Affiliative Leadership Examples in Business


Affiliative leadership applies to your team and also to external stakeholders. For instance, I repeatedly see affiliative leadership examples in business when it comes to relationships with customers and suppliers. This article outlines affiliative leadership examples in business to provide you with a broader understanding of this leadership style. All affiliative examples are based on real situations I have seen in my roles as a CEO.

Here is a brief summary inspired by our main article on affiliative leadership for those unfamiliar with the affiliative leadership style. If you already know the basics, you can scroll down the page and read about the affiliative leadership examples in business.

Affiliative Leadership – basic introduction

A good leader knows to care about the team members and is not afraid to show it. A confident and strong leader is also ok with sharing feelings and thoughts without considering it a display of weakness. A leader who desires an open and trusting dialogue needs to start by being honest and setting the stage for that dialogue.

What is the Affiliative Leadership Style?

Affiliative leadership is wholly focused on the people and relationships in an organization. The leader’s primary task is to ensure harmony and friendship in the workplace. Harmony leads to happy employees but can at the same time lead to poor performance.

The Affiliative Leadership Style is one of the six leadership styles by Goleman, which are based on Emotional Intelligence. Overly focusing on Affiliative Leadership compares well to Country Club Leadership, which is worth avoiding. However, the most striking similarities are probably with the supportive leadership style of the Path-Goal theory, which focused on employee well-being, stress reduction, social satisfaction, etc. (You can read about all these other styles in our leadership styles portal.)

Advantages of the Affiliative Leadership Style:

  • The team feels that the leader genuinely cares about them, which builds loyalty, commitment, and trust
  • Positive communication and strong people focus
  • Strong bonds between members help in collaboration and crisis handling

Disadvantages of the Affiliative Leadership Style:

  • Underperformance might be accepted
  • The focus on harmony can result in avoidance of conflict and critical feedback
  • The overall goal might be lost, and the strive for harmony takes over

Read more in our in-depth article on this style here: the Affiliative Leadership style.

You now know the basics of affiliative leadership and can continue reading a few examples of affiliative leadership in business. If you are interested in examples involving a team or inside a company, you can read this article: Affiliative leadership examples in the workplace.

Affiliative leadership examples in business

I have divided the affiliative business examples into two sections: customer situations and supplier relationships.

Affiliative leadership examples in business: Customers

It is vital to really know your customer and the customers’ drivers, needs, and wishes. Using the affiliative leadership approach with your customers can build relationships and harmony with them, creating a robust structure for your business together.

Here are a couple of ways you can use an affiliative leadership approach with your customers:

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  • Understand their internal stakeholder situation: who does what, and who works with who
    • Learn about your customers as persons, what they like to do, family information, type of humor, etc.
    • What drives your customers? What is their end target? If you understand this, you can be of better service to them in their endeavor, which will help to build a robust relationship between you.
    • Listen, learn, relate and profoundly understand your customer by using plenty of emotional intelligence and empathy

There are numerous more ways of using affiliative leadership with your customers. The above are merely example areas to get you going.

Affiliative leadership examples in business: Suppliers

Similarly, there are numerous reasons and ways to apply affiliative leadership in your interactions with suppliers. After all, you want to achieve a win-win situation, where both your businesses can thrive together. The only difference from the above affiliative business examples is that you are now the customer, i.e., the roles have switched.

  • Understand how your supplier strives to build value so that you can work together as strategic partners rather than just buyers and sellers
    • Figure out how you can build trust and harmony by diligently building your relationship with your supplier. Who do you think they will prioritize in case of product shortages? You, of course.
    • Build an open dialogue so that you and your colleagues can guide the suppliers to provide the exact product or service that suits your needs
    • Share your concerns and plans with each other so that you can grow together

Sure, some of these examples can be seen as democratic or visionary as well, but that does not really matter in the end. There is no need to draw an exact demarcation between the styles as long as we get the desired results in the end. In the case of the affiliative leadership style, the desired results are strong, trusting, harmonious relationships.

You can use affiliative leadership with other stakeholders, such as owners, neighbors, partners, landlords, what have you. The above are simply a few affiliative leadership examples from the business world

Further reading on Affiliative Leadership

Our main article for this leadership style can be found here: Affiliative Leadership.

We have a detailed article describing Affiliative leadership examples in the workplace.

Besides this, you can find the six leadership styles by Goleman, situational leadership model, transformational, servant, charismatic, and bureaucratic leadership, plus another twenty leadership styles in our portal, right here: leadership styles.

Carl Lindberg

Carl is a global business leader that has led 1-2000 people and had financial responsibility of 200-500 MUSD. During his career, he has led employees in twenty different countries and has lived in three continents.

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