Leadership styles will influence how profitable you are!

Have you ever witnessed an individual within an organisation that is not necessarily an official leader, but is someone who seems to unite people? They possess a natural instinct for reading situations and effortlessly (or at least on the surface) bring the best out of people.

World leading EQ expert Daniel Goleman has looked at the variety of leadership styles and has reported that 30% of a company’s profit can be attributed to a manager’s leadership style. That’s a massive number when you consider that there are businesses out there working hard to find 1% and 2% improvements to remain competitive in the current economic climate.

This got me thinking about the styles, skills and attributes of leaders not only in the workplace but in professional sport that achieve significant and often unexpected outcomes.

A couple of weeks ago I witnessed an incredible leadership style in action whilst watching the Queensland and New South Wales state of origin game 2. Johnathan Thurston, the playmaker, that missed game one had returned only to injure himself early in the first half. Despite his injury Thurston persevered and his presence alone was making a noticeable impact on the team. He wasn’t playing at his best but he had a confidence that seemed to keep the team at ease, despite being down at half time.

I watched the game again this week, intrigued to see how he was communicating and engaging with his team mates. What was he doing that was making such a big impact?

At every stoppage, he would be in the ear of a player with what seemed to be words of encouragement, gesture or affirmation. You could tell by the reaction from the player that what Thurston was doing had made a positive impact. When a player made a mistake, Thurston was there to let them know it was alright, a signal to the scoreboard suggested that there was plenty of time to recover.

Even when they were down and looked beaten, Thurston was issuing direction and positive affirmation. He was leading by example, taking his team mates with him, all this while in obvious pain. His injury would turn out to be a season ending one.

With less than four minutes to go and four points down the Queensland team rallied and scored in the corner to tie the game at 16 all. No surprises that Thurston stepped up to kick the winning conversion.

I was blown away by the team’s courage. It also made me think about Thurston’s leadership, here is a guy that isn’t even the captain but was clearly in a leadership role by default of being a great player. But it was way more than that, his authenticity and awareness of other people exuded through the TV screen. How he managed to rally his team mates to dig deep, even when it seemed impossible, and adapt his unconscious leadership style to the situation so naturally to get the team the desired result was remarkable.

Daniel Goleman’s research on leadership styles is really interesting and relates beautifully to this heroic story of success. It helped me to translate what was happening on that field and reflect about the leadership styles of the people that I have worked with over the years.

In his research Goleman looked at the top 2% of leaders in 500 global firms and identified six leadership styles with distinctive characteristics:

  1. Coercive; which demands immediate compliance “Do what I say” – Thurston was using this style when they were under pressure and had to defend their line.
  2. Authoritative; mobilises people towards a vision “Come with me” – Thurston displayed this throughout the game, he led by example.
  3. Affiliative; creates harmony and builds emotional bonds “People come first” – Thurston was the first to console someone who made a mistake and reiterate that there was time for them to work together to win.
  4. Democratic; forges consensus through participation “What do you think”- At times during the game Thurston would be discussing strategy and working with key players to concur on the next phases of play.
  5. Pacesetting; setting high standards for performance “Do as I do, now” – Thurston is a play maker, he sees opportunities that open for a brief second, he set up several of these opportunities throughout the game and executed them with the team around him.
  6. Coaching; develops people for the future “Try This” – During the game, Thurston was encouraging one of the other players to run the ball in a certain direction. You could see what he was saying by the hand gestures and the encouragement that he was displaying. This player, Napa, was exceptional! After the game Thurston continued his discussion with Napa, the encouragement continued and he was beaming with appreciation.


[1]Goleman’s EQ research in a nutshell suggests that the most successful leaders can consciously draw on and seamlessly integrate all six leadership styles depending on the situation. Thurston’s ability to draw on all six leadership styles resulted in Queensland coming back from 16 to 6 at half time. He unconsciously led his team mates through the challenges presented over 80 minutes of football and recorded one of the greatest ever come backs in state of origin history.

How well are your managers adapting their leadership styles to workplace challenges? Do they possess the skills or do they need help to realise their potential? With 30% of a company’s profit being attributed to a manager’s leadership style, maybe we can all learn from Johnathan Thurston?

[1] Leadership That Gets Results by Daniel Goleman, Harvard business Review 2000