Orientation: In an age where subordinate cultural heterogeneity has become the norm, cultural intelligence might assist leaders to improve their effectiveness. Research purpose: This research investigated whether leader cultural intelligence moderated the relationship between leadership style (as represented by empowerment and direction) and leadership effectiveness. Motivation for the study: Although the literature on cultural intelligence has been increasing in quantity, there remained a gap in the understanding of the relationship between leader cultural intelligence, the empowering and directive leadership styles and leadership effectiveness. Research design, approach and method: A quantitative methodology with a cross-sectional survey design was followed. Data were obtained from 1140 staff members employed at 19 South African organisations. Factorial, correlational and moderated multiple regression analyses were performed. Main findings: Although leader cultural intelligence and its dimensions do not moderate the relationship between empowering leadership and leadership effectiveness, they do nonetheless negatively moderate the relationship between directive leadership and leadership effectiveness. This moderation was, however, assessed to be of no practical significance. Practical and managerial implications: As leader cultural intelligence did not act as an important influencer of the relationship between leadership style and leadership effectiveness, it appeared that effective leaders may have used their cultural intelligence to actually guide the selection of an effective leadership style in the first place. Contribution and value add: Being one of the first studies to explore the moderating effect of leader cultural intelligence on the relationship between leadership style and leadership effectiveness, this research has made a valuable contribution to building both the cultural intelligence and leadership knowledge bases.