Nice and ToughThere is considerable debate on what kind of leadership type engages employees in the most effective manner. It may seem obvious that if a leader is ‘moody’ and ‘demanding’ that employees will end up being ‘disgruntled’ and ‘unengaged’. However, leaders often fear that if they are ‘too nice’ and ‘accommodating’ that they will be viewed as a ‘push over’ and no work will get completed at all. So what leadership approach is appropriate in ensuring maximum employee engagement?

There are two main types of leadership approaches:


Drivers are leaders who are seen to have high expectations that aim to ‘drive’ employees to reach and achieve goals. They often set ‘stretch’ goals; goals that go beyond that what are believed achievable by the team. This ensures that employees go above and beyond to achieve the set goals, that they remain focused and it enables team members to improve their skills and attain a higher satisfaction rate when they achieve a ‘stretch’ goal.


Enhancers are leaders who seek to increase employee engagement through establishing a relationship with their employees which is based on communication, trust and honesty. Enhancers play the ‘nice guy’, they are good at staying informed on current issues, are a ‘team player’ and act as a role model to their employees. They give honest feedback to employees, show concern for others and aim to develop people’s skills so that they become team assets.

Does one style work best?

When surveyed (source Zenger/Folkman), most leaders said that they believed they had to play the “nice guy or gal” to improve employee engagement and commitment. But only 6.7% of the leaders who were seen as the “nice guy or gal” were viewed by team members as successful in engaging their team.

This figure contrasts with the 8.9% of ‘driving’ leaders who were considered to be effective in engaging their team. However, employees surveyed, noted that ‘driving’ leaders were not effective in being ‘enhancers’, and that they didn’t respond well to ‘driving’ leaders exhibiting a pushy and demanding nature.

The survey also found that there was one thing in common that employees led by either their ‘driving’ or ‘enhancing’ leader had – the employees surveyed only ranked their engagement levels at close to 10%.

However, 68% of employees who identified their leaders as using both a ‘driving’ and an ‘enhancing’ approach ranked themselves in the top 10% of satisfaction and engagement in their work.

These research findings make one thing very clear; leaders who wish to maximise the engagement of their employees need to establish a balanced approach of both ‘driving’ and ‘enhancing’ leadership.

Good leaders will know how to establish a collaborative, considerate and trusting relationship with those that they lead, whilst also knowing how to demand a great deal from employees. The leaders who do this will develop their team, making it stronger and increasing team member engagement.