Different situations call for different approaches in leadership. In Daniel Goleman’s Harvard Business Review article, he outlines six leadership styles- each one having a distinct effect on the working atmosphere of a company, division, or team, and in turn on its financial performance.  

Leadership is a behavior enacted through communication, and one thing that is greatly associated with effective leadership is communication skills. It is important for managers, team leaders and directors to effectively lead their subordinates, especially since every single task corresponds to an effect, big or small, on the company’s financial standing.

Let us examine these six leadership styles and see how communication impacts the effectiveness of each one.


  • Visionary. A visionary leader must be able to convey the organization or team’s goals and objectives to the employees. The leader needs good public speaking skills in order to build rapport with the audience. Messages must also be very clear and concise to avoid misinterpretations. Although it may seem like a one-way communication situation, this style requires the leader to involve the audience, listen to them  and give them freedom to experiment and innovate.
  • Coaching. This one-on-one style focuses on developing individuals, which means that communication should always be two-way. Although this style asks the leader to be encouraging to his/her subordinates, the leader must still be able to maintain a power distance.
  • Affiliative. This style emphasizes the importance of teamwork, and creates harmony in a group by connecting people to each other. This style is usually used in flat organizational structures where everyone works in teams. In this style, it is important to clearly set limitations and boundaries to make the employees understand that there are still some rules to follow.
  • Democratic. This style works best when the direction the organization should take is unclear, and the leader needs to tap the collective wisdom of the group. Discussions should encourage participation since this is all about soliciting ideas and solutions from the team. However, since this process requires a lot of opinions to be taken into consideration, the leader should be open-minded, honest, and objective in his interactions.
  • Pacesetting. In this style, the leader sets high standards for performance. This style is not always encouraged, but some situations in the workplace still require this kind of leadership. In these cases, power distance must be maintained. Feedback should also be encouraging but still honest so as not to lower the morale of the team.
  • Commanding. This is classic model of “military” style leadership – probably the most often used, but often the least effective. Like the pacesetting style, this is only needed in specific situations like a crisis or other pressing issues that need to be tackled. When a leader does use this style, communication should be authoritative for it to be effective. The messages must be brief but clear.


There is really no right or wrong style of leadership; an effective leader is a leader who can adapt their style to whatever the situation may require. Moreover, what these styles all have in common is the need for communication competence.

As stated in Paul Madlock’s study for West Virginia University, there is a strong and positive relationship between supervisor leadership style and employee communication satisfaction. Since success in leadership is determined by its effect on the employees, people in positions of authority are challenged to hone their communication skills through training and practice.

A leader cannot adapt and switch between communication styles if they are not  good communicators first and foremost. A lot of organizations prefer industry experts over good communicators when choosing among candidates for a managerial position. The most beneficial option for the company would be to choose someone who is both. If not, choose the industry expert but do not stop there.

There are ways to mold experts into expert leaders, such as communication training available right now that can be customized to include materials on transformational ideas about management, and incorporate real-life situations that are exclusive to the organization’s industry and culture. Communication training can be the difference between a knowledgeable leader and an effective leader.

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