What Is Pacesetting Leadership Style? Definition, Example Pros And, Cons

Mashum Mollah 4 November, 2022
pacesetting leadership style

“Leadership Is Not Domination, But The Art Of Persuading People To Work Toward A Common Goal.”

–Daniel Goleman

When it comes to choosing a leadership style, some huge names come at the front. Previously, I have talked so much about Max Weber and the different leadership styles he has talked about in his works. 

But, Pacesetting leadership style brings another famous name to the front. It is Daniel Goleman, a science journalist who has talked about six different types of leadership styles in his work Primal Leadership. 

Pacesetting leadership is exactly the same as its name suggests. Leaders following a pacesetting leadership set a high standard of expectation from their teams and expect them to perform at optimum level. While it brews the finest results out of some teams, it can also brew resentment among the followers. 

however, Goleman believes that a leader should be flexible across different leadership styles instead of following one style of leadership rigidly. So, let me help you explore the what pacesetting leadership is and its different pros and cons through this article. 


What Is Pacesetting Leadership Style?

What Is pacesetting Leadership Style?

Pacesetting leadership style is characterized by high performance expectation in a minimally managed work environment. The leader here stays at the front raising their expectation from the team. They set a high bar that the team works extremely hard to catch up to. 

This Leadership Style Demands Three Key Components:

  • An efficient manager.
  • A high performing team. 
  • And a work culture striving for constant improvement. 

In a pacesetting style of leadership, a team lead is supposed to stay at the front showcasing high efficiency in their work. They expect their followers to perform the same way that they do. Also, the work culture is also work culture is made to bring out optimum efficiency and productivity out of the employees. 

Pacesetting leaders are example setters and inspirers who make the employees recognize their speed, quality and efficiency. Although this leadership style makes a good example in the short term, it will make the employees feel burnt out in the long run. 

When taking Goleman’s leadership style into account, the term emotional intelligence comes into play.

The Three Competencies In A Pacesetting Style Of Leadership Are

  • Initiative
  • Conscientiousness
  • The Drive To Achieve

The leaders focus on the result and the output the team has to offer. But, they also work alongside the employees which only shows humility in their personalities. The leaders also don’t delegate impossible tasks to the employees. The ultimate goal of this leadership style is to attain optimum level of performance and constant improvement. 

Although Goleman’s idea might seem effective in the short term. But, in a long term goal, this leadership style has the potential to make the employees feel burnt out. Anyways, let us dive deeper into the roots of this leadership style. 

Background/History Of Pacesetting Leadership Style

Daniel Goleman Quote

In 2001, Daniel Goleman talked about six different types of leadership styles through his work Primal Leadership. He talks about emotional intelligence and emotional dimension of leadership in his work. The book shows a leaders’s foremost task to be an emotional one. 

He articulates the message resonating with the emotional reality and the sense of purpose of the followers. According to Goleman an effective leadership style is meant to push people in the direction towards improvement.

The Six Different Leadership Styles That Goleman Has Talked About, Include –

  1. Visionary Leadership Style.
  2. Coaching Leadership Style.
  3. Affiliative Leadership Style.
  4. Democratic Leadership Style.
  5. Commanding Leadership Style.
  6. Pacesetting Leadership Style.

As I have described before, Pacesetting style of leadership, aside from boosting productivity, can potentially damage an organizational climate. The constant demand for excellence often diminish company morales. The feeling of working side by side with the employer is simultaneously exciting and overwhelming. Employees have different ranges of skills, and expertise. Which result in some employees have the feeling of impressing the employer with their performance, when some may end up feeling incompetent. 

However, the pacesetting leadership style can be neither deemed as right nor as wrong. Although it can potentially deteriorate the company morales, it can give an organization a temporary boost.

