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Effective Leadership Series: Part III; Democratic and Pacesetting Leadership

By Robyn Undieme | June 23, 20

We're halfway through the six leadership styles. So far we've identified the Coercive form of leadership which is very hierarchical and demanding from a top-down approach. I've also covered Authoritative and Affiliative. Authoritative leadership is visionary and inspires others, while Affiliative leadership is concerned with improving culture and morale. This week, I'll be summarizing two new approaches: Democratic and Pacesetting.

Democratic leadership can be described as someone who welcomes other people's ideas. For instance, this type of leader allows workers to have a say in decisions that affect their goals and how they do their work. So it should be no surprise that this approach drives up morale. Studies show that people who have a say in setting the goals and how work gets done are more realistic about what can and cannot be accomplished. Of course, there is a downside. Those of you who've worked in this type of setting know this can involve endless meetings with little consensus: The only visible result may be to schedule more meetings.

If you recall, my first blog on leadership featuring Daniel Goleman, encourages us to flow in and out of each style as circumstances dictate. The Democratic style of leadership is best used when the leader is uncertain about the best direction to take and needs ideas and guidance from capable and competent employees. This approach should not be utilized when employees are not informed enough to offer sound advice. Additionally, building consensus is the wrong approach to use in times of crisis. Those kinds of moments require a more decisive and stronger leader at the helm. For an example of Democratic leadership in play, see a clip of Steve Jobs discussing his use of this style at Apple.

The fifth style of leadership that Goleman identifies is Pacesetting. Similar to Coercive leadership, Pacesetting should be used sparingly. Pacesetting sets high expectations of performance and that leader exemplifies those standards. This person is obsessed with doing things better and faster and is quick to pinpoint poor performers and demand more from them. This style risks destroying morale because many may feel overwhelmed by the expectations placed on them. Expectations and guidelines may not always be communicated clearly to the employee so there tends to be a lot of second guessing about what the leader wants from him or her. As for rewards, the Pacesetter has a tendency to either give no feedback on how people are doing or jump in to take over when he or she thinks an employee is lagging.

These negatives are not intended to completely delineate the value that this Pacesetting can bring in the right circumstances. This approach works well when all employees are self-motivated, highly competent, and need little direction. For example, this approach may work well in legal teams. Given the right team, this approach helps an organization get things done on time or even ahead of schedule.

My next blog will focus on one more leadership style: Coaching. And of course, as you follow along this series, I always enjoy hearing from you. Feel free to email your thoughts to me at: rundieme@cityoftulsa.org