5 Key Attributes of Affiliative Leadership

If leaders were cops, then an Affiliative Leader would be the good cop.

An affiliative leader puts the people first, and the primary business goals come second. She is like the coach of a team, rather than being a strict manager.

From the above description, some people may conclude that such a leadership style is pretty bad for business.  Other people may believe that the opposite is true. The fact of the matter is that all types of management have value, and every kind of management has its advantages and disadvantages.


A rigorous management style can ensure that the work gets done and that targets are met or exceeded. This kind of leadership can, however, increase employee stress which in turn leads to higher absenteeism. The company may also see a higher than average staff turnover as staff seek employment elsewhere.

Conversely, a management style that is too relaxed can encourage employees to take liberties such as poor timekeeping, and it can allow the business productivity to decrease to unacceptable levels.

You may be thinking by now that there is no such thing as the perfect management style.  This view would also be incorrect. Probably the best management structure is one that has various levels of leadership styles so that specific managers can apply their people skills while other managers ensure that goals are met.

5 Key Attributes of Affiliative Leadership

#1 An Affiliative Leader is best suited to building teams.
#2 An Affiliative Leader should be brought in when staff morale is low.
#3 An Affiliative Leader performs better than other managers when there is employee conflict.
#4 An Affiliative Leader is an ideal person to deal with changes in business planning where employees may need support.
#5 An Affiliative Leader is ideally suited when there is a large-scale reorganization and employees need to be reassured how they’ll fit in.


manager You know she’s the boss, but she’s on your side.

The Fixer and Soother

For employees, the affiliative leader is like a work friend who has power. Their colleagues may undoubtedly be friends, but they have no say when it comes to dealing with the top management team. The affiliative leader can be a friend and does have the necessary clout at senior level.

One important point should be mentioned at this stage. Affiliative leaders do care about performance, and they have to. Their counterparts who are also managers have goals and targets to reach, and the affiliative leader cannot allow their own decisions and actions to ignore the chief business goals. However, the affiliative leader has the skills and personality to win the hearts and minds of employees, while at the same time maintaining effective workflow. It’s a very skilled role, and character plays as big a role as traditional management skills.

Premack’s Principle

Whether affiliative leaders are aware of it or not, they are often using the Premack’s Principle. This principle is often referred to as Grandma’s Law. This simple technique is often employed by Grandma’s with their grandchildren, mothers with their children, and dog owners training their dogs.

If Grandma was using it, then an example might be: “if you eat your vegetables then you can watch TV afterward”. A mother may say to her child: “if you do your homework then you can play your computer game.” A dog trainer may not use specific speech to utilize Premack’s principle, but they’ll offer an initial reward (a small piece of chicken), to achieve a more significant result – a perfect SIT!

An affiliative leader may say to an employee, if you get these documents finished by 3 pm then you can leave half an hour early today.

Premack’s principle works to an: “If This – Then That” format. The key is to knowing what reward will be agreeable enough to every different employee. If the employee in the example above doesn’t want to leave half an hour early as his bus doesn’t arrive for an hour later, then the reward has no value. What is vital for an affiliative leader is to know each work colleague at a deep level.

To end, and just for comparison purposes, here is an excellent Infographic comparing the Affiliative Management Style with the Participative Management Style (click it to enlarge):


Comparing Affiliative and Participative Management Styles

From Visually.


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