Do You Listen? What the Goleman Leadership Styles Say About You

Command and Control or Listen and Influence?

The Goleman Leadership Styles is a model that describes emotional leadership styles and helps leaders ensure a healthy workplace. In his book, The New Leaders: Transforming the Art of Leadership, Goleman says:

Typically, the best, most effective leaders act according to one or more of six distinct approaches to leadership and skillfully switch between the various styles depending on the situation. Four of the six styles – visionary, affiliative, coaching, and democratic – create the kind of resonance that boosts performance. Two others – pacesetting and commanding… should be applied with caution.

Goleman Leadership Styles – your ability to listen is a key differentiator

One of the most marked and consistent differences between leadership styles as described by Goleman is the depth of listening that the leader exhibits in each. 

As we’ll see shortly, four of Goleman’s leadership styles boost team performance. These styles require you to listen to your people. Two of Goleman’s leadership styles must be used with caution and could cause longer-term underperformance: when leading with these two styles, the leader does not listen.

This emphasizes just how important your ability to listen is for your efforts to lead effectively. Goleman is not the only thought leader to consider this:

What does your leadership style say about your ability to listen? 

The best leaders use a range of leadership styles, which the Goleman model identifies under six headings. They adapt their style according to need and situation. 


Used to manage during a crisis or when tasks are straightforward, by leaders who must show self-control and initiative, this style is directional and instructive. It’s the ‘do it because I say so’ style, requiring compliance.

This style does not encourage your people to use their own initiative, does not seek input from others, and can have a negative effect on their feelings.


As a pacesetter, you lead by example, and can be summed up with the phrase, ‘Do as I do, and do it now’. You rarely tolerate poor performance, and only require coordination with others if it has an immediate impact on the task at hand. 

This style only works when leading people who are highly competent in their work. Your people must be highly motivated. If you use this style for too long, you risk demotivation and burnout.


As a visionary leader you explain the purpose of actions and seek people’s perspectives while maintaining authority and not undermining the vision. You ‘sell the vision to influence action’. This style is best used to manage organizational change by emotionally intelligent leaders.


As an affiliative leader, you put your people first. You show compassion and care, develop harmony, and reward behavior as well as performance. Typically, this style is used when people’s worlds have been turned upside down and you need to recover trust and loyalty. You’ll share your vulnerability and exchange thoughts and feeling openly with your people.


As a coach, your leadership style is to say, ‘let me help you’. You agree roles in the relationship with an employee, and provide guidance and mentoring based upon their strengths and weaknesses. You offer support and feedback, accepting short-term pain for long-term gain in performance.

To be effective, you must be credible, understand the employee’s objectives, and allow some degree of risk taking – as well as being good at coaching.


The democratic style of leadership encourages people to take more decisions, and involves the team in the creation of strategy and planning. It is ‘management by consensus’. To be effective, your people must be highly competent and motivated, and already aligned with the future vision.

Is it important to listen as a leader?

Sometimes it is necessary to command, control, and direct your people. But, to build the strong relationships that form the foundation of all high-performing teams, it is necessary to listen.

Your people want to be respected, and listening to them communicates respect and builds trust. Listening demonstrates empathy, and influences your ability to influence (how can you influence without understanding motivations?).

As a leader, how much time do you spend listening to your people? Or do you rely on your authority to command and set the pace?

Effective communication is a requirement for good leadership. Are your leaders fit to lead? Our leadership assessments will help you determine their strengths and weaknesses and coaching needs.

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