Pacesetter leadership: Do as I do, and do it now

Leadership StylesIf you like to get down in the trenches and get your hands dirty showing people how stuff really gets done, then the pacesetter leadership style can offer you some advantages — and some disadvantages.

According to, the phrase that best describes the operating mode of the pacesetting leader is “Do as I do, and do it now.” That’s because this style involves a drive to achieve initiatives, and a drive to achieve results.

Pacesetters set high standards for themselves and those they are leading. One of the key attributes of a pacesetting leader is that they lead by example. They don’t ask their followers to do anything they wouldn’t do themselves. The problem is not everyone shares the same motivating forces as the pacesetting leader.

Pacesetters are also quick to identify individuals that are not keeping pace with their expectations. Poor performers are asked to rise to the occasion, and if they do not, then they are quickly replaced.

Pacesetters don’t give employees a lot of positive feedback; they simply don’t have the time. On the flip side, these leaders have no problem jumping right in and taking over if they think the pace of progress is too slow.

At first blush, the Pacesetting leadership style seems like win-win, according to the website The foundation of the pacesetting style sound great – the leader sets extremely high performance standards and exemplifies them himself.

He is obsessive about doing things better and faster (never satisfied with the status quo), and he asks the same of everyone around him. He is intolerant of poor performers and demanding more from them – and if improvements are not forthcoming, terminates them.

So, who wouldn’t want constantly improving performance from a highly skilled team?

Sadly, the pacesetter more often than not destroys the team climate and the individuals rarely rise to the occasion. Employees often feel overwhelmed by the pacesetter’s demands for excellence, and morale drops.

If followers are not in their ideal job, pushing them to rise to an occasion just isn’t going to work. Likewise, driving them to rise to the pacesetters dreams, will also fail.

Pacesetting simply will not work unless the leader has established alignment around a common goal – and pacesetters are not good at getting alignment.

According to, another concern is that Pacesetters tend to have trouble trusting their followers. Their self esteem rests on being smarter, faster and more thorough than everyone else.

There is an inclination to unintentionally undermine the efforts and morale of those around them. Before dismissing the pacesetter style for yourself, however, look at the followers. If they are already highly motivated, with strong technical skills, a pacesetter can be effective because the followers’ styles and competence already fit with the pacesetter’s expectations.

The biggest red flag to watch out for comes from

CAUTION:  If you see yourself as Type-A personality — highly driven and success oriented — you may be at risk of being perceived in a very negative light by your peers and subordinates.

People working for pacesetters often see themselves as being treated as subordinates, not colleagues or associates.

This is the fourth in a series of articles on effective leadership styles. To see the other articles, please go to 6 Leadership Styles That Get Results.

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