e.g. enforcing safety procedures when working in dangerous circumstances
  • With problem employees when all else has failed and improvement or termination are the only two future options
 Least effective:

  • In extended interactions with self-motivated employees capable of directing their own work
  • With talented, knowledgeable employees who are expected to initiate and innovate, or who are individual specialists


The Visionary Style

The “firm but fair” manager who gives employees clear direction and motivates by persuasion and feedback on task performance

The manager with this style:

  • Takes time to develop and articulate a clear vision and direction for the work group
  • Obtains employee perspective on his or her vision, and how to achieve it, without leaving doubt as to who is in charge
  • Sees influencing employees as a key leadership activity, for example, explaining the “whys” behind the vision in terms of the unit’s best interests
  • Sets standards and monitors performance in relation to the larger vision
  • Uses a balance of positive and negative feedback to enhance motivation
Most effective:

  • When a new vision or direction must be communicated to the work group and be accepted by them
  • With employees who are new and depend upon the manager for active guidance
  • When a manager is perceived to be the “expert” or “authority”
Least effective:

  • If used extensively with sophisticated and experienced employees who know as much, if not more, than the manager
  • When trying to promote self-managed works teams and participative decision making


The Visionary Style

The “people come first” manager who emphasizes good personal relationships among employees and motivates by trying to keep people happy

A manager with this style:

  • Focuses on promoting friendly interactions amongst fellow workers
  • Puts task direction, goals and standards second to meeting employees’ outstanding emotional needs
  • Takes steps to meet the needs of the “whole person” by working to provide such things as employee job security and WLB opportunities
  • Identifies opportunities for positive feedback and avoids performance related confrontations
  • At times rewards personal characteristics as much as job performance


Most effective:

  • When tasks are routine and performance is where it needs to be to hit performance goals
  • With employees who need personal support, due to either family issues or major shifts in organisational opportunities and functioning
  • With diverse and conflicting groups or individuals who must work harmoniously together
Least effective:

  • When negative performance feedback is needed to improve standards and refocus objectives
  • With employees who are task-oriented and uninterested in casual conversation and developing a more open relationship with their manager


The Democratic Style

The “participative” manager who encourages employee input in decision making and motivates by rewarding team effort

 A manager with this style:

  • Gives employees full participation in setting the direction of the work group and establishing the plans to achieve it
  • Emphasises the importance of consensus in group decision making about work group processes
  • Holds many meetings and initiated discussions to ensure all views are aired
  • Listens carefully to employees for their ideas
  • Rewards group performance , rather than addressing the “stars” and the “averages” with specific feedback


 Most effective:

  • With employees who have knowledge equal to or greater then that of the manager
  • When there is ample time for consultation and decision making
  • When employees share a common interest in decisions to be made about the team direction and functions
  • In focusing teamwork to identify total quality improvement in standards and processes
 Least effective:

  • If there is a risk employees will decide something that a manager is unable to accept
  • When time is of the essence
  • If employees have no training in consensus building and democratic decision making

The Pacesetting Style

The “lead by example” manager who performs many tasks personally and expects employees to follow his or her lead. Motivates by setting high standards and letting employees work on their own

A manager with this style:

  • Leads by example, or “modelling”, anticipating that others understand what is being modelled
  • Works mostly individually, rather than as the leader of the team
  • Delegates demanding tasks only to outstanding performers who need little instruction
  • Exerts tight control over poor performers by explicit task instruction or removing work when performance is not adequate
  • Promotes individualised effort rather then teamwork by employees


Most effective:

  • With employees who are themselves pacesetters, able to perform independently to a high level of standards
  • When it is necessary for the manager to assist in employees work due to short staffing, resource limitations or sudden time pressures
  • With poor performers who are on their way out of the department
Least effective:

  • When employees want feedback, access to their manager, and developmental plans to improve their performance
  • When direction for the work group has not been clearly established and bought into by all concerned
  • When some members of the team can not keep up at your pace

The Coaching Style

The “development” manager who helps and encourages employees to improve their performance, and motivates by providing opportunities for development

 A manager with this style:

  • Helps employees identify their current performance strengths and weaknesses
  • Works with employees to establish long-range developmental goals in light of their strengths and weaknesses
  • Listens and provided feedback to employees about their performance and development efforts
  • May trade off immediate standards of performance for longer-term development, i.e., sees mistakes as learning opportunities


 Most effective:

  • With employees interested in career development and long-range planning to achieve their goals
  • As a way to encourage employees responsibility for finding their own solutions to their work problems
  • When employees are required to be innovative, to take calculated risks, and to show initiative
 Least effective:

  • With new employees who lack experience to solve their work problems or determine how their day-to-day activities feed into career goals
  • When explicit direction is needed about what must be accomplished