Coaching brings daily interaction with people and quality conversation. Clients often share their observations and reflections. Great learnings are achieved from noticing and reflecting providing a continuous source of new insights. Having been granted permission to share clients’ insights, below are the observations of differing manager leadership styles in an organisation undergoing change, cleverly articulated from the perspective of riding a horse.

Leadership Style A – loose rein, rider along for the ride, rider had fun, horse had fun, they got somewhere but were all over the place. Not really focussed but nobody got hurt.

Leadership Style B – knows the horse very well and that each one is different, all horses respond differently whether to voice commands, rein, leg etc. or a combination at different times. Has direction. Knows when to correct and when to allow free rein. Knows it is an intelligent creature and that what he/she does as a rider will influence how it responds – has focus and moves forward as a team (horse willingly). Balanced rider = balanced horse.

Leadership Style C – ridden motorbikes all their life. Doesn’t understand the beast he/she is on, has direction but doesn’t realise he/she has to adapt his/her riding style to the individual and to do that needs to learn to be a better rider themselves. Has a tight hold constantly on the reins as only knows how to use hands. Rides each animal the same way, not realising that constant pressure and a bad riding form can turn the horse sour. Needs to realise he/she is not on a dumb beast that can be controlled by brute force.

These observations are consistent with 3 leadership styles that have been identified and studied extensively. It appears that these styles may be on a continuum. “Transactional-style C” focusses on offering carrot-and-stick incentives in exchange for performance. “Laissez-Faire-Style A” is where leaders make no policies or group-related decisions and instead group members are responsible for all goals, decisions and problem solving. “Transforming-style B” focusses on the mutual growth of the relationship between the leader and the follower. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs has been used to explain that transforming leadership elevates people from lower to higher level needs, increasing their sense of self-worth and developing their potential, not just exerting control over followers.

Researchers have found that Laissez-Faire is generally the leadership style that leads to the lowest productivity. There is currently a great deal of interest in the concept of transformational leadership because there is a substantial amount of evidence showing that it is more positively related to employee satisfaction, motivation and performance. This may be more relevant in the future as the newer-generation employee enters the work place.

There is not necessarily a definitive way of practicing transformational leadership but there are some well-recognised principles and practices.

Here are 5 Practices of Transformational Leadership:

  1. Model the Way Clarify Values, Set the Example
  2. Inspire a Shared Vision Envision the Future, Enlist Others
  3. Challenge the Process Search for Opportunities, Experiment and Take Risks
  4. Enable Others to Act Foster Collaboration, Strengthen Others
  5. Encourage the Heart Recognise Contributions, Celebrate the Values and Victories

Here are 4 Principles of Transformational Leadership:

  1. Idealised Influence/Charisma (Trust): Transformational leaders act in ways that make them role models. They are respected, admired and trusted. Followers identify with them and describe them in terms that imply extraordinary capabilities, persistence and determination. These leaders are willing to take risks. They can consistently be relied upon to do the right thing, displaying high moral and ethical standards.
  2. Inspirational Motivation (Inspiration): These leaders embody the term “team spirit.” They show enthusiasm and optimism, providing both meaning and challenge to the work at hand. They create an atmosphere of commitment to goals and a shared vision.
  3. Intellectual Stimulation (Creativity): A transformational leader encourages creativity and fosters an atmosphere in which followers feel compelled to think about old problems in a new way. Public criticism is avoided.
  4. Individualised Consideration (Growth): Transformational leaders act as mentors and coaches. Individual desires and needs are respected. Differences are accepted and two-way communication is common. These leaders are considered to be good listeners; with this comes personalised interaction. Followers of these leaders move continually toward development of higher levels of potential.

So what type of leader are you?

Have you ever considered your leadership style and what it might look like to others?

Transformational > Transactional > Laissez-faire leadership?

Are you a manager with leadership ability or a leader with management skills?

What areas could you develop to be a more effective manager or leader?

More importantly, what do you want it to look like when you are ‘doing’ leadership and what style of leadership will best serve your needs?

How does leadership differ from management?

Management concepts form a great part of developing a leadership style. Leadership makes up successful management of teams and tasks. However, leaders are not always in management positions. Whilst they share some characteristics, leadership and management can be considered distinctly separate in skills and knowledge. It is not uncommon to see fantastic operational managers who lack the emotional intelligence, communication skills or values to lead people. Similarly, there are leaders who are ALL about the people but may lack the business acumen to operate successfully. See the table below for some distinctions.

Management versus Leadership


  • Planning and budgeting: Establishing detailed steps and timetables for achieving needed results, then allocating the resources necessary to make it happen
  • Organising and staffing: establishing some structure for accomplishing a plan’s requirements, staffing that structure with individuals, delegating responsibility and authority for carrying out the plan, providing policies and procedures to help guide people, and creating methods or systems to monitor implementation
  • Controlling and problem solving: monitoring results, identifying deviations from a plan, then planning and organizing to solve these problems

  • Establishing direction: developing a vision of the future, often the distant future, and strategies for producing the changes needed to achieve that vision
  • Aligning people: communicating direction in words and actions to all those whose cooperation may be needed, so as to influence the creation of teams and coalitions that understand the vision and strategies and that accept their validity
  • Motivating and inspiring: energizing people to overcome major political, bureaucratic and resource barriers to change by satisfying basic, but often unfulfilled, human needs


The good news is that both management and leadership skills can be learned.

What about when Management and Leadership responsibilities combine?

Consider the following managerial practices that encompass both leadership and management responsibilities.


Managerial Leadership

  • Informing
  • Consulting and delegating
  • Planning and organising
  • Problem solving and crisis management
  • Clarifying roles and objectives
  • Networking
  • Monitoring operations and environment
  • Motivating
  • Recognising and rewarding
  • Supporting and mentoring
  • Managing conflict and team building


At the end of the day, if your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a ‘leader’. If you can enable people to get things done according to a plan, policy and procedure, and time frame you are a ‘manager. Therefore, combining managerial-leadership strengths will make you more effective in any role where you are working with people.



Leading Change (2012), John P. Kotter

Leadership Theory and Practice (2013), Peter G. Northhouse

The Bass Handbook of Leadership (2008), 4th Edition, Bernard M. Bass

Transformational Leadership (1998), Bernard M. Bass, Ronald E. Riggio

Improving Organisational Effectiveness through Transformational Leadership (1993), Bernard M. Bass, Bruce J. Avolio Leadership (1978), James MacGregor Burns

The Leadership Challenge (2008), James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner