What is the most effective leadership style?

I refer to the article dated 16 March 2014 on Duke Coach Mike Krzyzewski aka Coach K, who congratulates the Mercers for winning a game against his team. It struck me because it takes alot of courage to congratulate the team who has defeated his own team. This has made me think about leadership in the organization, where leadership is defined as the “ability to influence a group toward the achievement of a vision or set of goals” (Robbins & Judge, 2012).  I will explore the effectiveness of the leadership styles of Coach K and Coach Knight, one of college basketball’s most successful coaches in the context of an organization.

Here is the link on the readings on both Coaches.



Firstly, different leadership styles may yield the same results in different contexts. Coach K and Coach Knight has vastly different leadership styles. Coach K uses affiliative and democratic leadership. Through affiliative leadership, he creates harmony and builds emotional bonds with his players through two-way communication. This is seen when he would communicate up close and personal with his players by maintaining eye contact and showing them he cared. He would also invite them over to his place for dinner and treated them like family. He also used democratic leadership by getting valuable input from his players and get them to share with one another. Through this, he has managed to foster strong bonds with and within the team and his leadership approach can be seen as authentic leadership, where “leaders know who they are, know what they believe in and value, and act on those values and beliefs openly and candidly” (Robbins & Judge, 2012). In the case of Coach K, family and love are one of his personal core values and he clearly demonstrates this to his players.

Coach K’s affiliative and democratic leadership is vital in developing and maintain strong interpersonal relationships with employees in the organization. When employees feel like their managers care about them, they are more likely to be motivated to work. In addition, studies have shown that employees have greater allegiance to a company which they believe cares for their well-being. However, this leadership style is not effective in all situations. The focus on cultivating strong relationships may divert the leader from keeping tabs on the team’s performance, leading to a deterioration in team performance.

In contrast, Coach Knight uses coercive leadership. He demands immediate compliance from his players and is highly driven to achieve. For instance, he demanded discipline and would throw players out for not working hard enough. He would also hurl vulgarities at his team players. Despite his harsh methods, players still respected him as he was a great coach who led the team to victory. Hence, despite the extreme leadership styles of both coaches, there is no one single approach that would determine success in an organization. In my opinion, leadership is subjective and dynamic and the adoption of specific leadership styles would depend on the situation and context.

In my opinion, the use of coercive leadership would not be effective in getting people to work with you and is only effective when there is a crisis that needs immediate attention. It will hurt the morale of the employees and they will not be motivated to work. It could make employees feel like commodities where their emotional and mental well-being are neglected. Human beings are emotional creatures and we seek emotional balance in various aspects of our lives. Employees will hence find that this leadership style overbearing, thus causing the turnover rate for the firm to increase.

The question I now pose is: Which is the most effective leadership style?

There is no clear answer to this and it really depends on the situation. In my opinion, a leader leads his team toward achieving a common goal. He will work with different people with a myriad of personalities and thus a leader needs to have a high level of social intelligence to determine what is needed for leadership in a particular situation and select an appropriate response. He would need to have behavioural flexibility to vary his leadership behaviour to accommodate situational requirements. Thus, it is important for a leader to be flexible in their leadership approach to ensure favourable outcomes.


Robbins, S., & Judge, T. (2012). Organizational Behavior. Prentice Hall.





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