It is widely acknowledged that leaders should optimally have competencies to act as all-round leaders, if need be. But, to take an example, it may still go against the grain for a strongly pragmatic and straightforward leader to assume a coachlike leadership style.

We learn new skills best when teachers and leaders relate to us as their equals rather than subordinates. Learning new things is facilitated when the stress levels of those trying to pick up new skills remain rather low. This becomes possible when there are as little as possible various social-hierarchical barriers between the partners in the learning process.

When the skills and often accompanying motivation to further improve and put to profitable use one’s competencies both strengthen among the team, the coaching leader may take little more emotional distance from the team members, while feeding them with increasingly challenging and also somewhat individualized tasks. It goes without saying that in this stage of team development many elements of the transformational leadership style presented by Bass become important.

Leadership styles

Figure. Leadership styles for different missions

There will be times, especially in many high functioning organizations relying on top professionalisms, when a leader or an executive has to squeeze everything out of his team or board in order to raise the organization onto a new level or simply to stay in the biz due to hard competition. In many military organizations or other security sector organizations these critical situations may be rather similar albeit the stakes are different in nature. These situations require that the leaders take another step away from a more emotional tone of interaction, thus allowing the team more leeway and also responsibility to apply their innovative and rational competencies to the full.

When the tasks necessitated by a team’s mission become better defined and somewhat more pragmatic and foreseeable, it will be easier for the leader to orchestrate the team activities afar. This must not necessarily mean just delegating tasks from above, while there are organizations and situations where this leadership style is warranted and possibly the only way to go. While this becomes feasible only when the team has reached utmost skills in critical competence areas, there are situations in various organizations where the nature of tasks - whether related to routines or risks at work - is not likely to increase the team’s motivation. In these situations the leader will have to assume a rather tough role as a pragmatic implementer, based on the understanding and trust that the team members really have the competencies to tackle the challenges they have to face.


Take a Mindfindr test to reflect on where your team or organization may stand in relation to its ultimate missions and consider which leadership styles you might like to strengthen.