What’s your Leadership Style?

Your leadership style is your preferred behaviour when you lead others and attempt to influence their performance outcomes and emotional commitment.

Matching your style to your team, and to the current circumstances you face, is the key to making the impact you seek to make.

How well does your style work for you?

Find out by taking my Leadership Styles Quiz.

There are two key dimensions to the Styles. 

Social psychologists have researched interpersonal attributes over many decades. Warmth and competence are the two key criteria by which we judge others. How they go together matters. If you overdo competence without warmth, you’ll likely inspire envy. If you overdo warmth and under-do competence, you’ll evoke pity. Manage neither and contempt will be the result.

What are the Leadership Styles?

The first is competent/casual, at one end a striving for power and task mastery, and at the other a lack of concern with it.

The Convincing style is concerned with ensuring direction is set, and that tasks are aligned. At the opposite end of the scale, Cruising is the style that is least concerned with focus and task alignment.

The other dimension is caring/coolness. At one end, the focus is on warm engagement with others, and at the other, it’s on greater formality or coolness in relationships.

The Collaborating style is the one with the greatest empathy and focuses on engaging with others, while the Controlling style is the least concerned with others’ feelings.

Together the dimensions produce eight overarching leadership styles.

Find out more about your own style

All leadership styles have some degree of legitimacy, depending on the circumstances.

Your preferred style is your default, the one you are most likely to use. This is the one you find easiest, and the one you are most likely to use when you are under pressure.

It will serve you well, some of the time. Yet, it won’t be right for every circumstance. And there are some styles that should be used sparingly. How easily do you flex your leadership style?

Are you having the impact that you want to have with your team?

Leadership starts with caring.

Admiration is the result of warmth first, then a blend of competence and warmth. It’s definitely the sweet spot for leading.


Despite the primacy of masculine styles of leading, that emphasise competence, what we know about warmth and competence is that to be more influential you need to start with warmth.

Competence first isn’t influential, it’s coercive.

Warmth comes first because:

  • People need to feel a sense of belonging – until we have that we don’t connect.
  • If you care about others’ needs and interests, you must be able to maintain your connection with them despite your status.

Leaders typically emphasise their competence or expertise with others. This is standard operating system for for many organisations.

Yet for both men and women leading through competence often backfires: it can alienate rather than influence. A wealth of leadership research showing this to be the case is too often ignored.

Commanding and controlling styles of leadership are appropriate in crisis and poor performance situations. Otherwise the impact is negative. I’ve spoken about this in detail in Lead Like a Coach.


Daniel Goleman outlined the impact of different leadership styles in his article ‘Leadership that gets results’.

That article describes how different leadership styles impact organisational climate and performance: each is appropriate at certain times, damaging at others.

Better results are obtained by thinking about leadership as a set of styles to use to adapt to different situations.

Emphasising flexibility of styles helps to increase inclusion.

We can focus on how to be more effective in service to the team and the organisation. How to be a good leader takes primacy, and it  depends on the best of both warmth and competence. When both are present and expected, poor leadership behaviour will reduce.



“I highly recommend the ‘Lead like a Coach’ program. Dr Karen Morley has a wealth of experience and is a knowledgeable executive coach. Exercises, practical insights, strategies and simple tools have given me the confidence to continue to practice my coaching in and outside the workplace environment. Her friendly, open and challenging style made it easy to connect and ask those difficult questions around coaching conversations, behaviours and assumptions. She helped me to reflect on my leadership style and authentically apply my learnings which have improved my relationships with my team and others.”

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