Leadership and Management Development

Understanding your leadership style helps you lead more effectively, by becoming more objective and appreciating the need for different styles in different situations.

In the 1990s Daniel Goleman's and Richard Boyatzis's research on emotional intelligence (EQ) revolutionised how organisations developed and promoted their people. Goleman's book 'Working With Emotional Intelligence’ flew off the shelves and EQ rapidly became a popular model for team and leadership success. Emotional intelligence can be summarised by a person's level of, and ability to use, self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills.

Goleman's work in EQ also led us to a greater understanding of leadership styles.

Goleman identified six leadership styles (Commanding Leader, Coaching Leader, Democratic Leader, Pacesetting Leader, Affiliative Leader, Visionary Leader) which are based on the emotional reactions that a leader has to different situations.

“IQ and technical skills are important, but Emotional Intelligence is the Sine Qua Non of Leadership.”

— Daniel Goleman

Goleman's 6 Leadership Styles.

1. Commanding:

The Commanding Leader is very task-oriented with little focus on relationships. Commanding Leaders set high standards, give clear instructions and expect results. They can be demanding and often have little time for small talk.

2. Coaching:

Coaching Leaders focus on the development of their team and relationships. They provide guidance, support and feedback in order to help team members reach their potential. Coaching Leaders often have a personal interest in their team members and like to get to know them as people.

3. Democratic:

Democratic Leaders make decisions after considering the opinions of their team. They are interested in hearing different points of view and believe that team members should be able to contribute to the decision-making process. Democratic Leaders usually have a flat management structure.

4. Pacesetting:

Pacesetting Leaders are high-achievers who expect a lot from themselves and their team. They are often perfectionists and have a strong work ethic. Pacesetting Leaders set the pace for their team and expect them to keep up.

5. Affiliative Leader:

Affiliative Leaders are focused on the well-being of their team. They provide emotional support. They are usually good listeners and are interested in the personal lives of their team members. Affiliative Leaders often have a relaxed management style.

6. Visionary:

Visionary Leaders inspire the hearts and minds of those they lead. They set lofty ambitions and bring people with them towards a shared vision. The visionary leader creates an environment of feedback where people understand how their performance is perceived.

Each of these leadership styles has its own strengths and weaknesses. Which style a leader uses depends on the situation they are in, their own personality preferences and the type of team they are working with. For example, a Commanding Leader might be good for a team that is focused on meeting deadlines, but a Coaching Leader would be better for a team that is trying to improve its performance. A visionary leadership style fits well with a new team, but a pacesetting leadership style works well when rigour and thoroughness are needed. 

The six leadership styles are not mutually exclusive. A leader can use more than one style at a time or switch between them depending on the situation. For example, an Affiliative Leader might become a Visionary Leader if they need to get their team to comply with a strict deadline.

The six leadership styles are a valuable tool for understanding how leaders behave and can help you to better understand your own boss or the leaders of your organisation. If you are looking for a new job, it is also worth thinking about the leadership style of the organisation you want to work for. Knowing the type of leader they nurture will help you to decide if the organisation is a good fit for you.

The key enablers that underpin all of this are our own level of self-awareness, emotional intelligence, understanding of personality preferences, and our willingness to flex based on the situation.

A great start to deepening self-awareness and understanding our 'go-to' leadership style is through the Insights Discovery colour model of behaviour. It's a simple system that raises awareness and highlights the behavioural differences that exist.

The four dominant behaviours described through Insights Discovery and represented by the colour energies can relate to Goleman's leadership styles.

Now you know your 'go-to' style, how do you move between the styles when the situation, team or individual requires it?

Cool Blue Energy

  • Uses logical reasoning to make decisions​
  • Gives others time to think ​
  • Thoughtful and considerate​
  • Processes information methodically ​
  • Precise and analytical

Earth Green Energy:

  • Considers values, opinions and beliefs​
  • Careful not to overuse authority​
  • Creates the ideal environment​
  • Helpful and supportive​
  • Respects others’ choices

Sunshine Yellow Energy:

  • Imagination and “what could be”​
  • Enthusiastic and appreciative​
  • Involves people​
  • Creates stimulating group discussion​
  • Acts as a catalyst for future growth

Fiery Red Energy:

  • Being direct
  • Quick to see the pros and cons​
  • Pragmatic​
  • Quick to initiate action​
  • Demonstrates a sense of urgency

When we describe the dominant types, we do not aim to put people into "boxes" or define them by a behavioural type, we are just simplifying the complexities of behaviour to help people become more self-aware, as well as understand what others need and why they behave the way that they do. A knowledge of the Insights colour energies coupled with Goleman's Leadership styles can help anyone whether they are in a leadership role or not.

Learn more about the Insights Discovery Colour Energies here


Our areas of specialism.


  • Self-awareness

  • Resilience

  • Personal Development

  • Change

  • Decision making

  • Growth mindset

Team development.

  • Hybrid team working

  • Communication

  • Meetings

  • Feedback

  • Collaboration

  • Trust

Leadership development.

  • Leadership styles

  • Psychological safety

  • Leading change

  • Mission, vision, values

  • Culture

  • Mentoring