There Are Four Leadership Styles: Can You Identify Yours?

By Bill Taylor
November 18, 2018

Each of us needs to determine which style fits who we are as well as what we are trying to achieve.

We all want to be part of a great success story. To start, lead or play a senior role in a company that changes the course of its industry. To launch a brand that dazzles customers and dominates its markets. To be the kind of executive or entrepreneur who creates jobs, generates wealth and builds an organization bursting with energy and creativity.


Bill Taylor

Which means that all of us, no matter where we are in our career, have to wrestle with the big questions of leadership. What is our personal definition of success? What does it mean to make a difference and have an impact? How much do we rely on our own ideas and experiences, and how widely do we seek the advice and support of those around us? If we hope to succeed, we need to understand how we lead.

Each of us has to figure out which style of leadership fits who we are and what we are trying to achieve. So take a look at these four leadership styles, and see which one you most identify with.

THE CLASSIC ENTREPRENEUR: Sure, these leaders care about the values their companies stand for, but it’s the dollars-and-cents value proposition that matters most. They love to build killer products and butt-kicking companies. When faced with decisions about launching a new product, dealing with a disgruntled customer or selling the company to an eager suitor, they focus on tough-minded calculations and no-nonsense financial returns.

THE MODERN MISSIONARY: These leaders aim for more than beating the competition; they want to build something original and meaningful. These leaders may take risks that classic entrepreneurs won’t, because the financial payoffs aren’t as important as the broader impact they hope to make.


Bill Taylor has a set of questions to help you figure out which style of leadership suits you best. Click here to take “The Simply Brilliant Leadership Quiz.”

THE PROBLEM SOLVER: They worry less about dramatic impact than about concrete results. They believe in the power of expertise and the value of experience. These top-down, take-charge, the-buck-stops-here executives may be the most recognizable sorts of leaders, in terms of the image we carry around of what it takes to get things done.

 THE SOLUTION FINDER: This style is about incremental results and concrete solutions, but these leaders believe that the most powerful contributions often come from the most unexpected places — the hidden genius of their colleagues, the collective genius that surrounds their organizations. These modest, humble, self-effacing leaders don’t make headlines, but that doesn’t mean they’re not ambitious. They believe that humility in the service of ambition is the right mindset to do big things in a world of huge unknowns.

The more we understand about ourselves — what we truly care about, how we make decisions, why we do what we do — the more effective we will be at marshaling the support of others for what we hope to achieve.

Bill Taylor is co-founder of Fast Company magazine.

 Copyright 2016 Harvard Business School Publishing Corp. Distributed by The New York Times Syndicate.

Topics: Leadership

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