Leadership Approaches

How can I become a more effective leader? One of the most important aspects of being a good leader is understanding different leadership approaches and when each approach is most likely to be effective will help you succeed.

6 leadership approaches:

  • Visionary: Share a vision and motivate the team
  • Collaborative: Foster ideas or agreement from the group
  • Directive: Tell employees what to do
  • Pacesetting: Inspire by example of commitment and hard work with self-awareness
  • Affiliative: Build connection and closeness with empathy in the team
  • Coaching: Provide instruction or coaching


A visionary leader fosters trust and respect by bringing people together toward a common vision and a focus on the end goal. Visionary leadership aligns and motivates others, then gives them freedom to develop specific ways to reach the shared goal. This approach is at the core of effective leadership.

When to use it: This approach is appropriate when staff don’t need lots of guidance.

Things to consider: This approach assumes that staff have or can gain the necessary knowledge and skills to take action to meet the shared goal.


A collaborative leader involves the staff in contributing to the decision-making process.

When to use it: This leadership approach is useful when there is time to get input from employees or when employee buy-in is needed.

Things to consider: This approach can be slow moving and is not the best choice for when a decision needs to be made quickly. This approach also depends on how well informed the employees are about the situation.


A directive leader takes charge and tells employees what to do.

When to use it: This leadership approach works in times of crisis, when there is little time to act, or when employees have less skill and experience with the needed work.

Things to consider: If this approach is used too often or in situations where it is not a good fit, it can be overbearing and cause employees to feel resentful.


A pacesetting leader sets high performance standards and leads by example. Leaders using this approach communicate their expectations to others through the model shown by their own actions.

When to use it: This is a good approach when the staff are highly motivated and skilled and when there is a tight deadline.

Things to consider: If this approach is used too often by itself, it can cause the staff to feel burned out and may suppress motivation.


An affiliative leader establishes positive relationships and works to create strong emotional bonds with employees. This leadership approach focuses on the employees and on creating a sense of ownership of and belonging to the business.

When to use it: This approach works well in times of stress, as part of a healing process, to build or rebuild trust, or when bringing in new staff or building a new team.

Things to consider: This approach should seldom be the only approach used. While it’s important to have positive relationships with employees, other leadership approaches are needed to ensure that appropriate actions are taken when necessary. If negative behaviors or poor performance is ignored, this can encourage mediocre behavior.


A coaching leader focuses on mentoring employees and building their strengths and skills for the long term.

When to use it: This approach works when the leader is experienced and the staff need to build their knowledge and skills, and when employees are aware of weaknesses and receptive to suggestions.

Things to consider: This approach can take a lot of time and is not the best choice if the leader is not highly skilled in the specific area. This approach also depends on the willingness of the employees to change or learn and to cooperate with the leader.

Effective Communication

What technologies can help us communicate effectively as a leader? Whether you are running a small business or an international enterprise and regardless of your leadership approach, effective communication is essential to success. Many technologies are available to help leaders connect with their employees, partners, and customers and create channels for two-way communication and collaboration. The type of technologies you choose depends on the situations and communication needs at any given time.

This activity is an exercise for you to reflect on how you want to lead your employees and learn about the different types of technologies that you can use to communicate with them effectively.

Communication technologies:

  • Instant messaging (IM)
  • Online community
  • Internet voice and video call
  • Screen sharing
  • Collaborative document editing