Non-Profit Leadership: What Leadership Style do You Prefer?

Emotional Intelligence business concept in management

Many leaders get a reputation for their particular style of leadership. Some leaders learn from previous leaders. Some find themselves in situations that are crisis oriented. Others spend much of their leadership reacting to situations that are already part of an organizational culture. One could conclude that there are as many leadership styles as there are leaders.

In their book Primal Leadership, Daniel Goleman, Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee discuss the varied aspects of emotionally intelligent leadership. One part of the book that I find helpful is how they identify leadership styles, their use and the contextual ways they can be used to create healthy relational environments. Here are the styles they discuss.

Visionary – Moves people toward shared dreams.

Coaching – Connects what a person wants with the organization’s goals.

Affiliative – Creates harmony by connecting people to each other.

Democratic – Values people’s input and gets commitment through participation.

Pacesetting – Meets challenging and exciting goals.

Commanding – Soothes fears by giving clear direction in an emergency. 

The point of identifying these leadership styles is to encourage leaders to be emotionally intelligent. This means they understand that in different situations and key moments in their organizations or in specific relationships, they recognize when and how to adapt their leadership styles to meet the identified needs.

We have encouraged our leaders at Lakeside to understand these styles and to use them according to the specific need at hand. Sometimes in one day, a leader can switch several times to each of these styles as we encounter different dynamics that we need to navigate. It is not about having one leadership style but rather, being intentional in our leadership styles to manage the emotions of those we are in relationship with each day in any moment.

As I began to implement these styles (video above), I found it rather awkward to switch from one leadership style to another while trying to be authentic to my strengths and abilities. However, over time I worked on this with a contextual approach and found that it became much more natural throughout any given day in any given situation. I discovered that this is an appropriate and helpful way to manage relationships, emotions and situations that we encounter as leaders.    Mastering these styles helps leaders navigate the multi-faceted tasks of providing healthy leadership to our staff and organizations.

Gerry Vassar


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *