By CHRISTOPH NIEWERTH, Board, Germany – Hays

Truly great business leaders are few and far between. There are many who have mastered a particular style of command, and often this has brought them a degree of success, however in order to elevate yourself to the next level in the modern world of business you need to be flexible; willing and able to rotate through a number of varying leadership styles.

Goleman’s ‘Six Leadership Styles’

There is some dispute about exactly how many leadership styles there are out there, but psychologist Daniel Goleman presents a good case for his six. They are:

Commanding – Someone who demands immediate compliance.
Visionary – Someone who mobilizes people towards their vision.
Affiliative – Someone who creates harmony and builds emotional bonds.
Democratic – Someone who forges consensus through collective and fair participation.
Pace-setting – Someone who sets their own high standards for performance, and expects their team to match them.
Coaching – Someone who develops people for the future through nurturing and training

Flexible management


To be a great leader you need to know when and how to adopt each of these different styles. Imagine someone who’s ‘commanding’ all the time; are they likely to inspire innovative thinking? Or imagine someone who’s forever ‘affiliative’; are they likely to be able to motivate their team when found in a tough spot?
The best leaders I’ve come across are those who are flexible and adaptive in their management style. They’re able to be the manager and the mentor, the colleague and the counsellor. You need to need to be able to incorporate many of the different approaches into your style of leadership, knowing when to assert one approach ahead of the others.

As a board member at Hays I find use for all of Goleman’s leadership styles on almost a weekly basis. In order to help you understand when each style is appropriate, here’s a breakdown of how I build them into my complete management style.


This approach is the exception to the rule as I almost never use it. It’s the most negative leadership style of the six, and thus should be only used in serious crisis situations – which, thankfully for me, have been few and far between! This style is most useful when team disunity is at absolute breaking point and the situation requires someone to step in, take the reins and direct the team without consultation. It’s a style of leadership that has very much gone out of fashion over the years, and should only be used as a last resort towards restoring harmony.


When your business needs to innovate to remain competitive then a visionary approach is advised. This method of leadership requires strong persuasive and empathetic powers, as you’ll have to mobilize your team around your vision. When we recently expanded into Ulm I had to set out my vision for the branch and lay down the values and priorities for the team to follow. I didn’t want to be too commanding because I needed to use my persuasive powers to get all the team on board by their own volition, but at the same time I didn’t want to be too democratic either as I had to ensure everyone would be adhering to the established Hays practices.


I find this approach useful when settling in a new recruit. Being there to offer support and a warm welcome during the first few weeks can have a huge impact on how far that employee goes in your business. The affiliative leadership style can also be used to counsel team members when they’re motivation is waning or to resolve issues amongst employees in a team – however, if you’ve selected the candidate with the right attitude then this shouldn’t be a problem!


This is the leadership style that I perhaps use most often. I apply it regularly when considering a new initiative, or sometimes even a new employee, although I always maintain that I have final say. It’s important for your employees to know that their opinions are of value to you, and the business, as this helps strengthen trust and flatten what can sometimes be an impedingly rigid hierarchy.


Leading by example is an almost constant method of leadership for me. I never ask anything of my team that I myself would be uncomfortable or incapable of doing. Most teams will always replicate the work ethic and efficiency of the person that is leading them – it’s your choice whether to set a high bar or not. I try to be the best I can be at my job, and in turn I expect my team to follow suit.



The majority of your employees will require some degree of coaching, and so I always try to make sure that there is budget put aside to train my team members. There is more that you can do than just pay for their participation in various courses, however. By keeping in close contact with your team you’ll be able to easily identify who the high performers are. Once I have done this I usually put in the extra effort to make sure these employees are getting all the help they need to advance to the next level. Great management isn’t just about managing in the now; it also requires you to look ahead – predicting and then developing who your integral cogs are going to be in five years’ time.

Bringing it all together

Being just one of the above types of leaders all the time might be alright if you’re an army colonel, artist or politician but no one approach alone will satisfy the requirements of modern business management. Hopefully I’ve been able to convince you that it is possible and indeed desirable to be a fluid sort of leader.

In order to get the very best out of your team, and achieve prolonged business success, you need to be the sort of leader that understands that different situations and different people require different methods of management. Those who grow static and stubborn in their style are those who the world often leaves behind. Become a better leader by being a manager as well as a mentor, a counsellor as well as a colleague.