Pacesetting Leadership Style: All Facts You Should Know

pacesetting leadership style

Pacesetting leadership places a lot of emphasis on the result. It’s a very goal-oriented, emotional leadership style that encourages high achievers on teams to work as quickly as they can. What elements are pacesetting leadership style have? When to pacesetting leadership style? How to pacesetting leadership style? Continue reading, you will learn more about it.

What is Pacesetting Leadership?

A pacesetting leadership style involves holding members of the team to high standards and expectations. As the name implies, the leader sets the pace for their team or organization by putting forward an approach that can be summarized as “Do as I do, now.”

The highest levels of efficiency, quickness, and quality are demonstrated by leaders who work in this manner. The pacesetting leader is expected to set an example for the rest of the team to follow. You rely on underlying emotional intelligence skills when you use any of Daniel Goleman’s leadership techniques. These include initiative, conscientiousness, and the desire to succeed for pacesetting leadership.

This type of leadership is results-oriented, which means that the leader anticipates that their team will accomplish all goals and adhere to all deadlines. At the same time, the leader doesn’t give workers assignments they are ill-equipped to handle.

As you might expect, this leadership style can have both incredible benefits and significant drawbacks. Pacesetting leadership needs a highly skilled manager and team in order to function at its best. The corporate culture must be focused on ongoing development at the same time. With a highly skilled and motivated team, this approach produces the quickest results.

Goleman, however, asserts that employing this leadership approach frequently has a net negative effect on the environment at work.

It’s important to note that Daniel Goleman contends that the best leaders are those who are adept at a variety of leadership philosophies and possess the adaptability to switch between them as needed. Except in exceptionally rare circumstances, practicing pacesetting leadership exclusively without utilizing some of the other leadership styles is likely to have unfavorable effects.

What is Background of Pacesetting Leadership?

Daniel Goleman, a psychologist with international renown, is best known for creating the idea of emotional intelligence. He was able to make a connection between feelings and leadership through years of research and observation. His Harvard Business Review article titled “Leadership that Gets Results”[1] set the stage for reframing leadership and conceptualized six emotion-based leadership styles. Pacesetting leadership is one of the six leadership philosophies described in our article on Goleman’s six leadership philosophies.

Some key points from Goleman’s pivotal article include:

  • “Self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, and empathy are emotional intelligence competencies with which the most effective leaders excel.”
  • Self-control is a key component of pacesetting leadership.
  • “A leader should use as many different styles as possible. The best environment and business results are created by leaders who have mastered four or more styles, particularly the visionary, democratic, affiliative, and coaching styles. And the most effective leaders can quickly and easily switch between different leadership philosophies.”
  • As much as 33% of an organization’s performance can be attributed to the workplace culture. Supporting leadership philosophies that enhance organizational climate, such as affiliative, democratic, and coaching, is important for this reason.

Pacesetting leadership is still necessary even though it’s not the ideal fit for a supportive workplace environment. For more information, keep reading this article. Consider pacesetting leadership as one of the six leadership philosophies that will be used interchangeably. This is crucial. (For some of my top-secret advice on each of the Goleman leadership styles, subscribe to our newsletter.) Read more about this, as well as the fundamentals of emotional intelligence and resonant leadership, in our article on Daniel Goleman’s six leadership styles, and think about enrolling in our democratic leadership course with the insider knowledge and strategies from my time as a CEO.

pacesetting leadership style

What Are the Necessary Elements of Pacesetting Leadership?

As the term “pacesetting” implies, this leadership style requires that the leader “sets the pace” of work within the team. A pacesetter will take the lead during the first portion of a middle- or long-distance running race to set a quick tempo and guarantee that the top competitors record the fastest times. Additionally, it lessens the likelihood that the race will develop into a drawn-out tactical exercise.

A very similar function is played by the pacesetter in the workplace. To demonstrate to your team the level of efficiency, excellence, and performance you demand, set an example. To better understand this particular management style, let’s examine the specific components that pacesetting leadership entails.


Pacesetting leaders model for their team what it means to take the initiative and be the first to act. These leaders set high standards and then work hard to meet them. They additionally demand the same of their team.


When using the pacesetting leadership style, a leader must have a strong sense of self-motivation. They have a deep-seated drive to succeed. They hold themselves to the same high standards that they hold their team to.

Clearly Communicated Expectations

In order to achieve a goal, pacesetting leadership does not involve the leader micromanaging every little detail. As a substitute, they established the standard of performance and left it to their group to fulfill their commitments. This includes the necessity of requirements that are clearly communicated.

Every project needs to get off to a very clear start with expectations and requirements. Despite this, they aren’t offering advice on how to handle every little detail that crops up while trying to accomplish the goal. The pacesetting leader is expected to lay out the specifications, and the team should be able to work out how to produce the desired output without constant direct supervision.

