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Red boat leading blue boats

As a keynote speaker on leadership, I often get questions from employers and managers about effective leadership styles and situations that demand specific styles. The short answer is that an effective manager needs several different approaches to use in various professional situations. Adaptability is a key for success.


An authoritative leader assumes full control and responsibility of a situation, project, team, or place of business. Under this direction, the manager doesn’t invite input from employees and makes unilateral decisions about large and small-scale issues. While this type of leadership may be effective in a crisis or with new employees, it tends to stifle creativity. Employees often struggle with lack of positive feedback and praise with this leadership style, so it’s best to use this approach only when necessary and for limited periods.


Another style involves instituting specific projects or tasks, connecting them with rewards or punishments for performance or lack-thereof. Often as a keynote speaker on leadership, I see the entire team of supervisors and employees setting goals together, agreeing on the tasks required to achieve the goals. The manager supervises the process or the results to determine when the goal is reached. Employees receive correlating rewards or sanctions based on their performance which motivates them to perform at their highest level.


With an all-inclusive premise, managers employing a democratic style seek input and ideas from everyone to work toward a common goal. As a keynote speaker on leadership, I usually find that the manager retains a position of ultimate responsibility, making final decisions when necessary. Because everyone contributes and feels heard, employees tend to feel like their opinions are valuable and they are important in the overall schematic of the company. This style often motivates employees to perform. However, when a crisis occurs, managers should move away from a democratic approach to a more authoritative approach to resolve the problem.


Sometimes a manager recognizes traits in an employee and chooses to provide individual coaching to improve performance or teach skills. While this can be motivational for a worker, it could also become negative, tending toward micromanagement instead of coaching. An employee could end up stagnating and even losing confidence in this situation.

One of my goals when addressing managers as a keynote speaker on leadership is to teach professionals how to choose the best style for any given situation. A truly effective employer will learn how to recognize situations as they arise and then know how to apply the right approach for a positive outcome.