15 Characteristics and Leadership Styles of Effective Business Leaders

Advance your small business leadership skills and move your team from average to outstanding.

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A Leadership Style for Every Situation

Leadership is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. Team members have different needs at different times, which can be addressed by employing various leadership styles. Here are six effective leadership styles that can make a significant impact on team productivity:


  1. Authoritative

    The authoritative leader creates teams to accomplish a common vision. The focus is on the end game; how they get there is up to the individuals. These leaders inspire an entrepreneurial attitude in their teams.

  2. Pace-Setter

    These leaders have high expectations and want things done faster and better. This style is best used sparingly, with highly skilled and motivated teams.

  3. Affiliative

    Teamwork is the main goal here, as this leadership style strives to create connections that lead to a sense of belonging. It’s best implemented when the team is facing issues with trust, morale or communication.

  4. Coaching

    This leadership style is focused on creating future leaders. It can be used to develop team members’ strengths and improve their performance. It can also help connect individuals’ goals to the organization’s goals.

  5. Democratic

    This participatory style draws on the skills and knowledge of the entire team to build consensus and work toward common goals. Democratic leaders ask questions and appreciate others’ opinions. This style works best with qualified team members, but not during times of crisis, when quick decisions are required.

  6. Coercive

    This leadership style is characterized by demands, criticism and “do as I say” language. It can be effective during emergencies, such as a takeover attempt, or when no other style is working for a problematic team member. Overdoing coercive leadership can squash creativity and lead to decreased productivity.

Leaders often get stuck in one particular style, which can have negative effects on morale and productivity. Adopting aspects of each of these leadership styles can strengthen your leadership ability, as well as your team.


Measuring Leadership Success

To monitor effectiveness, take a look at your personal and professional goals, your organization’s goals and your team members’ goals. If they are not being met, something needs to change. Also, explore the work climate and morale in your organization. How do people feel about working together?

  • Start with detailed plans that define objectives, goals and outcomes.
  • Measure progress against these goals and desired outcomes.
  • Gather feedback from team members and stakeholders.
  • Identify necessary changes.
  • Improve processes, tools and practices to implement change.
  • Measure success.

Most organizations have the data required to measure outcomes against goals, and the ability to survey stakeholders and team members with informative questionnaires. Consistent monitoring and measuring will provide valuable information to leaders that will translate into long-term success.


Dean Vella writes about topics related to leadership training and business certificate programs for University Alliance.

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