Although all managers perform the traditional management functions of planning, organizing, staffing, controlling and directing, it seems that the higher the management level within an organization the more important it is for the manager to practice a greater degree of leadership skills. At high management levels the manager’s duties are concerned less with the minutia of running the organization and more on setting strategic goals and maintaining corporate direction while listening carefully to their subordinates and responding thoughtfully (O’Toole, 1996). Furthermore, Roby (1961, p. 383) declares,
The functions of leadership are to
(1) bring about a congruence of goals among the members,
(2) balance the group’s resources and capabilities with environmental demands,
(3) provide a group structure that is necessary to focus information effectively on solving the problem, and
(4) make certain that all needed information is available at a decision center when required
In developing a personal leadership action plan, not only is it important for the leader to be cognizant of leadership functions but she should also understand the different styles of leadership and how to apply them relative to various situations. Research by Goldman (2000) suggests that the most effective executives use a collection of leadership skills, each in the right measure, and at just the right time. The problem is that most leaders are not aware of all of the different types of leadership styles and those that do are not always sure how to use them.
Goleman (2000) conducted a study in which he found that effective leaders must have a certain level of emotional intelligence as well as leadership skill. He defined emotional intelligence as a leader’s ability to manage themselves and their relationships relative to the four emotional capabilities of self-awareness, self-management, social-awareness, and social skill. Next, the research showed that there are six leadership styles that spring from these emotional capabilities. These are coercive, authoritative, affilitative, democratic, pacesetting, and coaching.
The key to successful leadership, therefore, is determining under which situations to employ a given style and when to switch to another style. A good example is Jack Welch, CEO of General Electric. He is noted for using an affilitative style where he creates harmony and emotional bonds with his employees. In certain situations, however, he may switch to a coercive style and demand immediate action such as getting employees to comply with federal regulations. Other times he may use a democratic style to build consensus through participation. He also serves as a pacesetter leader to demand excellence and self-direction. Often Welch exhibits coaching leadership in order to develop employees for the future.
Goleman (2000, p. 12) recommends that leaders master as many of the six leadership styles as possible and use them to create a state of “fluid leadership”. His research shows that leaders that do this are generally more successful than those who do not.
Goleman, D. (2000). Leadership that gets results. Harvard Business Review, 78 (2), 12.
O’Toole, J. (1996). Leading change: The argument for values based leadership. New York: Random House, Inc.
Roby, T. B. (1961). The executive function in small groups. In B. M. Bass (Ed.), Bass & Stogdill’s handbook of leadership theory, research, and managerial applications (3 ed., pp. 383). New York: The Free Press.