Everyone seems to have an opinion on how to lead well, but few people have studied the question as scientifically as Harvard psychology professor Daniel Goleman has.
Goleman fathered the theory of emotional intelligence, and in his research of more than 3,000 business executives he finds a clear correlation between leadership and emotional intelligence.
You can’t be a good leader if you are emotionally unintelligent. That doesn’t mean you must be a “nice” person; just that you must understand yourself and others. Demagogues can be effective, at least in the short term, because they understand how to manipulate people.
Emotional intelligence, if you recall, is how well you function emotionally with yourself (self-regulation and self-awareness) and with others (motivation, empathy and social skills). The theory broke new ground in its recognition that being smart is about more than doing well on tests.
This is a powerful insight for any size of company that has employees. Integrating this information can make you incredibly effective.
Golf clubs in your bag of tricks
I value Goleman’s theory of leadership because it recognizes that there are different, equally valid, styles of leadership within the same leader. The title of his Harvard Business Review article sums it up: “Leadership That Gets Results.” He focuses on what works.
These leadership styles Goleman likens to golf clubs in a bag that are useful for different terrain. Most leaders only have one or two styles. But you need more than that. When you try to use the wrong style for a situation that calls for something else, you miss the mark (or should we say, the hole).
Goleman’s six styles in a nutshell:
- Coercive – Do what I tell you
- Authoritative – Come with me
- Affiliative – People come first
- Democratic – What do you think?
- Pace-setting – Do as I do, now
- Coaching – Try this
What varies are the people with and the situations in which the styles are used. Knowing when to deploy them is key.
When negative is effective
It’s interesting that in Goleman’s research the authoritative style is the most effective, yet he considers that and “pace-setting” to be negative styles to be used sparingly. Relying on one style exclusively means that you will fail when that style is not helpful.
Crisis, for example, demands that someone make authoritative, often unilateral, decisions. That’s why boards will bring in “turnaround specialists” when a company is on the precipice. If you have too much of a democratic or affiliative style, you’ll flounder in a crisis. Recognize what kind of leadership is needed and work to provide it.
When you are lacking in a leadership style
Try to work on the underlying emotional intelligence so that you have more than one club in your bag. The affiliative and coaching styles emphasize empathy and relationship building. Without those, you will probably have high turnover in your organization.
You can work on those styles by communicating with your employees more about what matters to them. Ask questions and really listen. Look for ways to develop the potential in each person.
The best leaders know how to get both loyalty and high performance out of their teams.
Did any of these styles resonate with you? I’d love to talk to you about how you can lead your team to greatness.