You May Like To Know About Transactional Leadership Style

Characteristics Of Pacesetting Leadership

Pacesetting leadership, when simplified, means setting a pace. To put it more simply, a pace setting leader sets the pace for the followers. But, the effectiveness of this leadership style depends upon the length the leader is aiming to run for. The leaders lead by example while the employers follow. Here are some characteristics of this leadership style for further clarification –

1. Focused On Pace

Mario Andretti

Pacesetting leaders strive to achieve optimum efficiency and qualitative result within limited time. They strive for excellence and expect the same from the followers. Focusing on rapid pace at work is the key feature of the pacesetting leadership.

2. Setting Example

Daniel Goleman

It takes a pacesetting leader more than normal skill to set a pace. They are highly efficient and skilled at their work. They use their speed, quality and efficiency to set an example for the followers. It is unlike the bureaucratic leadership style where the followers have to do as they are ordered. In pacesetting style of leadership, the followers have to do as they see from from their leaders. It is needless to say that they are skilled at setting examples as well. 

3. Taking Initiatives 

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe Quote

Pacesetting leaders are not afraid to take charge or put forward an initiative. They always have lofty goals and expectation from themselves and the team. They are always energetic and enthusiastic to achieve their goals. 

4. Self Motivation

Theodore Roosevelt

Pacesetting leadership is specifically driven by lofty goals which requires unwavering confidence and motivation from the leaders’ sides. As a pacesetting leader, one must always remain optimistic and self motivated. A huge part of it should come from their confidence in their skills and their ethics. Their attitude to motivate themselves set high and lofty goal for their employees as well as themselves. 

5. Transparent Expectations

Brian Tracy Quote

The goals set by Pacesetting leaders are indeed lofty. But they don’t take up impossible goals. These leaders will also not micromanage everything to reach a goal. They set up an example and create exception which the team needs to uphold. The leaders are aware of the skill and level of expertise their team possess, so their expectations are real even when they seem lofty. The best part of this leadership is that, the leaders show how it’s done so that the team can follow. 

Pacesetting Leadership Style: What’s Good…And What’s Not So Good

As I previously elaborated a pacesetting style of leadership is characterized by high expectation and optimum level of efficient productivity within a short margin of time. It is both helpful and harmful. The pacesetting leadership style pros and cons will help you further understand. –

The Benefits Of Pacesetting Leadership Style: Pros

  • Growth: Pacesetting leadership focuses on immense productivity through almost a competitive drive towards achievement. It brings about rapid growth within an organization. The zeal to achieve excellent quality and result helps them bring this result. 
  • Clarity: Pacesetters outline the goal and the deadline that the team has to follow. When they aim for a project, they pursue a goal with standardized performance in hand clear responsibilities assigned to the team of employees. So, there is no room for miscommunication. This way of managing a project is always transparent and clear. 
  • High Performance Environment: The aim to fulfill a goal within a given time help the leaders and the team members create an indomitable workforce. They strive for high productivity and performance. Their personality at work create a high performing work culture.

The Disadvantages Of Pacesetting Leadership Style: Cons

  • Exhaustion: In a pacesetting environment, the employees are likely to feel burnt out or dried up. The constant push towards excellence and high productivity can take away every ounce of energy and determination employees have. Setting demanding timelines constantly make employees feel exhausted and they eventually give up. 
  • Possibility Of Micromanagement: A pacesetting leader is always striving for result. So, the possibility for micromanagement is high. When they feel that the work is not being carried out as they want it to, they may interfere and overtake any project assigned to the team. 
  • Low Level Of Job Satisfaction: Pacesetting leadership can reduce the level of job satisfaction employees have within an organization. It is impossible to work at an optimum capacity everyday for most employees. Meeting deadlines and living up to the expectation of a pacesetting leader is tough. A minor drop in their regular performance may make them feel incompetent, demotivated deminishing their level of job satisfaction. 

Pacesetting Leadership Style: Case Studies (Examples)

It is true that Pacesetting leaders are iconic and inspiring to read about. Their achievement consists of both their leadership skills and their blood and sweat. The two pacesetting leadership style examples I have set here should help you understand more about this style. 

