Affiliative leadership is a form of leadership, as described by Daniel Goleman in his six styles of leadership.

An affiliative leader is someone who festers connection within team members and motivates them with praise and recognition.

Is affiliative a word?

Before we move on to the topic of what is affiliative leadership, let's quickly refer to the meaning of the word "Affiliative" to aid in our better understanding of the term. The term affiliative means one's ability to form an emotional or social connection with others or demonstrating the desire to do so. The desire to be affiliative is what motivates most followers of a cult.  

Affiliative Leadership
Affiliative Leadership

When and where is it used?

This Leadership style is essentially people first. It is most effective when there's stress on an organization due to a loss of customer or a managerial change, and the team members to recuperate from the situation to grow back into healthy profitability. However, it is not advised to employ the sole use of affiliative leadership alone as it might tend to overemphasize on positive feedback, recognition, and praise, which may turn out to be counterproductive. Team members start finding even mediocre performance as above average due to excessive positive reinforcement. 

At the core of its responsibility, the affiliative leader brings harmony and forms connection with their team, and help the group form a similar sense of collective identity within the organization. When used effectively, it can help reduce any animosity, negative resentments and gives a platform for communication issued to be addressed and resolved through mutual empathy. This style of leadership is most suitable to be used along with the romantic style of leadership and helps bring people together. The constant reinforcement of positivity and embracing novel ideas helps in a mutual betterment of the team and the company. An affiliative leader needs to be carefully attuned to the sentiments of their team while constantly reinforcing them with positive encouragement and guidance. 

When followed consistently, these leaders are rewarded with unflinching loyalty and a collective team spirit which opens up all sorts of opportunities for hassle-free collaboration.The teams also grow fond of the flexible environment and the liberty provided to find their means to the end as it helps them explore more novel possibilities to complete their task.The affiliative leader is an ace at team connections. This initiative style is best when there is a need to retouch awful sentiments that may have created in a gathering, or to persuade others during times of substantial remaining task at hand and stress. As communicated by Goleman, the affiliative leader is best portrayed by the expression "individuals start things out."  While working for this sort of manager may sound promising, this affiliative style has its breaking points. Unremarkable outcomes may rapidly pursue if this is the primary technique utilized. It's fitting to use the affiliative initiative style along with visionary leadership to give equal weight about accomplishing business results as well. 

Who is most suitable to work under an Affiliative Leader?

Since these leaders are natural empaths, they can cultivate a positive relationship with their employees. Hence employees who reciprocate positive encouragement and deliver better performance are most suitable to work under this leadership. Their inherent reciprocity and the empathy of their leader encourages most employees to stay loyal and help each other attain the goal. This type of leadership is most suitable to build harmony culture and a connection with a team, that has for long operated in an environment of toxicity and mistrust.However, the leadership must be careful not to provide excess encouragement and participatory trophies, even in the absence of real achievement. Doing this may not only set the bar so low but also motivate them to pursue further in the wrong direction. 

Affiliative leaders likewise furnish their supporters with much positive criticism. They rush to perceive the endeavors of others and give prizes to a job well done. They construct a feeling of having a place among colleagues and are very powerful at "fixing things up" between individuals from the group. Goleman accepted that specific authority styles were increasingly compelling under particular conditions. This style is known as situational administration. The affiliative style is believed to be best when assurance is low because of stress, and team building is required. For instance, when an office revamps itself, this sort of leader will enable the adherents to see how they fit together in the new association.

Advantages and disadvantages of Affiliative Leadership


With the use of affiliative leadership, the leader makes feel everybody valued and recognized in their roles, and since the employees tend to remain in workplaces where they like the people they work with, the attrition count is also kept low. Happy and valuable reports often tend to be peak performers, which also affects the bottom line in the company. 

  • Strives to create an emotional bond and feeling of a mutual connection within the teams
  • Puts people at the heart of business success
  • Alleviates the pressure of performance and creates a sense of belonging
  • Motivates on continuous praise and nurturing
  • Fosters a sense of communal collaboration towards a single cause 
  • Provides excellent long term and short term returns when followed not too excessively


However, these leaders tend to have a hard time in quelling unavoidable conflict and problems that may arise due to conflicts of opinion within a team. Complacent workers may also take advantage of these leaders and get stuck in their comfort zone, and since affiliative leaders do not believe in babysitting their reports, it may lead to unfavorable impairment in the team's productivity.

  • Poor performers may go unchecked
  • Excessive positive encouragement may bring the bar down for the whole team
  • Lackadaisical teammates may settle for mediocre performance
  • Ineffective during times of complex challenges 
  • May have difficulty providing honest feedback or exercising radical candor

Comparison of Affiliative leadership with other Goleman Leadership styles

Goleman Leadership style
Goleman Leadership style

As Daniel Goleman asserted, these six seem to be the most common leadership styles that were demonstrated under the managers he studied. 

