The challenge of running an organization full of independent, smart, willing-to-learn people can be a bit overwhelming. Helping our CEOs and leaders understand that managing people isn’t a One Size Fits All approach. The reality is they need all six of these leadership styles to effectively manage.


First, recognize that leaders bring a ‘blend’ of styles to their approach to employees. A Stage 3 leader’s best blend of leadership styles are:


Dominant:  Coaching

Secondary:  Democratic

Auxiliary:  Pacesetting



Coaching is the primary leadership style for a Stage 3 leader. A coaching style helps people identify their strengths and weaknesses and ties these to career opportunities. Coaches are good at delegating – giving employees challenging assignments that stretch them versus simple tasks that might not engage the employee in the overall vision for the company.


However, this style is difficult to use with people who lack motivation or who require excessive direction and feedback. Coaching works best with employees who show initiative and want to professionally develop. Again, that’s why it’s critical that there is a combination of styles a leader brings to the plate. They must be able to assess each situation and each employee and determine the right style to fit at the right time.


Pacesetting leaders, focused on high performance, often think they are coaching when in fact, they are micromanaging. An example would be a leader who gets overly focused on short term results like sales figures, putting more emphasis on the task of selling (which can create customer service issues and competition among employees) than emphasis on the overall company revenue goals. (what is the ‘end result’ and how can we get there?)


Coaching is a tough style to develop as it takes patience and the ability to ask inquiring questions that allow the employee to think for themselves and solve problems. Coaches facilitate action, they don’t necessarily solve the problems.


Key competencies for this style include developing others, emotional self-awareness and empathy. Emotional self-aware leaders are authentic. Empathetic leaders listen first before reacting or giving feedback.




This style is the secondary style in the blend of a Stage 3 leader. Democratic leaders focus on building trust and respect by getting staff buy-in. This style works best when the leader is uncertain about what direction to take and needs to solicit ideas from able employees. Even if a leader has a strong vision, the Democratic Style works well to surface ideas about how to implement that vision or solicit ideas on how to execute on it. This style is good at keeping morale high.


The best communicators are superb listeners and listening is the key strength of a Democratic leader. These leaders create the sense that they truly want to hear employees’ thoughts and ideas. They are true collaborators – working as a team member rather than top-down leaders. A Democratic Style knows how to quell conflict and create a sense of harmony.


A Democratic Style can have its drawbacks. This style can tend to overly rely on endless meetings to find consensus and runs the risk of letting decisions be put off. This can cause confusion and project a lack of direction for the company which can erode enthusiasm and cause staff members to lose credibility with their leader.


Successful use of this style utilizes leadership competencies of empathy, teamwork and collaboration, conflict management and influence.



This style is the auxiliary style in the blend of a Stage 3 leader. Pacesetting leaders expect excellence and exemplify it. However, this is a Dissonant leadership style and works the best in technical fields, among highly skilled professionals, and/or a hard-driving sales team. It’s a critical style for a Stage 3 company in that the company is adding employees fairly quickly and group members are highly competent, very motivated and need better direction than was needed in Stage 1 or Stage 2.


However, a Pacesetting style should be used sparingly as it can be unnerving to staff who feel too pushed. Because the Pacesetting leader has a tendency to come across as micromanaging, the staff feel they have to second guess what the leader wants because it’s never ‘good enough’. The staff won’t feel they can do things ‘their own way’ which is the beginning of the leadership/staff gap that becomes almost unmanageable in Stage 3. The Pacesetting leader can also tend to make staff feel they only care about production, getting work done – not about the employee.


The more pressure put on people’s results, the more anxiety is created. This continuing pressure can be debilitating. As people shift away from pursuing an inspiring vision, pure survival kicks in. Pressure constricts their innovative thinking.


Successful use of this style must be combined with the leadership competency, empathy. This leader must also have competencies in communication and collaboration and be extremely good at emotional self-management.


We have a Leadership Styles assessment in the CEO Insight Summary Worksheet and these are from Daniel Goleman’s book Primal Leadership. If you use these leadership styles please give him attribution.


Your success. My passion.

Laurie Taylor, FlashPoint!