In his book Primal Leadership, acclaimed journalist Daniel Goleman, who’s also known as the father of emotional intelligence, speaks about six behavioral leadership styles—democratic, visionary, affiliative, coaching, commanding and pacesetting. An effective leader is said to possess qualities of each distinct leadership style. Here we explore the pacesetting leadership style in detail and its examples, advantages and disadvantages.


    1. Pacesetting Leadership Definition

    2. Pacesetting Leadership Examples

    3. Pacesetting Leadership Style: Advantages And Disadvantages

    4. See Your Growth In Action



Pacesetting Leadership Definition


Pacesetting leadership is a leadership style where a leader sets the pace of their team, leading from the front and by example. Such a leader sets high standards and targets for themselves as well as their employees. Expecting quality performance from their team members with minimal management and prioritizing results beyond any other concern are some defining characteristics of pacesetting leadership style.

Goleman writes in Primal Leadership, “The [pacesetting] leader holds and exemplifies the highest standard of performance. He is obsessive about doing things better and faster and asks the same of everyone. He quickly pinpoints poor performers, demands more from them, and if they don’t rise to the occasion, rescues the situation himself.”


Pacesetting Leadership Examples


A pacesetting leader doesn’t hesitate to pitch in and work alongside their employees toward the same high standards and goals. Rarely do they ask their employees to work on something they’d steer clear of themselves. Here are a few examples of pacesetting leadership style:

1. Focusing On Pace

In pacesetting leadership, time is of the essence. A pacesetting leader consistently strives to rapidly deliver high-quality projects while expecting employees to do the same. This is one of the best examples of pacesetting leadership style.


2. Setting Trends

A pacesetting leader is an expert in their field and has a clear idea of how to execute assignments. Showing the way and expecting employees to follow the trends they set is an example of a pacesetting leader.


3. Taking Initiative

Taking initiative and steering a project in the right direction is also one of the significant examples of pacesetting leadership. A pacesetting leader is the last person to sit around and wait for their employees to get the job done. When they feel their employees aren’t performing up to the mark or a project isn’t progressing as expected, they take matters into their own hands.

Among the most prominent examples of pacesetting leaders is Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric (GE). After taking over GE in 1981, Welch fired the bottom 10% of management and made his managers fire the bottom 10% of the organization’s employees. Although his business strategies earned him the nickname of ‘Neutron Jack’, under Welch’s leadership, GE’s revenues soared from $25 billion to $130 billion and he remains an ideal example of a pacesetting leader to date.

Virat Kohli, the captain of the Indian cricket team, and filmmaker James Cameron are some other famous pacesetting leaders.


Pacesetting Leadership Style: Advantages And Disadvantages


Now that we know the meaning of pacesetting leadership and are familiar with a few examples of pacesetting leadership, let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of pacesetting leadership style:


  • Rapid growth:

Pacesetting leadership can create a fast-paced and energetic work environment where employees are consistently delivering quality results and helping their organization embrace rapid growth

  •   Clarity:

One of the most significant advantages of pacesetting leadership style is clarity of work. With clearly outlined deadlines, responsibilities and established standards of performance, employees know what’s expected of them and are able to deliver accordingly

  •   High-performing workforce:

Pacesetting leaders lead from the front and often act as role models for their team members, who follow their set standards. In the long run, such team members are likely to become high-performers themselves and take their organization forward



  • Burnout:

When pacesetting leadership constantly demands top-notch performance from employees and sets demanding timelines and project schedules, employees are likely to experience burnout and exhaustion

  •   Tendency to micromanage:

Pacesetting leadership might fall into the trap of trying to micromanage employees. Because a pacesetting leader is so focused on results, they’re prone to taking over tasks from their team members when they feel a project isn’t progressing at a pace they like

  • Declining job satisfaction:

A pacesetting leader is likely to replace employees who don’t live up to their high expectations. This can significantly hamper an employee’s self-confidence and morale, decreasing job satisfaction

Although effective in generating quick results, pacesetting leadership works only with a skilled team that’s highly motivated and invested in their work. It’s best avoided when there are a number of new recruits on a team who need to be trained and guided. When implemented in the long run, pacesetting leadership can also be draining for employees.


See Your Growth In Action


Business leaders turn to a pacesetting leadership style when they’re leading a competent team of skilled professionals and want to deliver high-quality results in a short time frame. With Harappa’s Leading Self course, you’ll be able to maximize your potential as a pacesetting leader by learning to overcome both internal and external interferences, nurture a growth mindset and venture out of your comfort zone. Frameworks such as Balcony and Dance Floor and the Iceberg Model will help you balance action with awareness and identify and transcend your limiting beliefs.

This online leadership course is rich with industry best practices and real-life testimonials of high-achieving leaders to take you through an enriching learning experience. You’ll not only develop new skills and abilities but also learn to take ownership and embrace new growth opportunities. Sign up today for Harappa’s Leading Self course and see your growth in action!

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