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The 5 Present Day Leadership Styles (and How to Find Yours)

Leadership styles aren't personality profiles.

By Jirsak/Shutterstock
By Jirsak/Shutterstock

Real frustration had set in. My team wasn’t meeting my expectations. I felt like we were in quicksand and the more we struggled, the deeper we sank.

Under pressure, I did what most inexperienced leaders do – I made the decision cut someone from the team.

During the big conversation with this team member, it was beyond evident that the problem wasn’t her; I was the problem. I was living proof of Jocko Willink’s famous words:

“There are no bad teams, only bad leaders.”―Jocko Willink

At that moment, I decided to not only make major changes in myself but to do everything in my power to help others avoid making the same mistakes. This one moment sparked my relentless commitment to learning, growing, and teaching.

It was then that I set off on a six-year journey to uncover what the best leaders do differently. Through hundreds of interviews, thousands of assessments, and a lot of trial and error I have uncovered what the most effective leaders do differently. In short, it’s their ability to elevate others by using high levels of love and discipline.

Love and discipline are words that can be ambiguous, so here are definitions that apply to the workplace:

Love (verb): to contribute to someone’s long term success and well-being.

Discipline (verb): to promote standards in order for an individual to choose to be at their best.

Leadership and Change Management expert Patrick Lencioni said something to me in an interview on the Follow My Lead Podcast that blended the two terms so well:

“Holding people accountable for their behavior is an act of love.”

In our research of organizational leaders, five clear-cut leadership styles emerged. Each style related to how well a person leverages love and discipline when leading others. While these are current styles of leading, they are not meant to be definitive.

1. Manage

People whose current leadership style is to manage others are often leaders by title alone. They push people along instead of pulling them up. They focus more on themselves than on the people they are supposed to be leading. Because of that, people work for them rather than follow them.

  • Scores low in areas of love and discipline
  • Focuses solely on execution
  • Lacks great relationships with team members
  • Directs rather than coaches
  • Looks at the position as one of power and authority

2. Please

People whose current leadership style is to please others are generally not comfortable being in a position of authority. They love people and their job, but they expressly avoid having conflict with team members. They tend to give people too many chances and are often naive about the realities of what is going on around them. Their team members like them as people, but there is a lack of respect for them in a professional capacity. A person with this style:

  • Scores high in love, low in discipline
  • Gets taken advantage of by his or her direct reports
  • Is often passed over for promotions
  • Gets stuck in low levels of organizational leadership for long periods of time
  • Treats everyone equally regardless of talent levels
  • Leads a team that tends to underperform

3. Rule

People whose current leadership style is to rule others take their position extremely seriously. They value their authority and regulations above relationships with people. The thought of not having control or not being the centralized decision-maker makes them uncomfortable. To ensure this does not happen often, leaders who rule others create processes and environments that funnel decision making to them in almost all matters. They tend to come across as heartless because of their reliance on the way things “must” be done. 

  • Scores high in discipline, low in love
  • Driven by a set rule-book
  • Typically gets good or bad results quickly
  • Creates process before it’s needed
  • Has “favorite” team members

4. Support

People whose current leadership style is to support others are good, not great, leaders. The most popular style to fall into, 47 percent of all leaders from our research currently lead this way. They often have good relationships with their team members and achieve business goals and objectives. They struggle, however, with reaching the next level of success as a leader.

  • Score middle of the road on discipline and love
  • Leverages both love and discipline just not always enough
  • Team gets good results
  • Has great relationships with some and average to below-average relationships with others

5. Elevate

People whose current leadership style is to elevate others simultaneously use high levels of love and discipline. They constantly exceed goals and objectives, have deep relationships with team members, and make a positive impact on the lives of those they lead. 

  • Scores high in discipline and love
  • Has deep relationships based on mutual respect
  • Leads a team that consistently exceeds goals
  • Helps create more leaders
  • Often looked at as a mentor and role model

Before you make an assumption about your leadership style, it’s important to note that these aren’t personality profiles. These leadership styles are meant to serve as a mirror you can hold up to see how you’re currently leading. Just because your current leadership style is to rule or elevate today doesn’t mean you’re stuck with that style for life.

If you’re ready to take action, get my new book, Building the BestIn it, I share 8 principles, that when applied will elevate the way you lead and take your team’s performance to higher levels of success.

What’s Your Leadership Style? Join over 40k leaders and discover how well you are leveraging love and discipline as a leader and find out your current leadership style for free.

Order the Book: Building the Best: 8 Proven Leadership Principles to Elevate Others to Success is published by McGraw-Hill released on November 5th.

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