How your values relate to your leadership style

I intended to write this a few days ago, but I got distracted by the US Presidential Election. I was reflecting on why this is so, given that I live in the UK, have no influence on the outcome, nor does it have a (big) influence on me. So why does it matter? For me, it is about the messages our leaders give us and how that affects our behaviours. With that in mind, it led me to think about how your values relate to your leadership style. 

What are the leadership styles? 

The 6 styles of leadership were described and developed by Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis, and Annie McKee in their 2002 book, “Primal Leadership.” Each style has a different effect on people’s emotions, and each has strengths and weaknesses in different situations. They can all be used interchangeably, depending on the specific needs of the situation and the people you’re dealing with – and all of them have good/bad elements. 


People who lead predominantly with a visionary style are often described as inspiring. They move people towards an endpoint, without telling them how to get there; leaving it up to the team to find a common goal. They provide autonomy in an empathetic environment. 

Most effective:  when the organization needs a new vision or a dramatic new direction, such as during a corporate turnaround. 

Least effective: when you’re working with a team more experienced than you are – here, democratic leadership is more likely to be effective. Also  if dealing with redundancy/change in team and/or you don’t know what the vision is. 

Danger: It can be overbearing if overused. Many bosses think they are visionaries but their team may think they are ‘commanders’. 

To develop this style:  focus on increasing your expertise, vision, self-confidence and empathy. Get excited about change – let it be contagious within your team. If you need to convince others to focus on how you present yourself and your ideas – aim to be present in the moment rather than always focusing on the future



Leaders with a coaching style connect people’s goals with the company/organisational goals. They focus on developing others for future success. They provide an empathetic and encouraging environment which builds trust and rapport quickly. For these leaders, they are willing to trade immediate standards for long-term development.

Most effective:  to help an employee develop their long term strengths or improve performance

Least effective: when it’s used with an employee who is not engaged, or who needs a lot of direction and feedback – here, pacesetting or commanding leadership may be more appropriate. 

To develop this style:  focus on informal coaching and mentoring techniques. In addition, get to know the people on your team. 



The affiliative leader creates harmony through connecting people, promoting inclusion and resolving conflict. To use this style you must value the emotions of others and place a high value on emotional needs. 

Most effective: whenever there is team tension or conflict; when trust has been broken, or if the team needs to be motivated through a stressful time.

Least effective: in the long term because it can lead to complacency and the bigger picture may be lost whilst focusing on the individual

Danger: it can mean nothing gets done and if this is the only style used it can leave people frustrated when used in the extreme. If not used at all then people can often feel unsupported. 

To develop this style: focus on the emotional needs of your team and effective methods to resolve conflict. 



The Democratic leadership style focuses on collaboration. Leaders using this leadership style actively seek input from their teams, and they rely more on listening than directing. It can be highly effective, bringing ideas from the bottom up.

Most effective: when you need to get your team on board with an idea, build consensus and/or when you need your team’s input.

Least effective: when used with people who are inexperienced, lack competence, or aren’t well informed about a situation. 

Danger: can result in no decisions and death by meeting! Also, if you move from commander to democrat it can seem incongruent. 

To develop this leadership style: involve your team in decision making and problem-solving as well as teaching them the skills to do this. You need to have active listening and facilitation skills.


Commanding leaders use an autocratic approach to leadership. This style often depends on orders, the (often unspoken) threat of punishment, and tight control.  What’s more, because this leadership style is so often misused, it can have a profoundly negative effect on a team when used in the long term. 

Most effective: in crisis situations, to jump-start fast-paced change, and with problem employees. It works really well in the short term. 

Least effective: in the long term. People in modern, democratic countries are used to having a level of control over their lives and their work, and this approach deprives them of this.

Danger: Be cautious when setting out to develop a Commanding leadership style. Remember, this style is very easily misused, and should only be used when necessary.

To develop this style: learn to work effectively in these high-pressure situations, learn how to manage crises, think on your feet and make decisions under pressure



The Pacesetting leadership style focuses on performance and meeting goals. Leaders using this leadership style expect excellence from their teams, and often the leader will jump in to make sure that goals are met. It is common in new line managers or in first promotions as well as SMEs or technical staff promoted into leadership

Most effective: when you need to get high-quality results from a motivated team, quickly.

Least effective: with poor performers – everyone is held to a high standard which can mean more work is given to the highest performers causing more workload for them and less for the lower performers. 

Danger: it can easily turn into ‘commanding’, it can lead to a sense of not being ‘good enough’, be demotivating and can lead to burnout and exhaustion for the leader and their teams and consequently a high staff turnover

To develop this skill: learn how to improve the quality of your team’s work using techniques like six sigma and kaizen. Train people properly and employ a high-performance environment. Consider also how you motivate others to achieve their best.

How values relate to leadership style

We have looked at the different styles of leadership, now is an opportunity to relate values to leadership styles. Here are three common values and how they relate to leadership styles

  1. Achievement – tends to be more commander/pacesetting; 
  2. Collaboration – affiliative and democratic; 
  3. Power – coaching and visionary (influence and impact being values). 

As you move up in your career your values tend to shift to what’s needed and you may not feel equipped or supported in doing this – which is where it becomes problematic. E.g. being in a technical role (achievement) and then moving into a power role. If you feel out of your depth then a 360 feedback might help you identify where you are or working with a coach/mentor. 

Our values don’t just relate to leadership styles, but also to help us as employees relate to our leaders e.g. if we are more power-driven then we might relate more to a coaching style. 


Think about leaders you have related to in the past, what styles did they use? Think about situations that went well (or not) – what leadership style would you have used? 

What are your core values – how do they fit into these styles of leadership?



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