1. Jack Welch

Jack Welch

Jack Welch is a remarkable example of the pacesetting style of leadership. He had remarkable contribution in making GE a successful within 1981 to 2001. He racked up a huge amount of severance payment during his retirement. The amount was $417 million and the largest severance payment in the history of business. While excellence as a businessman is well celebrated, he was also controversially criticized for his lack of empathy. Probably his pacesetting mindset was responsible for the acclaimed controversy. 

2. James Cameron

James Cameron

James Cameron, the director of Titanic and Avatar is a pacesetting leader. When he started making documentaries about the deep ocean Cameron found out the importance of leadership. He constantly pushed his team and crew through challenges and hardship. He revealed about his leadership style in the show named Ted Talk. 

How To Become A Pacesetting Leader?

Similar to all the leadership style, a leader should leverage from the bright sides of the pacesetting style of leadership. If you want to incorporate this leadership style you can go through the following points. 

1. Does It Suit Your Work Environment?

Does It Suit Your Work Environment?

Before applying a pacesetting leadership model in your organization you should be privy to its effects within the organization. A leader should apply this leadership model only to a team of people capable of working to optimum potential similar to themselves. Also, this leadership style cannot work for a long term otherwise the employees will feel burnt out. It can be a short term leadership model. You also need to consider if this leadership style is good for your organization or not. 

2. Set A Realistic Goal

Set A Realistic Goal

Pacesetting leadership is a goal driven leadership where a leader strives for excellent productivity with his team. To become a pacesetter, first, you should determine a goal you want to achieve for the organization. However, the goal needs to be achievable and should not be based on an unrealistic deadline. 

3. Be Transparent About Goals

Be Transparent About Goals

As a pacesetting leader you should be transparent about the prince and the deadline you have set for the team. Before applying this model in your organization, you should always clarify the objective and deadlines to the teams. 

4. Learn To Set Example

Learn To Set Example

A pacesetting leader is a pioneer who shows how to achieve a target rather than ordering the team around. Before you assign an outstanding project to your team you should show them how to achieve the target. As a result, you may have to work alongside your team.

5. Motivate Yourself & Your Team

Motivate Yourself & Your Team

A pacesetter is a motivator and a pioneer. As a leader of this type you have to show your team the path while also showing them how to pass through difficulties. A fine example of the same is seen in the new movie Top Gun Maverick by Tom Cruise where is shows his trainees how to fly a fighter jet through deadly environments. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

This article has all the information you need on pacesetting leadership. However, here are some related questions you can read answers to. 

Q1. Who Came Up With Pacesetting Leadership?

Pacesetting leadership style is the product of Daniel Goleman’s research. He has talked about six different styles of leadership. Here are those different styles –
7. Visionary Leadership Style.
8. Coaching Leadership Style.
9. Affiliative Leadership Style.
10. Democratic Leadership Style.
11. Commanding Leadership Style.
12. Pacesetting Leadership Style.

Q2. How Is Jack Welch A Pacesetting Leader?

Welch is a good example of pacesetting leadership. He hated micromanaging and wanted thought leaders to set examples for their teams. He pushed GE to become a profitable organization during his tenure.

Q3. What Is The Meaning Of Pace Setting?

The meaning of pace setting is setting a pace or speed. It is a competitive style of leadership where the employers compete against each other to reach the team objective.

Is Pacesetting Leadership Style Effective?

Pacesetting leadership is effective. But when this leadership style comes into effect, the timeframe of this style remaining in effect becomes crucial. If this style is used and carried throughout a long term it can prove disastrous and negatively impact the work environment of an organization. However, while aiming to complete a small project, this leadership style can be effective. 

I hope that this article was helpful. If you have any queries related to the same, you can leave them in the comment box.

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Mashum Mollah

Mashum Mollah is a tech entrepreneur by profession and passionate blogger by heart. He is on a mission to help small businesses grow online. He shares his journey, insights, and experiences in this blog. If you are an entrepreneur, digital marketing professional, or simply an info-holic, then this blog is for you.

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