The Cleveland Consulting Group



Hi folks;

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal on Six Leadership Styles by Alan Murray (Feb. 4, 2010) reminded me that as executives and executive coaches, we constantly face the dilemma of prior successes. Our particular leadership style that worked may become the cause of our demise when it is overused, abused, or more appropriate styles are under-used.

David McClelland originally created the concept of the Leadership Climate that later was integrated into Daniel Goleman's Emotional Intelligence research. In basic terms, we all have the capacity for six different leadership styles. Generally, we tend to develop and prefer one or two styles, because the organizations we have worked for/with have rewarded us for their use.

The present economy has many executives returning to more crisis related leadership styles. Though fitting in this environment, it will eventually result in the demise of the organization if it is not balanced over time with a broader leadership style.

In addition, you will note that I will be doing a new retreat in Costa Rica in May. It is for young executives who are seeking a more balanced life.

Herb Stevenson

Cleveland Consulting Group, Inc.

Leadership Style, Emotional Intelligence, and Organizational Effectiveness

Leadership effectiveness is dependent on the specific circumstances and the blend of leader styles used over time. Mis-use, over-use, or under-use of a particular style can lead not only to ineffectiveness, but to a backlash via the organizational climate. As defined by David McClelland and others, climate refers to six leadership factors that influence an organization s environment via the style most often used by the C-level executive(s):

  • its flexibility—that is, how free employees feel to innovate unencumbered by red tape;
  • their sense of responsibility to the organization;
  • the level of standards that people set;
  • the sense of accuracy about performance feedback and aptness of rewards;
  • the clarity people have about mission and values; and finally
  • the level of commitment to a common purpose.

As a result of these factors, six leadership styles were created.[1]

  1. Coercive/Commanding: Demands immediate compliance and obedience, as evidenced by such phrases as "Do what I tell you."
  2. Authoritative/Visionary: Mobilizes people toward a vision as suggested by such phrases as "Come with me."
  3. Affiliative: Creates harmony and builds emotional bonds as suggested by "People come first."
  4. Democratic: Forges consensus through participation, "What do you think?"
  5. Coaching: Develops people and strengths for the future, "Try this."
  6. Pacesetting: Sets high standards for performance, "Do as I do, now!"

In today's complex environment, it has become clear that using only one or two overused leadership styles tends to minimize and often hamper effectiveness. For example, an extreme of over-use is Chainsaw Al Dunlap from Sunbeam. Generally, he decimated companies with his coercive and commanding approach to cost cutting for short term profit improvement and long term insolvency. As a means to personally profit, he was successful. As a means to increase short term profit and raise immediate stock prices, he was successful. As a leader who truly maximized the total value of an organization, he was a miserable failure.[2]

A Coaching Example

Recently, I worked with a CEO who had been hired to raise the bar for the organization. It had been a mediocre performer for a number of years both in terms of product quality and financial performance. At best, its stock had been boring.

Very quickly, the CEO raised quality standards, and the numbers followed. The organization s profits were rising, losses were stemmed sufficiently to be below peers throughout the recent recession. The board was rewarding the CEO with accolades, bonuses and pure wealth building perks. The board openly indicated that it would pay whatever it took to keep the CEO happy and in place.

Within the organization, the climate was a different story. The CEO combined two preferred leadership styles: Pacesetting and coercive/commanding. As a pacesetter, he had set high standards of performance for himself and expected the same of everyone else. At the extreme of this leadership style, he was often obsessive about doing things faster and better. When this did not meet his expectations, he would move into his command-and-destroy style by "going off the handle" with key executives, frequently personalizing his comments during bouts of rage. Metaphorically, the direct reports often referred to the after-effect as being like a war zone of total devastation and demoralization.

This combination is deftly successful for only short periods of time, typically only in a crisis. To accomplish the type of turnaround needed by this organization, his style was effective. However, now that he has been in place for more than three years, and the quality standards and performance have improved, the internal climate of the organization has turned strongly negative. Where the board has praised the CEO for his outstanding performance, it is now faced with the departure of key executives who have made it clear that the CEO is a problem. Some were forced out because they did not perform in a way that pleased him; others, simply left. The situation has been likened to a well trained horse, where you can only whip it so long before it simply stops performing regardless of how much you beat it.

