Affiliative leadership as classified by Daniel Goleman in his six leadership styles is a powerful way to motivate employees, in modern organizations, and foster a sense of collaboration.

Practicing affiliative leadership brings companies and employees together to achieve one common goal. If you think that definition is too emotional and not tuned to the economics of a business, recent research discovered that the leadership style of management within an organization influenced up to 30% of a company's profitability. This makes it a significant Economic problem as much as it is a human problem. By simply tuning into the right cues of a person, organizations stand to gain a lot more in terms of resources, time, and money. This article aims to highlight and address this particular plight to help modern leaders understand and practice Affiliative Leadership. 

"Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things." - Peter Drucker

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. 

What is Affiliative Leadership?

It's 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. Being a manager rarely qualifies you to be a leader, the primary difference being, Managers act as enablers to their team's success, by providing the resources and guidance, which may include imbibing them with the necessary training and also alleviating any impediments that they might have come across. 

However, a leader is someone who does not necessarily possess any influence or authority over the team. A great leader can also be one amongst us, a fellow collaborator who inspires us to follow them through their originality and novelty of ideas. This creativity usually is fuelled by their specific experience of the problem at hand and can save valuable time and resources if their plan of action is implemented. A leader, in a nutshell, is someone who garners followers under their inspiration and not through a hierarchy. 

“Management is about arranging and telling. Leadership is about nurturing and enhancing.” — Tom Peters 

Seasoned managers know best, to create and nurture an environment that gives rise to a leader, within the people they manage. Especially in cases of business decision making that more often than not demands a decision to be made with insufficient information at various stages of the hierarchy, it serves the managers better to fester these leaders to take charge of the problems they know best than to micromanage every level of the issue individually. The leader within or outside the group may inspire action, through collective inputs and rumination. This form of communal collaboration often results in a better decision as every contributor's ideas are equally accounted for

Since we do know the problem at hand, why can't we create more leaders? 

Unfortunately, the challenge does not seem to be as simple. If we make a small cross comparison across different facets of decision making and the leaders that have emerged from it, we can say it's difficult to understand what exactly made them rise to the challenge. What's observable is that every situation creates the kind of leaders it requires. Since we can't be sure of every type of uncertainty we're about to face and be prepared for it beforehand, we can quickly learn about the different ways people evolve to be leaders and the surrounding conditions that nurtured them. Understanding this nuance would give us better insights to imbibe a culture of leadership within every modern organization.

Since we establish how different leaderships emerge out of different circumstances, putting ourselves in the shoes of someone in that specific circumstance, tells us that for anyone who tries to overcome a situation, they estimate the requirements based on the needs and wants of the team. A leader chooses an arsenal of emotional equipment within them to match the wants and obligations of the group. It may be anything from a pat on the back, a breakthrough idea, a huddle to focus on the priority, or a bitter reality check. The leader often demonstrates high emotional intelligence to weigh the pros and cons to decide which motivates their team the best.

If your emotional abilities aren't in hand, if you don't have self-awareness, if you are not able to manage your distressing emotions, if you can't have empathy and have effective relationships, then no matter how smart you are, you are not going to get very far. - Daniel Goleman

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

goleman leadership styles
Authoritative Leadership and Pace setting Leadership

Authoritative Leadership:

This style uses its expertise in the subject as the primary motivator to inspire their followers. Their inherent ability to come up with clear a trajectory and articulate a clear vision makes priorities clear to every team member. These style of leaders tend to leave much liberty to their followers to find their means to the task.

Pace-setting Leadership:

This style places a strong emphasis on the quality of performance on the leader and expects their followers to emulate the same. Is handy in pushing a highly motivated team to a cross a challenging deadline

Democratic Leadership
Coercive Leadership and Democratic Leadership

Coercive Leadership:

The coercive style of leadership uses authority and power as the primary motivation towards people as an influence. The leader here, demands compliance with the power of authority vested in them. It's often attributed to executives who tend to overuse their authority and end up hurting the overall employee confidence, as they exert their will.

Democratic Leadership:

This style revolves around consensus building and every collaborator having an equal say in the collective decision. The leader fosters team flexibility and ownership of the cause. This method is most useful in trying to find out fresh ideas while might elongate the decision making the timeline as the process tends to be time-consuming.

Affiliative Leadership
Affiliative Leadership and Coaching Leadership

Affiliative Leadership:

This is the type of leadership that is often followed by empathetic leaders; this kind of leaders tend to put people at the heart of success and are sensitive to their problems. They prioritize people over goals and creating a harmonious and balanced culture. These leaders are active relationship builders and influencing loyalty within team members.

Coaching Leadership:

This style clearly defines the roles to be played by each member in the team along with the respective tasks to be focused on. The leadership may also seek suggestions from the task owners to ensure accountability of ownership. Though the leader decides on the quality of the outcome, the two-way communication makes it an excellent way for everyone to understand the big picture and where their contribution fits. 

“The only test of leadership is that somebody follows.” — Robert K. Greenleaf

Leadership based on Emotional Intelligence

Amongst the following examples listed thus far, that of an affiliative leader is what is the need of the current hour in modern organizations. Organizations for long, have displaced investment in HR and People management practices under "Cost Centre" by following an objective focused solely on short-term economic gains. The idea of affiliative leadership is to emphasize on the Human part of the business that helps organizations succeed in the long term and short term. 

By placing value in the workplace culture, and people needs, they tend to influence loyalty, reduce employee attrition and happier human beings who strive together to create something beautiful.

Advantages of Affiliative Leadership

  • 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

Eight characteristics of Affiliative leaders

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

2) 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. 

3) 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. 

4) 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.

5) 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. 

6) 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. 

7) 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. 

8) 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
  • Reemphasis 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)

What's my leadership style? 

To answer this specific question, you might have to explain yourself as to, whether you prefer giving instructions and trust your team to implement, or you like to get your hands dirty and do the work along with them. 

Often as first-time managers, we might assume a style of leadership that we have experienced in the past, presumably from the people who trusted to lead us before. Once we believe something provides results, we tend to trust it implicitly and repeat the practices enough times for it to constitute "our style." 

However, as we have seen, the act of leadership is not a fixed position but a varied one with much-influencing variables that may affect the result including, the temperament, loyalty, and capability of the team, the resources, and liberty provided by the management and more. Though it is ill-advised to categorize yourself into a box, in fact, the smart thing to do is diversify yourself with all the tools within the Goleman leadership style toolset.

A leader is not a job or a title, but often an agent of change. As a change agent, the onus is on you to produce results no matter what the situation is. Flexibility and information become your best friends, so since you're reasonably equipped with the list of tools to know, it's up to you to mix and match to serve your team the best flavor of leadership that suits their needs and brings out the best in them!