Wholehearted Leadership Opinion: 4 kinds of leaders

You may have a natural leadership style, but don't let that stop you from adapting to the situation

Credit: zizar2002/iStock

You may have a natural leadership style, but don’t let that stop you from adapting to the situation

Do you know what kind of leader you are? Do you know the difference between how you are naturally wired to lead and how you choose to lead?

There are myriad models explaining the various kinds of leadership styles, management roles and types of leaders. Many of these reflect your natural propensity as it pertains to leading others.

Two models I’ve greatly appreciated speak to how each of us is naturally wired to lead.  The Adizes model outlines the four management/leadership roles that every company needs to grow to maturity: producer, administrator, entrepreneur and integrator.

Likewise, Bill Hybels, in his book Courageous Leadership, outlines 10 styles that people naturally demonstrate when they lead. They are: visionary, directional, strategic, managing, motivational, shepherding, team-building, entrepreneurial, re-engineering and bridge-building.

I’m not going to dive into the specifics of these kinds of leadership styles and roles. My point is simply this: these models help us discover the style or role we will naturally adopt when we lead. For example, no matter where you put me, I will be an entrepreneurial, motivational and visionary leader.

What I want to present to you is four kinds of leaders you can choose to be. Yes, you have leadership styles you naturally operate in. In addition to that, you can choose to be four different kinds of leaders as you’re operating in your particular leadership styles.

These four kinds of leaders represent the various combinations of how supportive you are, and how directive you are in your leadership:

  1. Accelerator
  2. Motivator
  3. Dictator
  4. Spectator

Accelerators are leaders who accelerate growth. They provide high support and high direction. They’re motivating their people well, and they’re providing clear direction in regard to what needs to be done and the standard to which it needs to be done.

Motivators are leaders who motivate their people. They provide high support and low direction. Another name we could use is a cheerleader. They’re a great support to their people but don’t provide much direction. Their people have a fair degree of freedom and autonomy.

Dictators are leaders who dictate to their people what needs to be done and how it needs to be done. Not much support is provided, and very little collaboration takes place. The dictator know what’s best and tells their people what they should be doing.

Spectators are leaders who are watching and aware of what’s going on with their people but do not engage. They leave their people to work through things on their own. There is very little support and very little direction, if any. The spectator’s people are highly autonomous, with lots of freedom to make decisions and mistakes.

Can you choose to be any of these four kinds of leaders? Absolutely. No matter what your natural leadership style is, you can be any of these.

I have no doubt that most of us would think the “best” type of leader is an accelerator. I would agree. However, a great leader can also effectively operate as any of the other three kinds of leaders.

Are there some circumstances when a leader needs to be more of a dictator? Yes. There are crisis situations when time is of the essence and a leader needs to clearly and decisively point the way.

Likewise, are there other situations when a leaders needs to “spectate” and allow his or her people to find their own way, and develop their own motivation? Yes. And are there still other situations when people need support to enable them to test out new ways of doing things with little or no direction? Yes again.

Different people, at different times and in different situations, require a different kind of leader to enable them to achieve their best results. Let’s choose to vary our level of support and direction appropriately to maximize the growth in our people and in our organizations.

A strong and mature leader understands how and when to be an accelerator, a motivator, a dictator and a spectator.

David MacLean empowers CEOs, entrepreneurs and executives to dare greatly in his role as B.C. best practice chair for The Executive Committee Canada (TEC). David also writes and speaks on Wholehearted Leadership: inspiring, encouraging and equipping leaders to harness their most valuable asset—their HEART. You can reach him at dmaclean@tec-canada.com.