Visionary Leadership and Affiliative Leadership 

Visionary Leadership

  • Cares about accountability
  • Clarity oriented
  • Gains respect through expertise

Affiliative Leadership

  • Cares about harmony
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Helps form connections

Commanding Leadership and Affiliative Leadership

Commanding Leadership

  • Cares about the outcome
  • Instruction oriented
  • Demands compliance

Affiliative Leadership

  • Cares about unity
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Promotes forming relationships

 Democratic Leadership and Affiliative Leadership 

Democratic Leadership

  • Cares about the common goal
  • Discussion and conclusion oriented
  • Helps achieve accountability

Affiliative Leadership

  • Cares about harmony
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Supports form connections

Coaching Leadership and Affiliative Leadership  

Coaching Leadership

  • Cares about learning
  • Growth-oriented
  • Helps achieve potential

Affiliative Leadership

  • Cares about harmony
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Supports form connections

Pacesetting Leadership and Affiliative Leadership 

Pacesetting Leadership

  • Runs with empathy as the cornerstone
  • Bonding and connection-oriented
  • Emphasis on balance 

Affiliative Leadership

  • Does not empathize
  • Timeline oriented
  • Focus on completion
Affiliative Leadership characteristics
Affiliative Leadership characteristics

Eight characteristics of Affiliative leaders

They are Honest - Affiliate leaders believe in leading by example and hence have a stringent moral code for their employees to follow through.

Expert Delegators - They are firm believers of expertise and trust in someone's specialty and therefore won't be able to assign tasks that they believe you to be an expert in. 

Fluent Communicators - They have a clear vision and can elucidate their requirements to help you achieve it. As empaths, they give their teammates a strong sense of accountability, and that gets reciprocated, leading to team success. 

Committed to seeing through - They trust their team with long term and challenging stretch goals to be achieved, and believe in their ability to understand the team sentiments and handhold them through temporary impediments. 

Novel - Affiliative leaders believe in bonding and forming of emotional connection within a team, and hence may employ innovative methods to create an environment that further assists this agenda. 

Calm during the storm - When everything spirals down, the affiliative leader would be the first person to ask if "you are okay?" because they believe in the trust of their team and people to overcome the struggles which they see as temporary. 

Intuitive - As strong feelers of team chemistry and harmony, they intuitively know when someone is facing a roadblock or a struggle, and always solve the human side of the equation first. They win their battles not by attacking the problem, but by empathizing with the one who deals with them. 

Inspiring - Though this is not something specific to the affiliative leadership style, they, however, have an advantage for being the natural "Go to" person. 

A simple example of how Affiliative Leadership plays out

  • Confront with facts
  • Help them understand how their current behavior leads to results that they want to avoid
  • Emphasis on how altering their behavior will lead them towards what they want to achieve

Hi, George, I just spoke with Kristy, and she mentioned you weren't receptive towards her request for delivering Illustration Images for her teaser blog by the end of today. Though, I presumed it sounded unlike you, even other team members seem to feel the same way about your co-owned collaterals with them. (Confront with the fact) 

I am entirely aware of how you are trying to meet your deadlines and that you wouldn't want to be the one holding back our team's marketing campaign. (Emphasis what they want to avoid). I suggest a quick huddle with everyone to sort out all our deliverables and get clear on our deadline so that we can all come up with a successful campaign on time? (Emphasis on what they want to achieve) 

How do I use the Affiliative leadership style? 

The coercive leadership styles bring freedom and novelty to explore original ideas within a team and also helps team members collaborate freely with each other to gauge their strengths and weaknesses. Though the employees hungry for learning will lap up the change to do something innovative together, there are bound to be a few employees who would show some resistance either in terms of individual behavior or non-cooperation. These employees tend to take advantage of the autonomy provided by the leader and may see a lack of rules as in impediment.

Some employees would necessarily seek the clarity of having specific instructions about what to do every day. To them, this style across as extremely unproductive and especially vague in comparison to their formal style of workflow. This style also may be harder to implement with a team of introverts where there is a lack of team chemistry, and they would instead enjoy their own company and work out of cubicles than put themselves through the gruesome process of mingling with the team and forming a meaningful connection.

Even though this style of leadership has, it's a fair share of deficits; it is beneficial in terms of organizational team building during the times of attrition or a recession. As an affiliative leader, you have the power to make a real change in people's work and work lives. As a modern leader, your employee morale and trust are the most significant rewards you can earn over your career, and that's what this style of leadership helps you achieve. Unlike other leadership styles which press your team for a spike in the immediate short-term performance, these leaders tend to use their natural tendency to be affable and understanding to bring the best out of the employees without coercion. 

Though as an affiliative manager, you should never succumb to mediocrity and bad attitude, you should also not lose the sense of positivity that's intrinsic to this style of leadership. When practiced with a general sense of optimism with a keen eye for identifying and reprimanding behavior that produces undesirable results, this leadership can be one of the best team building tools, that may reward you with a loyal, understanding and high-performing team to skyrocket your growth!