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Leadership Examples: How to Figure Out Your Style

George Grombacher November 12, 2021

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Leadership Examples: How to Figure Out Your Style

Having relatable leadership examples can help us to determine our own leadership style and to sharpen our skills.


Every day, we’face countless decisions. In fact, it’s estimated the average adult makes over 35,000 of them a day. Let’s break that down and let it sink in.  


If you’re sleeping for 8 hours, you’re awake for 16, so that’s 2,187.5 decisions every hour, so that’s 36 decisions every minute. Many of those decisions are tiny and inconsequential, but we’re making them.  And what about the big decisions?  


How many of those are we making every day? What big decision is weighing on you right now- I bet there’s something on your mind right now.  


As the primary leader of you, you’re in charge of making your own decisions. As we expand out to families, communities, cities, companies, states and countries, there’s a primary leader at every level. That person is making thousands of decisions a minute, just like you and I, some being inconsequential and some changing the course of history.  


Leaders set direction, they cast a vision. They work to break bad habits and to create good ones. They keep good going and work to create new and better. There are good and bad leaders, and there are a lot of ways to lead. I’m going to talk about 10 of the most common styles. Give examples of each that I hope you’ll be able to learn from in order to determine your personal leadership and to improve your leadership skills.  


Along with being in charge of myself and being the Co-CEO of my family, I’ve worked in leadership for Fortune 100 companies, I’m currently the CEO of a financial firm, I serve on the boards of several organizations and I’ve been the President of a large alumni association. So while I’m certainly not in the class of the leaders I’ll be talking about, perhaps one day I will be, and I hope the same for you (if that’s something you want for yourself).  


In seeking examples, I looked at politics, business, sports, culture and to those individuals who have singularly changed the world. There have been a lot of leaders. Let’s get started. 


The Coach Leader


The coach leader is responsible for the success of individual contributors and ultimately the success of the team. They inspire, identify areas of improvement and do skills training, and are responsible for ensuring the organization is operating as a cohesive unit. 


Phil Jackson, NBA Coach, personifies this style. He was the head coach of the Chicago Bulls with Michael Jordan and Dennis Rodman. He also coached the Lakers with Kobe Bryant and Shaquile O’Neal. He was able to manage the incredibly unique personalities of his players and get their best performances on the court. He won 11 Championships as a coach. 


Being able to juggle the interpersonal relationships of the people on your team with the technical skills and competencies of whatever work you’re engaged in is the key to this style of leadership. The coach leader must work with the individual contributors to ensure the collective success of the enterprise.    


The Visionary Leader


The Bible tells us “Where there is no vision, the people perish.” The visionary leader has a clear picture in their mind of what the end goal will be. They must effectively articulate this picture to the members of their team and inspire them to take the actions needed to bring that picture to life.  


Steve Jobs, Apple Founder, personified this style. Jobs changed the world several times, bringing to life things never before thought.    


To be a visionary leader, one must first have a vision. From there, you must share that vision, ensure it’s clearly understood by the members of your team, consistently motivate progress towards the goal and work to bring it to life. When attempting to change the world, bumps in the road are inevitable and it will be up to you to navigate them. 


The Servant Leader 


The servant leader’s only goal is to work to make the lives of those they lead better; often compromising their personal situation.  


Gandhi, Nelson Mandela, MLK and Mother Teresa personified this style. These people gave everything they had- their freedom and ultimately their lives to the causes they believed in and worked for.   


To be a servant leader, giving your freedom and or life is not a requirement. What is required is putting the needs of the people you lead at the top of your to-do list. This leader must have a high level of empathy and emotional intelligence, and be committed to fostering community and growing the individuals they lead.  


The Autocratic Leader


The autocratic leader, AKA authoritarian, doesn’t take cues or listen to anyone else. They have ultimate control over decision making.  


Hitler and Putin personify this style. What they say goes, commonly to the detriment of others, historically. That being said, there are examples of autocratic leaders like Bill Belichek, NFL Coach, who has experienced enormous success.    


To be an autocratic leader, one must have unwavering self-confidence and the ability to take charge of situations. In times of uncertainty and unrest, these leaders have the ability to step up and give needed clarity and relief to beleaguered team members.  


The Laissez-Faire Leader


The laissez-faire leader takes a hands-off approach and has supreme faith and confidence in their team members abilities to get the job done.  


Warren Buffett, famous investor, personifies this style. He believes he has surrounded himself with the best team made up of the most competent people and does not micromanage them. 


To be a laissez-faire leader, you must have high-caliber people working on your team. You’ll need to allow them to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes, only stepping in when it’s absolutely necessary.  


The Democratic Leader


The democratic leader believes in the idea of one person, one vote. They rely on the input of team members in the decision making process.  


Tim Cook, Apple CEO, personifies this style. He values the input and ideas of his team and encourages discussion around important decisions. 


To be a democratic leader, you’ll need to create an environment where your team is comfortable giving their input and sharing their thoughts While you’ll have the final say, decision making will be a collaborative effort.  


The Pacesetting Leader


The pacesetting leader leads from the front by doing. Since they expect a lot from themselves, they expect the same from their team members.


Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla, personifies this style. There are stories of Musk sleeping on the floor of the Tesla factory as the company was working to hit production goals.    


To be a pacesetting leader, you must be a practitioner in your field. You’ll need to be the first one in and the last one to leave on a daily basis.    


The Transformational Leader


The transformational leader is a visionary, risk taker and decisive decision maker. In seeking to create a new category or disrupt an industry, they must also bring many others along with them.  


Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon, personifies this style. Certainly, Jobs and Musk are also transformational leaders. Under Bezos, Amazon has changed the way we consume and reshaped many different industries and our lives.  


To be a transformational leader, you must have a vision for what you wish to accomplish, be willing to go against conventional thinking, accept higher levels of risk and inspire your team to follow you.  


The Transactional Leader


The transactional leader is a turn-around specialist. They can walk into a bad situation, fix the problems and get the team moving in the right direction.  


Cesar Milan, the Dog Whisperer, personifies this style. You can also think about a drill sergeant.  Milan is tasked with breaking the bad behavior of a dog, then retraining that dog and it’s owner in order to have a happier, healthier and sustainable relationship. 


To be a transactional leader, you must be able to step into a chaotic or negative situation, take control, set expectations, hold the team accountable to those expectations, and set new standards moving forward.  


The Bureaucratic Leader


The bureaucratic leader is characterized by the position more so than the person. They must have a deep love for the organization, a strict adherence to policy and a strong work ethic. 


Winston Churchill, UK Prime Minister, personified this style. He worked masterfully and tirelessly with the allies to defeat the Nazis and shape the course of history.  


To be a bureaucratic leader, you must work within the confines of a large institution such as the government, have a deep passion for the work, and be committed to following existing protocols to get things done.  


Who are you?  


As you read through the 10 styles and examples, which do you most closely identify with?  Which leadership style do you think you personify?  It’s certainly possible to have and to demonstrate the characteristics of different styles depending on what challenges you’re facing, and our styles certainly change and evolve over time. 


As I look at the list, it’s hard to think of myself as doing the same things as these people, but the reality is, I’m certainly doing some of them and so are you.  

Everyday, you’re leading yourself and you’re leading others.  Endeavor to be mindful of the impact you have and work to make it a profound and positive one!  


Want to go deeper and strengthen your leadership skills and competencies?  Check out one of our courses or hop on a call with one of our coaches,  we’d love to help you become a better leader.    


You can also access our Goals Course and Values Course at no-cost. 

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