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Pacesetting Leadership | All Examples You Need to Know in 2023

Pacesetting Leadership | All Examples You Need to Know in 2023


Astrid Tran 13 Oct 2023 8 min read

What is pacesetting leadership? As Daniel Goleman referred in his book: Primal Leadership: Realizing the Power of Emotional Intelligence mentions the 6 Goleman Leadership Styles, and each style makes different impacts on both individuals and organizations.

He also indicates that you can learn to become a good leader over time and might experience a range of leadership styles that you might never have noticed before.

Are you curious about what your leadership style is? In this article, you’ll learn everything about Pacesetting leadership, its definition, its characteristics, pros and cons, and examples as well. So, let’s see whether you are a Pacesetting leader or not. 

pacesetting leadership style
Pacesetting leadership style drive team excellence | Source: Shutterstock

Table of Contents


Who is an example of a pacesetting leader?Jack Welch – CEO of GE (1981 to 2001)
Who invented term ‘pacesetting leadership’?Daniel Goleman
Overview of Pacesetting Leadership

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What is Pacesetting Leadership?

A leader with a pacesetting leadership style highly result-oriented. You are motivated by being the best, and thus, you prefer to work with a high-performance work team. Sometimes you are called a pacesetter as you are the only person “setting the pace” for the other people to follow. You are likely to put forward an approach that can be summarized as “Do as I do, now.”

There is no right or wrong to be a pacesetting leader since it is the leader’s role to promote the highest level of performance, speed, and quality. As well as no leader wanting to take risks by delegating tasks to employees who cannot handle them. Though it is believed that pacesetting style might destroy the climate, it also can be a good technique to persuade people to work toward common goals.


What are Qualities of Pacesetting Leadership?

So, what are the exact characteristics that Pacesetting Leaders demonstrate? There are the five key components that define pacesetting leadership as follows. Take a look as it might help you understand more clearly this particular management style.

Lead by example

Pacesetting leaders lead through personal examples. They model the behavior, work ethic, and performance they expect from their team. They understand that actions speak louder than words and recognize the impact of their behavior on the overall performance of the team. By demonstrating a strong work ethic and displaying high standards themselves, they motivate others to follow suit.

Focus on Individual Responsibility

Pacesetting leaders emphasize individual accountability and hold team members responsible for their performance. They expect each person to take ownership of their work and deliver results. They may provide feedback and guidance, but they generally give team members the autonomy to execute their responsibilities.

Expect High Performance

Pacesetters have exceptionally high expectations for themselves and their team members. It also means that pacesetting leaders are self-motivated toward achieving goals and demand excellence. They set ambitious goals and expect everyone to meet or exceed them. The emphasis is on achieving excellence and constantly striving for improvement.

Maintain Quick Pace and Intensity

Always working at a fast pace, there is no doubt that Pacesetting leaders also expect the same level of intensity from their team members. They often have a sense of urgency and drive for immediate results. This can create a high-pressure environment that may be demanding and stressful for some individuals.

Take Initiative

Initiative can be considered an important quality of a Pacesetting style leader. They prefer to take initiative by proactively identifying opportunities, making decisions, and taking action to drive progress and achieve goals. Pacesetting leaders don’t wait for instructions or rely solely on others to initiate tasks or projects. Additionally, they are not afraid to take calculated risks and push boundaries to achieve desired outcomes.


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Advantages Pacesetting Leadership

Pacesetting style brings many benefits to employees and companies. The four obvious aspects that get the most of this style is explained below:

pacesetting leadership style advantages and disadvantages
A Team that is under pacesetting leaders can make a excellent goal achievement | Source: Shutterstock

Promote High quality of work

The high standards set by pacesetting leaders often lead to increased productivity. When team members are pushed to perform at their best, they are more likely to find innovative solutions, work efficiently, and produce high-quality outcomes.

Address issues immediately

The best words to demonstrate Pacesetting leaders are decisive and clarity. In particular, this style of leadership allows for quick decision-making and swift action, which can be advantageous in fast-paced or time-sensitive situations.

Facilitate Rapid growth

Pacesetting leaders challenge their team members to develop new skills and capabilities. By setting high standards, they encourage continuous learning and improvement, which can enhance the skill set of individual team members and contribute to their professional growth.

Demand excellence

It is worth noting that pacesetting leaders are likely to inspire their team members to develop new skills and capabilities. By setting high standards, they encourage continuous learning and improvement, which can enhance the skill set of individual team members and contribute to their professional growth.

Disadvantages of Pacesetting Leadership

While pacesetting leadership can have advantages in certain situations, it also has some potential disadvantages. Here are a few disadvantages of pacesetting style that managers should consider:

pacesetting leader example
Burnouts are the most common issue under pacesetting style of leadership | Source: Shutterstock


The high standards, sometimes unrealistic goals are likely to push their team members to be overpressure. If the pressure is more intense and constant, it might lead to increased stress levels and a higher risk of burnout among team members. This can negatively impact their well-being, job satisfaction, and overall productivity.

Loss of trust 

Pacesetting leaders may prioritize results over the well-being of their team members. This can result in a lack of empathy and understanding for their concerns, challenges, or personal circumstances. When employees feel that their leader is unsympathetic or uncaring, trust in their leadership is likely to decline.

