What Is Affiliative Leadership? (With Benefits And Tips)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 28 September 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Different organisations use various leadership styles to manage employees and ensure teams reach organisational goals. One such leadership style is affiliative leadership, which promotes social and emotional cohesion in the workplace. If you work in a managerial role, knowing everything about this leadership style can help create a positive work environment and increase employee performance. In this article, we discuss what affiliative leadership is, share its benefits and characteristics, outline the tips required for becoming an effective affiliative leader in the workplace and provide an example.

What Is Affiliative Leadership?

Affiliative leadership is an emotional leadership style that entirely focuses on relationships and people. It primarily involves forming social and emotional bonds with team members and encourages leaders to follow a team-first approach. It helps in building a team and creating a harmonious workplace. Leaders who follow this style promote trust and community building within the team. Typically, an affiliative leader is caring and considers the team's emotions.

Due to their focus on relationships, an organisation might prefer an affiliative leader when a new team gets formed or when an existing team requires emotional support. While these leaders focus on conflict resolution, they maintain relationships between employers and managers. As a result, this leadership style helps in high-stress situations.

Related: 10 Common Leadership Styles

Benefits Of Affiliative Leadership

Here are some benefits of using this leadership style:

Enhance employee morale

Affiliative leaders motivate employees by giving them more freedom to express their concerns, ideas and opinions. This increases the confidence level of employees and they may feel more motivated to excel in their workplace. Employees can make significant contributions and feel valued, increasing their ability to work productively and efficiently.

Increase employee trust

The primary focus of affiliative leaders is promoting trust and building a transparent relationship between employees and management. When there is mutual trust between team members and management, it inspires team members to share their ideas, issues and thoughts. This leadership style can help make employees feel like they are part of the company and increases employee loyalty.

Related: What Is The Importance Of Leadership In The Workplace?

Build effective teams

The primary objective of an affiliative leader is to build effective and close teams that work to achieve organisational goals. By spreading unity and positivity, employees can feel secure, safe and included while working in the team. It helps increase employee retention and reduces attrition, increasing workplace efficiency.

Related: A Guide On How To Build A Team That Is Strong And Successful

Advise employees during challenging situations

As affiliative leaders create a strong emotional bond with employees, they feel more comfortable sharing their concerns and workplace challenges. These leaders provide the right guidance and advice during unprecedented and challenging work situations. This motivates employees to maintain quality and contribute to the company's success.

Ensure conflict resolution

Leaders can do anything to maintain a positive work culture and team environment, which might mean faster conflict resolution. Affiliative leaders focus on building emotional bonds to help avoid workplace conflicts. These leaders can understand workplace tension and work quickly to devise a solution to avoid a larger issue. This can maximise team cohesion and productivity.

Related: What Is Conflict Resolution? Using This Practice At Work

Characteristics Of Affiliative Leaders

Here are some characteristics of affiliative leaders:

Encourages creativity

Affiliative leaders encourage an atmosphere of creativity and innovative thinking. This helps employees discover new approaches to reaching goals and solving workplace challenges. Such a work environment helps the team share new ideas and accomplish organisational goals.

Related: What Are Creativity Skills? (With Examples And Benefits)

Prioritises employee well-being

Rather than focusing on productivity and efficiency, affiliative leaders focus on building team morale and prioritise employee well-being. This primarily involves communicating and connecting with different teams. This helps in understanding the team's emotions.

Related: What Is An Employee? (Definition, Types And Benefits)

Improves flexibility

Affiliative leaders focus on providing flexibility to employees, which improves workplace culture. These leaders provide work conditions, such as casual Fridays and work from home arrangements. Such a leadership style believes that providing flexibility can reduce workplace stress.

Related: 11 Guidelines For Working From Home: A Definitive List

Ensures positive interactions

As affiliative leaders focus on creating a healthy work environment, they do it by ensuring positive interactions with team members. Under these leaders, an employee can take feedback positively and work on improving their skills. It can help ensure empathetic workplace communication that helps provide productive feedback.

Facilitates culture of communication

Affiliative leaders use communication to increase team morale and chances of workplace success. These leaders encourage employees to consider their behaviour and facilitate positive communication. Such a work culture ensures constructive discussion and encourages team members to share their concerns and ideas.

Related: Verbal Communication Examples In The Workplace (With Tips)

Ensures people are the focus

People and team members are a priority in this leadership style. Loyalty between team members can create opportunities for outstanding performance. Affiliative leaders are likely to spend time with their employees during jobs they complete together. These leaders can also take their team on dinners or luncheons.

Tips For Becoming An Affiliative Leader

Follow these tips to become an affiliative leader:

Focus on a balanced approach

One capability of an affiliative leader is providing feedback to employees. While offering praise when they perform well is essential, giving constructive criticism encourages and motivates team members to improve their skills and performance. A balanced approach might help companies nurture teams while still pursuing the company's mission.

Ensure performance tracking

While affiliative leaders focus on team building and employee well-being over production and work performance, it is essential to maintain employee productivity. Otherwise, it might hamper workplace performance and production. Watching and monitoring performance and productivity can help you keep track of the performance of individual employees. The ability to recognise potential issues, understand areas that require improvement and have strategies in place to make adjustments is essential for becoming an effective leader.

Related: 10 Human Performance Tools You Can Use In The Workplace

Focus on internal and external issues

Affiliative leaders give priority to the emotional needs of the employees and help in building a strong team. To become an effective leader, paying attention to external and internal issues that arise outside the team is important. It is essential for leaders to look at internal and external issues and recognise ways the team can grow and succeed in the organisation.

Provide flexibility

To become an effective affiliative leader, providing creative freedom and flexibility empowers employees to use their imagination to solve workplace challenges. It also helps leaders promote a positive work culture where employees trust each other. Being flexible encourages team members to feel comfortable and outperform themselves.

Example Of Affiliative Leaders In The Workplace

Review this example to understand how affiliative leaders create a positive work environment and build trust:

Ryan is a hardworking sales employee who works under the supervision of Ms. Sudesh, the department manager of a leading retail chain. After authoritatively leading the retail chain for two years, Ms. Sudesh receives several complaints from team members who dislike her leadership style. She focused on improving productivity and completing work within the deadline during her tenure. After Ms. Sudesh resigns from the organisation, the team lacks trust and is low on confidence, affecting the company's objectives. In her new organisation, Ms. Sudesh uses empathy and interpersonal skills to connect with team members.

The team trusts Ms. Sudesh because she comes across as a caring leader who helps meet organisational objectives and complete tasks. Rather than becoming an authoritative leader, she focuses on being an affiliative leader. She encourages flexible working and conducts weekly meetings to understand customers' pain points. These meetings help team members express their feelings about her leadership style and concerns they might have for the team. As she fosters a culture of open communication, it helps build workplace relationships and a sense of inclusivity.

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