Leadership Style: Affiliative


Affiliative Leadership - Six Styles of Emotional Leadership

Daniel Goleman’s book, Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence discusses the six leadership styles leaders can take to ensure a healthy working environment.

An effective leader has the versatility to implement all six leadership styles in different situations. The leadership styles Goleman outlined in his book are authoritative, democraticaffiliative, pacesetting, commanding, and coaching leader.

In this article, we will focus on the affiliative leadership style.

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Finding a balance to motivate your team without being too pushy or compromising can be difficult. One of your most significant challenges is to meet your employees’ emotional needs to ensure that they feel safe and valued. Getting results from your team while considering emotional leadership styles is a delicate balance, but thankfully, you can effectively be an affiliative leader to inspire performance.

We’re going to explain affiliative leadership, why it’s essential, and how you can apply it to inspire, motivate, and get results from your team.

What Is an Affiliative Leader?

The affiliative leadership style is a practical approach to building relationships and harmonizing a disjointed team in an organization. An affiliative leader adopts a people-first approach and is usually effective when there’s a need to mend bad feelings in a group or motivate others during heavy workload and stress.

In other words, the task of an affiliative leader is to create harmony in the workplace and make employees happy. The leader attempts to build strong relationships with employees in hopes of building loyalty.

What Are the Characteristics of The Affiliative Leadership Style?

Affiliative leadership has certain elements that separate them from the other emotional leadership styles. These characteristics include: 

Strong Focus on People

People are the priority in affiliative leadership. The leadership style values all the elements involved:

  • The group
  • The individuals
  • Emotions

The affiliative leadership style focuses on people because intense emotional ties and loyalty between members create an opportunity for outstanding performance.

For that reason, an affiliative leader takes a more personal approach in handing out rewards and recognition. It’s common for them to spend time with employees to celebrate a milestone at work.

Strong Moral Values

Every leader needs to have a strong moral compass. However, morals and values are the central focus of an affiliative leader. 

An affiliative leader models moral behavior and expects the team they’re leading to do so. The focus on morality also helps affiliative leaders to show empathy for their team. Other styles of leadership may lack empathy.

Offers Praise

One of the core characteristics of affiliative leadership is using rewards to motivate employees. The leadership style focuses on encouraging and praising individuals, supporting their growth.

Allows Flexibility

High trust levels and communication in affiliative leadership result in flexibility in an organization. Affiliative leaders take a flexible approach to reduce occupational stress. As a result, employees don’t feel they’re too structured in their work, which can spike productivity.

Focuses on the Positive

At its core, affiliative leadership centers around positive interaction, advocating for empathetic communication and productive feedback.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Affiliative Leadership?

Like any other emotional leadership style, affiliative leadership has pros and cons. Being aware of the pros and cons of affiliative leadership makes it easier to play on the strengths of the leadership style and mitigate its weaknesses. 

Pros of Affiliative Leadership

  • Create highly effective teams: The affiliative leader does a great job in building strong, close-knit, and collaborative teams in an organization. As a result, employees feel a sense of inclusivity and safety that helps increase job satisfaction and productivity and reduces employee turnover.
  • Boosts employee morale: In addition, an affiliative leader motivates employees by creating an environment that allows them to share their opinions, feelings, and ideas. Workers under this leadership style feel valued and essential to an organization when they have autonomy.
  • Establish employee trust: You can create trust with your employees with affiliative leadership because you show interest in their well-being, making them more liable to imbue confidence.
  • Resolve conflicts more efficiently: Affiliative leaders take proactive measures that prevent conflicts even before they happen or grow more prominent.
  • Reduces workplaces stress: A caring leader makes workers experience less burnout while improving job satisfaction.
  • Guide during crises: Teams and companies use affiliative leaders during challenging times like cutbacks, mergers, or other transitional periods that impact employee well-being.

Cons of Affiliative Leadership

  • Underperformance is a potential problem because it’s easy to overlook flaws as the affiliative leader avoids conflict with employees.
  • Affiliative leadership avoids criticism, leaving an organization with unresolved problems that may need addressing.
  • An organization risks losing its overall goal because an affiliative leader focuses on building harmony, pushing aside its general purpose.
  • Affiliative leaders avoid uncomfortable situations that threaten the happiness of the team.
  • Employees might develop an unrealistic emotional dependence on an affiliative leader.

When to Use Affiliative Leadership Style

Each emotional leadership style has its place. It is most effective to understand when your team needs a change in leadership style. However, generally, you can employ the affiliative leadership style when:

  • The organization is under high stress
  • Building new teams

With that in mind, you can more specifically use affiliate leadership style when:

  • Giving constructive criticism: Apply affiliative leadership to offer positive feedback without overlooking an employee’s mistakes. When you identify an employee’s decline in productivity, you can give them positive criticism to get them back on track.
  • You want to encourage all employees to deal with conflict in a good way: Your organization will function more efficiently if you don’t need to spend an unreasonable amount of time putting out emotional fires. You can apply the affiliative leadership style to let team members learn how to deal with their conflicts and rarely seek intervention from leaders.

How to Be a Better Affiliative Leader for Your Team

You can utilize the role of an affiliative leader by:

  • Using a balanced approach: The task of reaching your company’s goal and nurturing your team is a delicate balance. Your approach need not derail you from pursuing your company’s mission while still supporting your team and being empathetic. Be sure to strike a balance when giving feedback. Praise your employees for doing well, and if they underperform, give them constructive criticism to motivate improvement in skills and performance.
  • Teaching conflict resolution to your team: You are responsible for solving conflict as a leader. However, training your team on conflict resolution will shoulder off the task of resolving minor internal disputes. Your team can handle simple conflicts and only let you intervene when necessary.
  • Track performance: The biggest flaw of affiliative leadership is that it focuses too much on building a team and their well-being and overlooks production and performance. You need to pay close attention to employee productivity and performance to recognize potential issues. Performance tracking will also allow you to note areas within your team that need improvements and develop strategies to adjust.

Learn More About Emotional Leadership Styles

In reality, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all leadership style to inspire and drive performance. An affiliative leader is only one of the many leadership styles

As a leader, you need to learn more about different emotional leadership styles to foster a psychologically safe environment that lets your employees achieve job satisfaction and offer feedback to improve the results you’re getting.