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Effective Leadership Series: Part II - Authoritative and Affiliative Leadership

By Robyn Undieme | June 2, 2016

This marks the second part of my leadership style series. My last blog highlighted the Coercive style of leadership, which you may recall is a volatile style but still serves a purpose. This week I'm talking about two extremely opposite styles from Coercive: Authoritative and Affiliative styles of leadership.

Have you ever worked for someone who is truly a visionary and communicated that vision in such a way that you and others felt you played a meaningful part in contributing to that vision? If you've been so fortunate, then you've worked under an Authoritative leader.

Authoritative leaders have a gift at helping people see how he or she is contributing to the mission of the company, which in turn causes high morale and an increased sense of loyalty and commitment from employees. Moreover, this style of leadership not only communicates the company's goals very clearly, but also allows people to forge their own way to those end results; this approach allows people to innovate and experiment. Authoritative leadership creates a safe environment; one that is flexible and open to new ideas and risk taking.

This style of leadership is great in almost any situation, but it's most ideal when a business has been lagging and needs to be "woken up." In other words, Authoritative leaders are advantageous to have when it's time to chart a new course. On the other hand, Authoritative leaders are not ideal when an organization is made up of experts or people more experienced than the leader. When such an occasion occurs, Authoritative leaders are perceived as being "out-of-touch."

A third style of leadership is Affiliative. Affiliative leadership is people focused. These leaders place more value on people and their emotions rather than on the tasks or goals. This is turn fosters communication between people. It's believed that when people talk a lot, they share ideas and inspiration. Similar to Authoritative leadership, Affiliative leaders also provide flexible environments in which people can figure out how to accomplish something rather than being told how to do it.  Affiliative leaders also provide ample positive feedback on a regular basis and are known to take employees out to lunch or coffee as a way of checking in with them.

Undoubtedly, working for an employer who cares so much about you is a positive work environment to be in, but there are downsides as well. For one, focusing exclusively on positive praise can allow poor performance to go uncorrected and as such, employees may come to see that mediocre performance is tolerated. Furthermore, because this approach focuses so heavily on people rather than on a task or vision, employees can be left without direction. This can be particularly challenging if the industry is filled with complex issues to be solved. The most ideal situation is to find a leader who can flow between Authoritative and Affiliative. Authoritative leadership will provide the vision, set standards, and let people know how their work impacts the goals. Affiliative leadership can balance that while letting people know they matter just as much as the project.

Stay tuned for the next blog in this series. We'll be talking about Democratic and Pacesetting leadership next time.