The Brown Thrasher Effect: 6 Leadership Styles And How to Work Them

Diversifying your management strategy can lead to winning results

If all leaders strive to be like the Brown Thrasher, they would probably be more effective in delivering good results. Brown Thrashers, a North American songbird, has over 2000 birdsongs in its repertoire to attract mates. If one song fails, there’s still 1999 more to do the job! In business—especially within the workplace–having a repertoire of a core set of leadership styles is more advantageous than having just one.

Daniel Goleman, American psychologist, finds leaders are most effective when they use 6 main leadership styles, which derive from different components of emotional intelligence.When each style is used appropriately, it has the ability to strengthen the financial fitness,  job performance, morale, and overall unit of a team or company .

Goleman found these cardinal styles of leadership called affiliative, authoritative, coaching, commanding, democratic and pacesetting in his extensive research study published in the Harvard Business Review magazine, “Leadership Gets Results.” Goleman and colleagues of McNeild, led by Mary Fontaine, and consulting firm Hay/McBer, headed by Ruth Jacobs— set out to explore effective leadership behavior as it relates to different workplace climates and performance.

The real charm? Knowing when and how to use the 6 core leadership styles. As a leader, you may  have to adapt and change your style to fit the situation. Goleman describes leadership styles best in “Leadership Gets Results,” when he describes a golf-pro’s bag saying, “Imagine the styles, then, as the array of clubs in a golf pro’s bag. Over the course of a game, the pro picks and chooses clubs based on the demands of the shot. Sometimes he has to ponder his selection, but usually it is automatic. The pro senses the challenge ahead, swiftly pulls out the right tool, and elegantly puts it to work. That’s how high-impact leaders operate, too.”

To be effective, you cannot rely on one type of leadership. You have to learn to use different types at a time to navigate through issues and drive home results.

Here are the 6 main leadership styles that Goleman and his team discovered, which are based out of various components of emotional intelligence:

Affiliative: People first, tasks second.

In affiliative leadership, there is a particular focus on the person and his state of happiness rather than the tasks at hand. Although these type of leaders provide a lot of room for positive feedback and praises, they seldom offer constructive advice to improve performance. If used by itself, it could create a culture of where mediocrity is accepted. However, It is great to use in situations where  morale needs to be strengthened.

Authoritative: Most effective. Show us the vision, for the long haul.

Authoritative leaders are visionaries. They allow team members to buy into the shared vision—by reminding them about the end goal. In this way, they see how their work fits into a larger puzzle. For the authoritative leader, their employees or supporters know the value of their work. The bonus? They become more loyal and committed. In this approach, room is given to experiment and take calculated risks, which promotes a more positive environment. However, it works best when trying a new direction–  not when working with experts.

Coaching: The mentor approach. Invest in personal/professional development

These leaders that adopt the ‘coaching’ style with their teammates,  strengthen their skills and our thought as mentors. The down? It takes time and the employee or teammate must be receptive to change. The good?  In ideal circumstances, when your teammate’s skills strengthen so will the company overall.

Coercive: What you say goes– no ‘ifs’ ‘ands’ or ‘buts’ about it.

A “my way or the highway” blunt way of leading, the coercive leadership style should only be used in state of an emergency. Well, what qualifies as an emergency? When the current state of a company is failing (and all other styles are useless)  and there’s an immediate need to do a drastic turnaround, the kind that pushes people into a better way of working. The coercive leadership approach offers little to no positive rewards. If used too much, it can lower morale.

Democratic: I want to know everyone’s views. What are your thoughts?

It takes the team to arrive at a single decision, usually, with this approach. Although it may be effective in boosting morale, it can also be time consuming. It is not the best approach to take for urgent matters.

Pace-Setting: High expectations. Sink or swim.

These types of leaders often think that if the bar is raised, it will be natural for their teams  to naturally rise above to meet expectations. The problem? The bar is often raised very high –too high– when people cannot meet expectations repeatedly, they begin to view themselves as the problem or become overwhelmed.  It should be used sparingly.

What type of leadership styles do  you use? #Soundoff and follow Amanda on Twitter @ebokosia.

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