Leading by Example

Leading by example is one of the most crucial components of being a pacesetter. A manager is setting the bar for their team at the same level if they are inefficient, frequently miss deadlines, and work slowly. While there are drawbacks to this leadership approach overall, it simply won’t work if the leader doesn’t demonstrate their expectations for work performance through their own actions.

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Pacesetting Leadership?

A leadership style with high benefits and high drawbacks is this one. It can lead to incredible results, but it can also seriously harm company culture. In the end, this leadership approach should only be applied in certain situations and in combination with other approaches. Otherwise, creating a long-lasting and healthy working environment for the entire team is difficult.


In the right situation or with the right team, a pacesetting leadership approach may be appropriate. It can be the ideal strategy, for instance, when your team needs to finish a large project quickly or meet a crucial deadline.

Allows Your Team to Achieve Business Goals Quickly

Pacesetting leadership can help an organization achieve its short-term, time-sensitive goals. This approach, which emphasizes high-quality output and the highest expectations, can generate the pressure you need to meet your goals on schedule and with the greatest possible efficiency without lowering the standard of quality.

It Can Help Your Team Grow and Improve

In a best-case scenario, pacesetting leadership enables your team to go beyond their comfort zones, gain new crucial skills, and enhance their overall work performance. Setting the pace for your team can help your company and each team member reach new heights if done properly and used in the appropriate situation.

Lets You Address Issues Immediately

pacesetting leadership style

While the pacesetting leadership doesn’t micromanage, they do make sure that important milestones are reached along the way. This ensures that any problems are brought up and discussed right away so they can be quickly addressed.

Allows Your Highly Skilled Team to Shine

As was already mentioned, this leadership approach functions best when a team of highly competent and experienced individuals is involved. They can complete their part of the task without much supervision because they are confident in their abilities.

Your elite team has the chance to truly display their skills when you lead in this manner. Additionally, it can aid in determining each team member’s strengths so that your company is best positioned for future success.


The pacesetting leadership style can result in seriously unfavorable outcomes for your organization if it is not used carefully. To make sure you comprehend the risks and potential benefits, let’s examine the drawbacks of setting the pace for your team.

It Can Breed Resentment

In the wrong situation or when used excessively, setting such high standards for excellence can quickly backfire. Because a pacesetter leader might take over a task right away at the first sign of hesitation, insecurity, or inadequacy, it can also cause resentment among your team. In the end, it’s not unusual for workers to feel overpowered by this leadership style.

It Can Reduce Trust

Employees may lose faith in their work if leaders have extremely high expectations for them. They might begin to doubt their work and worry about the repercussions if it doesn’t live up to the standards of the pacesetting leader. It’s possible that team members will feel as though they are not allowed to voice their concerns, ask questions, or admit weakness.

It Can Make Work Repetitive and Reduce Innovation

It costs money to establish a culture where everything is results-driven. It can have a negative impact on the general success of your business in addition to making your employees unhappy because their work becomes repetitive and monotonous. There won’t be any time or mental space left over for creativity or innovation if you are constantly focused solely on getting results.

It Only Works With the Right Team

This leadership approach will probably backfire and result in high employee turnover if you start with a team that lacks the abilities to keep up with your set pace.

It Can Lead to Stress and Burnout

The fact that your entire team may experience burnout as a result of your pacesetting leadership style is one of the main issues with it. Working for a boss who leads in this manner can be extremely stressful. To keep up with their manager, employees may lose sight of their work-life balance, and if they feel they can’t live up to their manager’s high standards, it can lower their self-esteem and make them feel inadequate.

Employees may lose faith and confidence in their work when leaders have extremely high expectations for them. They might begin to doubt their work and worry about the repercussions if it doesn’t live up to the standards of the pacesetting leader. Members of the team might feel as though they are not allowed to voice their concerns, ask questions, or admit to having weaknesses.

It Can Lead to Stress and Burnout

One of the main issues with pacesetting leadership is that it can lead to burnout among the entire team. It can be very stressful to work for a leader who uses this approach. To keep up with their manager, employees may lose sight of their work-life balance, and feeling inadequate because they are unable to live up to the leader’s high standards can result in low self-esteem.

pacesetting leadership style

Why Pacesetting Leadership is Important

Let’s focus on a few key components of the style to further explain the significance of pacesetting leadership.

Setting An Example

Even though there may be high expectations, the pacesetting leader actually sets a good example for others to follow. This is significant for leadership in general. It can help you become an example for others and, perhaps more importantly, it emphasizes that you don’t demand more of others than you do of yourself. This is an important quality in a leader and may also be the key distinction between a leader and a boss.