At issue is that none of the six leadership styles is effective all of the time, and in today's complex environment, we can see that truly successful leaders use all six styles based on circumstances, situations, and the rapidly changing landscape. Jim Collins' research on Level 5 Leaders in Good to Great companies supports this contention as does his more recent work on How the Mighty Fall. Truly great leaders incorporate and seamlessly use all of these leadership styles throughout, meeting different situations, circumstances, and rapidly changing landscapes.

In terms of the coaching example, the CEO needed to develop beyond his limited leadership styles. Now that the crisis is over, he needs to engage through affiliation (teamwork) and by coaching others for succession planning. He needs to set a new vision for the organization so that everyone can get on the same page (democratic). Unfortunately, this is not happening. Board members are hearing complaints from key customers and water-cooler talk is infiltrating the organization negatively. Having fulfilled my obligation, I left the organization believing that it is a matter of time before he leaves for another crisis or is forced out for not having adequate leaderships styles to meet the everchanging environment.

Below is a synopsis of the six leadership styles that should be seamlessly used to ensure effective leadership in any environment.

Leadership Style Modus Operandi Style in a Phrase Underlying E I Competency When Appropriate Impact on Climate
Coercive/ Commanding Demands immediate compliance, obedience "Do what I tell you." Achievement, drive, initiative, emotional self-control. In a crisis to kick-start a turnaround, or with problem employees. Strongly negative
Authoritative/Visionary Mobilizes people toward a vision "Come with me." Self-confidence, empathy, change catalyst, visionary leadership When change requires a new vision or when a clear direction is needed Most strongly positive
Affiliative Creates harmony and builds emotional bonds "People come first." Empathy, building bonds, conflict management To heal rifts in a team or to motivate during stressful times Highly positive
Democratic Forges consensus through participation "What do you think?" Teamwork, collaboration, communication To build buy-in or consensus or to get valuable input from employees Highly positive
Coaching Develops people and strengths for the future "Try this." Developing others, empathy, emotional self-awareness To help an employee improve performance or develop long term strengths Highly positive
Pacesetting Sets high standards for performance "Do as I do, now!" Conscientiousness, achievement, drive, initiative. To get quick results from a highly motivated and competent team. Highly negative

Adapted from Daniel Goleman (2000) Leadership that Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, 82-83 and Cary Cherniss and Daniel Goleman (2001) The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace, 42.

[1] Adapted from Daniel Goleman (2000) Leadership that Gets Results, Harvard Business Review, 82-83 and Cary Cherniss and Daniel Goleman (2001) The Emotionally Intelligent Workplace, 42.

[2] See Barbara Kellerman, (2004) Bad Leadership, Cambridge: HBS Press.


Living with Purpose and Passion

May 13-16, 2010
Nosara, Costa Rica

Join acclaimed inspirational speaker Reon Schutte and Executive Coach Herb Stevenson for an exclusive three-day exploration to re-connect with your life purpose in order to live with greater passion and fulfillment.

Reon Schutte is an internationally acclaimed speaker who inspires his audiences to reach within themselves to find the ability to overcome adversity--be it in business, personal relationships, health or simply lackluster living--to live with greater purpose and fulfillment.

Reon shares his epic personal life journey from South African Special Forces soldier to nearly 13 years of hell in Zimbabwe’s infamous Chikurubi prison to living as a free man with an entirely new perspective. His message is a universal one about the power of the human will to overcome extreme circumstances for transformation. Hundreds of thousands of people around the world have heard Reon share his story; this workshop, however, is the first time the audience will have the luxury of time to share their stories with him, in an intimate small group setting, and to process the impact of his inspiration into action items for their own lives.

Herb Stevenson is President/CEO of the Cleveland Consulting Group, Inc. and bridges the worlds of business and spiritual healing. He is a nationally recognized author, trainer, executive coach and management consultant. He has published 26 books on various aspects of banking and business. Herb’s expertise in facilitating group discussion and individual goal setting will assure attendees achieve optimum take-home value, leaving the workshop ready to live a more fulfilling life with purpose and passion.

Tierra Magnifica is the premier retreat resort on Costa Rica’s stunning Pacific coast. Resort owners Steve and Maggie Jacobus will be your weekend hosts, providing an experience guaranteed to induce inspiration and transformation.

Learn more...

Coaching for Conflict Management

May 10-12, 2010
Gestalt Institute of Cleveland, Inc.

This three day workshop explores conflict styles, options, and principles for working with conflict, mediating conflict, and how to coach others thorough conflict situations. Details and registration will be available soon at, or call 216-421-0468 for more information.