A leader or manager chooses affiliate leadership to encourage feelings of connection and cooperation in an organization.

Also called “affiliative leadership,” this management style provides support and praise instead of criticism and blame, which helps people get along with their leader and with each other.  

It’s well established that a harmonious working environment is usually more productive than a work place filled with conflict. One form of conflict management involves team building.

A leader who employs affiliate leadership will often encourage workers to gather into teams, also called affiliations.  Team members model the leadership’s support and praise to their affiliates. 

Affiliative leadership works well in organizations where stress and volatility have become common and expected. The encouragement and praise inspire people to interact harmoniously and to avoid conflict.

History of Affiliate Leadership

The term “affiliate leadership” was coined in the book titled Primal Leadership, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Byatzis and Annie McKee. Its subtitle is Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, which is the common denominator in all their research.

Goleman and his co-authors analyzed several scientific studies and wrote the book to share their conclusions about the effect of the types of leadership observed in corporations.

They set up six separate categories of leadership styles, one of which is affiliate leadership. All six styles can be summarized as follows:

1

Pacesetting Leader – sets high standards for herself and for others. Expects quick, efficient results.

2

Authoritative Leader – provides the vision and end goal, leaving others to find ways to accomplish it.

3

Affiliative Leader - encourages bonding in relationships over troubleshooting and efficiency.

4

Coaching Leader – helps individuals build personal strengths for future success.

5

Coercive Leader – demands complete, immediate compliance with instructions.

6

Democratic Leader – builds group consensus and cooperation through participation.

Looking at these summaries, the other five types of leadership occur between the leader and a group member. However, affiliate leadership stands out as the style primarily focused on relationships between group members.  

Emotional intelligence is the quality successful leaders and group members are using when they choose to bond in healthy, cooperative relationships. In other leadership styles, emotions are not always welcome, but in affiliate leadership the emotional component of relationships is key.

WHY IS AFFILIATE LEADERSHIP IMPORTANT? 

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The term “affiliate leadership” was coined in the book titled Primal Leadership, by Daniel Goleman, Richard Byatzis and Annie McKee. Its subtitle is Learning to Lead with Emotional Intelligence, which is the common denominator in all their research.

Goleman and his co-authors analyzed several scientific studies and wrote the book to share their conclusions about the effect of the types of leadership observed in corporations.

They set up six separate categories of leadership styles, one of which is affiliate leadership. All six styles can be summarized as follows:

Getting along with other people is important everywhere – at home, at work, in group and social settings and online. Goleman and his co-authors chose four qualities that define the emotional intelligence of a leader:

  • Self-awareness
  • Self-management
  • Social awareness
  • Relationship management

Is Showing Emotions a Main Issue?

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A leader with highly-developed skills in all four areas is best equipped to choose affiliate leadership as a management style in the work place, and to help other people get along well together.

Historically, showing emotions at work has been considered weak or inappropriate. A leader could openly express anger, but a group member or employee could not. Workers were expected to keep quiet and behave as though they had no feelings to share.

Fearing a backlash from management and resentment from co-workers, most employees learned to keep their mouths shut.

Having feelings is not the issue. Showing one’s feelings has been the issue. Rather than create a scene, and suffer criticism and blame as a result, most people learn to keep their feelings to themselves. Over time, strong feelings can create mental and physical problems when feelings are bottled-up inside.

The Characteristics of an Affiliate Leader

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Both positive and negative feelings may be withheld when a work environment is hostile to all emotions. Affiliate leadership opens the work environment to expression of positive ideas, encouragement and praise. In other words, good, friendly emotions are welcome, even expected.

The Possible Downside of Affiliate Leadership

Some people are fond of saying, “It’s all good.”

That popular phrase could apply to affiliate leadership conceptually, but eventually it can fall short. A serious infraction, loss or oversight may occur, and positive reinforcement will not solve the it. A team project may be scrapped, or key people may be fired.

These situations may require a Pacesetting, Authoritative or Democratic Leader instead, at least during an interim reorganization.

An emotionally intelligent affiliate leader knows when to utilize other leadership styles to benefit the organization, and to achieve long-term continuity for its members.

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