Focus on Excellence

If you want to lead by example, you should probably demonstrate qualities that advance your company. What if you are cruel, slothful, conceited, and unconcerned with the welfare of the company you lead? If others imitate such behaviors, it will be very bad for the future.

Underlining Performance and Time Aspects

Being late is not a good thing. The unintended and negative nature of the word is inherent in it. If expectations are met, it will be advantageous for both you and the company’s future. Less internal and external stakeholders will be disappointed as a result. In general, delays and disappointments should be avoided, and a pacesetting leader demonstrates and emphasizes the significance of this. A reminder to follow timelines and meet expectations is generally a good thing in businesses and can aid in the expansion of the company.

When Should You Use the Pacesetting Leadership Style?

When working with a team that is highly motivated and skilled, this leadership style works best. Your team must be ready to meet the demands you will place on them for this leadership style to be successful.

Due to its propensity to cause burnout and other problems in the workplace culture, pacesetting leadership is ineffective as a long-term leadership style. But in the right circumstances (think short-term, high-demand projects), it can be exactly what the circumstance calls for. When the manager actively sets the team’s pace and runs alongside them as they sprint to the finish line, this leadership style performs best.

How to Improve Pacesetting Leadership?

When a team is highly motivated and requires little direction, pacesetting leadership works best to produce quick results. Below are some suggestions for using it successfully, but the most crucial one is to view pacesetting as one of six leadership philosophies that should be used in various combinations.

  • Give employees regular feedback on their performance so they can see where they are falling short and are given chances to do better.
  • Allow your team to contribute ideas, and give them the freedom to complete tasks in the way that suits them best. This shows that you have faith in them. Simply put: empower your team. You can do this and still set the pace, try to compromise here
  • Always set a good example. You should never let the team see you faltering in your role as a trendsetter, as you have portrayed yourself to be.
  • Only employ pacesetting leadership when absolutely necessary. The majority of the six drawbacks of pacesetting leadership that were previously listed only become real under long-term use. Don’t do it.
  • Check out our articles on the other five styles you should mix pacesetting with. You can prevent overpacesetting by using them and learning about them.

Never forget that pacesetting leadership should only be used when necessary. The entire style is described as situational rather than behavioral. Use it therefore when achieving results quickly is crucial or when you need to push for the completion of a big project. Avoid applying it to routine business dealings because this will cause it to be applied generally rather than only in certain circumstances. Use the other styles as well; pacesetting leadership is just one of a set of six. An overview of the entire set and links to the other leadership styles are provided in the last chapter of this article.

What Are the Examples of Pacesetting Leadership?

The most well-known example of a leader who sets the pace is Jack Welch, who served as the CEO of GE from 1981 to 2001. At General Electric, he established an environment that is both highly successful and demanding. He was one of the innovators of forced ranking, for instance, where he fired the bottom 10% of the company’s performers and annually rewarded the top 20%.

How a Pacesetting Leadership Style Helps Employees?

pacesetting leadership style

Pacesetting leadership is frequently a style intended to enhance the result, that is, to produce results for the business rather than for specific employees. It does, however, generally offer a number of benefits that can aid workers in finishing their tasks and achieving their objectives.

  • Employees are capable of performing in challenging positions, which may position them for opportunities in the future.
  • Employees can manage their own schedules and job responsibilities because they generally have less daily supervision. Employees can handle tasks the way they know they perform best because pacesetting leadership is results-driven rather than forcing them to conform to a manager’s demands.
  • Employees will discover their strengths and weaknesses under pressure, which can help them get ready for future roles and opportunities that will require more of them.
  • Since they are forced to put all of their effort into meeting the deadlines and expectations of their roles, pacesetting encourages workers to reach their full potential.

How to Be a Pacesetting Leader?

If you want to be an effective pacesetting leader, make sure you keep these key things in mind:

  • Make a short-term commitment to pacesetting leadership. In general, if you only use it as a temporary fix as opposed to trying to make your team follow those strategies on a long-term basis, you will find that there are far fewer drawbacks.
  • Give your team the resources they require to successfully complete their job duties. Encourage their opinions and dialogue. Work with them to ensure they are capable of delivering the high caliber of work expected of them, and then give them the freedom to do it.
  • Always set a strong example for your team and exercise strong leadership. Your team may quickly lose trust in you if you are unable to deliver at the standard expected of you, which can have a negative impact on communication, engagement, and other factors.
  • At various points during the project, give your team feedback. Make sure they know how much you value their efforts, and whenever you can, provide both constructive criticism and positive feedback.
  • Set expectations in a clear manner. Be in touch frequently. Throughout the project, make sure that there is effective communication between all parties involved because failing to do so could result in more issues later.


Understanding one’s strengths and weaknesses is one of the first and most crucial steps in developing one’s leadership abilities. With this level of self-awareness, leaders can more easily identify the leadership skills they already possess and those that may need some improvement.