Less Job Satisfaction

Aggressive pacesetting management style can result in limited investment in the long-term development of their team members. Without adequate attention to skill-building and professional growth, employees may feel stagnant and undervalued. Some may feel overwhelmed, unappreciated, and dissatisfied, leading them to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Potential Micromanagement

Micromanagement probably happens when pacesetting leaders closely monitor and control every aspect of their team’s work to ensure it meets their high standards. This act might lead to demotivation and disempowerment for team members. In addition, micromanagement restricts autonomy and can hinder creativity and problem-solving abilities.


Pacesetting Leadership Examples

With the right tools and the right person, a pacesetting style can bring positive outcomes and efficiency. However, when this style is overused, usually accompanied by unethical behavior and a lack of integrity, it can bring negative consequences. There are four examples of Pacesetting Leadership, two of them are bad examples.

examples of Pacesetting Leadership style
A good example of Pacesetting Leadership style is Elon Musk | Source: Shutterstock

Remarkable examples of Pacesetting Leadership

Elon Musk (Tesla, SpaceX, Neuralink) 

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla, SpaceX, and Neuralink, is a prominent example of pacesetting leadership. Musk is known for his ambitious goals and determination to revolutionize industries such as electric vehicles, space exploration, and neurotechnology. He sets demanding standards and expects his teams to deliver groundbreaking advancements, pushing the boundaries of what is deemed possible.

Steve Jobs (Apple Inc.)

Steve Jobs, the co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., is widely recognized as an iconic pacesetting leader. His unwavering pursuit of excellence, innovative thinking, and uncompromising standards set new benchmarks in the technology industry. Jobs’ visionary leadership transformed Apple into one of the most valuable and influential companies globally.

Negative examples of Pacesetting Leadership

Elizabeth Holmes (Theranos)

Elizabeth Holmes, the founder and former CEO of Theranos, exemplifies a negative example of pacesetting leadership. Holmes set out to revolutionize the healthcare industry by developing a blood-testing technology. She created a culture of intense secrecy and high expectations, setting ambitious goals for the company. However, it was later revealed that the technology did not work as claimed, leading to fraud charges against Holmes. Her relentless pursuit of success and failure to deliver on promises ultimately resulted in the downfall of Theranos.

Travis Kalanick (Uber)

Travis Kalanick, the former CEO of Uber, displayed a negative form of pacesetting leadership. Kalanick fostered a culture of intense competition and aggressive growth, setting ambitious goals for Uber’s expansion. However, this pacesetting style led to a series of controversies, including allegations of harassment and discrimination within the company, as well as regulatory and legal issues. The relentless pursuit of growth without adequate attention to ethical considerations ultimately tarnished Uber’s reputation.

When does Pacesetting Leadership Work Best?

Pacesetting management style of leadership doesn’t work in all cases. To make the most of your team performance and best outcomes, as a leader, you should consider these following situations:

Short-term Projects or Goals

Pacesetting leadership can be effective when working on short-term projects or goals that require a rapid and focused effort to achieve specific outcomes. The leader sets clear expectations, closely monitors progress, and ensures that the team delivers results within a tight timeframe.

Time-sensitive or Crisis Situations

When leaders encounter time-sensitive or crisis situations where quick decisions and actions are necessary, they can take advantage of Pacesetting leadership. The leader sets high expectations and drives their team to achieve immediate results, mobilizing everyone to work efficiently and effectively under pressure.

Highly Skilled and Self-Motivated Teams

Pacesetting leadership won’t work unless teams consist of highly skilled and self-motivated individuals. The reason is high performing team members are competent, professional, and competitive for their inner motivation. What the pacesetting leader has to do is setting challenging goals and push them to excel further, leveraging their existing competencies.

How to Overcome Negative Pacesetting Leadership?

Overcoming negative pacesetting leadership requires a concerted effort from both leaders and the organization as a whole. It is also important to listen to subordinates’ opinions as they are the ones who are under their management. 

  • Encourage open and transparent communication within the organization. Create channels for employees to express their concerns, share feedback, and provide suggestions for improvement.
  • Focus on promoting a broader understanding of different leadership styles, and are willing to adjust
  • Encourage employees to involve in goal-setting discussions to ensure that targets are challenging yet achievable, and align with the capabilities and resources available.
  • Conduct assessment of the leadership style and its impact on individuals and the overall work environment by regularly collecting surveys or feedback from every possible stakeholders.
  • HR can offer continuous leadership training to ensure leaders and managers are capable of managing and inspiring their employees. 

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pace setting leadership style
Use Performance review to examine pace setting leadership style


Final Thoughts

Pacesetting leadership is not a bad choice in team management but not the perfect one in any cases. But, it is also hard to say which leadership style is the most effective one, as each style of management has both pros and cons, and works under certain circumstances. It is the leader’s choice to adapt a certain leadership style and switch to the other one when they are in different situations. Making more observations, taking feedback and conducting performance reviews is a somewhat useful method to becoming a great leader and great team. 


Frequently Asked Questions

Got a question? We've got answers.

Pacesetting leadership focused on the final product. This is a goal-oriented emotional leadership to drive high-achieving team members to accomplish as highest result as possible!
Pacesetting leadership is a leadership style characterized by a leader who sets high-performance standards for their team members and leads by example. Benefits of pacesetting leadership are helpful, including (1) high performance expectation (2) Quick Decision-Making (3) Skill Development and (4) To Increase Accountability.