LEADERSHIP STYLES AND HOW TO EFFECTIVELY APPLY THEM TO PROJECTS

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Now more than ever, effective leadership and managing projects virtually, are being tested. 
Over the years, there have been discussions and research on how effective leadership contributes to productivity and output. 

One of the most prominent is Goleman’s six styles of emotional leadership. The usefulness of each style differs based on the team, the nature of the project, and its utilization. Each style has its specific influence emotions of people, and in various circumstances, each displays its strengths and weaknesses. 

The first four of these styles: Visionary, Coaching, Affiliation, and Democratic, facilitate cooperation and positive results. The last two styles: Coercive and Pace setting, have been found to cause friction and should be used only in specific circumstances. 


While a distinction in these styles has been made, it is not to suggest that a specific method should be used at all times, as even Goleman himself discouraged this. 

Preferably, the six styles can be used interchangeably, based on the individual needs, circumstances, and people involved. For this article, however, we will focus on the leadership styles most relevant for times like these. 

With the diversity of teams, the uncertainty of the global economy, the caliber of leaders, and their teams, it only makes sense to proffer solutions on how to navigate these challenging circumstances.


The Visionary Leader 

The most significant aspect of Visionary leadership is empathy. 

The visionary leadership style is inspiring and has a focus on moving the team towards a shared goal. Visionary leaders give their team members an ingenious picture that translates to what they aim to achieve but sometimes does not provide them with the step-by-step process of completing it.

Visionary leadership is most useful for an organization in some of the following circumstances: Business restructuring, strategy sessions or business ideation, new brand direction, etc. 

Given the global impact of COVID-19, leaders are being looked upon to provide a way forward, a rescue plan. We may begin to see a shift in leadership styles as leaders attempt to grab the reigns of their businesses, to prevent a total collapse.

Developing the Visionary style is vital if one aims at increasing expertise, vision alignment, self-confidence, empathy, and sustenance.


The Democratic Leader 

The democratic leadership style is based on cooperation. Leaders who use this style actively seek feedback from their team members, and focus more on listening than guiding. 

Strength resides in recognizing that no one possesses all answers. 

When the norm changes for any project or work, then listening to others’ opinions becomes crucial.. When a leader has an idea and hopes to get the team onboard to reach a consensus, this approach can be maximized. This method is also useful when a leader needs input or feedback from the team. 

The Democratic leadership style should not be utilized for a novice; someone who lacks expertise or has not gained mastery on an area of focus. 

It is often best to ask for feedback from inspired, competent, experienced, and skilled professionals from the team. 


A leader must engage the team in problem-solving and decision-making to establish a Democratic leadership style, and providing them with skill acquisition opportunities as required to carry out their duties. Active listening and facilitating is a great skill that should be mastered by such leaders.


The Pace setting Leader 

The leadership style of Pace setting is directed on improving productivity and reaching targets. 

Leaders who use this style expect excellence from their team members, and sometimes the leader engages in hands-on activities to ensure that targets are reached. 

The Pace setting style does not condone mediocre performers – due to the high standard of such leaders. Although this may be a productive style for project management or organizational management, it may have a detrimental impact on the staff, resulting in burnout, and sometimes a high turnover of the team.

In comparison with the other two leadership styles, the pace setting leader may seem counter-intuitive at a time of crisis. Even though handling transitions with sensitivity is necessary, pacing the workload and action steps towards achieving growth is also essential.

Since the Pace setting leadership style is based on high performance, it is crucial that a leader practices how to enhance the quality of the team’s work using methodologies like Six Sigma and Kaizen. A leader can also prepare staff professionally and conduct high-performance Coaching to help the team become as successful as possible.


While this list is not exhaustive of all of Goleman’s leadership styles, it’s representative of what is essential for focus, alignment, and utilization of the best practices and approach on leadership for times like these.

It is relevant to note that no one size fits all. 

Adaptability and responsiveness to the needs of the business, and people will ultimately foster the right leadership approach.

About the author

Stanley Osuozah
By Stanley Osuozah

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