What type of leader are you?

What type of leader are you?

Leadership effectiveness refers to a leader’s performance in influencing and guiding the activities of his or her unit toward achievement of its goals (see Stogdill, 1950).

Transactional leader, transformational leader, authentic leader, servant leader, ethical leader, autocratic leader, laissez-faire leader. Which leadership type are you? I’m going to explain the different types of leaders and how to develop as a leader. Some individuals have the opinion that only one leadership type is effective to lead people. In reality, the situation might be grayer, with different teams and industries requiring different leaders to achieve their full potential. No matter what type of leader you are, in some setting you’ll be effective.

Types of Leaders

The best summary of different types of leaders has been written by Bruce J. Avolio, Fred Walumba, and Todd J. Webber Leadership: Current Theories, Research, and Future Directions” . By now, it’s a bit old, but for an overview of what the different types are, it is still a great resource.

Leadership Types

Type of LeadershipDefinition
AuthenticA pattern of transparent and ethical leader behavior that encourages openness in sharing information needed to make decisions while accepting fol- lowers’ inputs.
CognitiveBroad range of approaches to leadership emphasizing how leaders and followers think and process information.
Cross-culturalThe examination of leadership in multicultural contexts.
E-leadershipLeadership where individuals or groups are geographically dispersed and interactions are mediated by technology.
EthicalThe demonstration of normative appropriate conduct through personal actions and interpersonal relationships, and the promotion of such conduct to followers.
New-genre leadership: leadership Emphasizing charismatic leader behavior, visionary, inspiring, ideological and moral values, as well as transformational leadership such as individualized attention, and intellectual stimulation.
ServantStyle consisting of ten characteristics: (a) listening, (b) empathy, (c) healing, (d) awareness, (e) persuasion, (f) conceptualization, (g) foresight, (h) stewardship, (i) commitment, and (j) building community.
An emergent situation where team members collectively lead each other.
TransactionalLeadership largely based on the exchange of rewards contingent on performance.
TransformationalLeader behaviors that transform and inspire followers to perform beyond expectations while transcending self- interest for the good of the organization.
Definitions adapted from Avolio, B. J., Walumbwa, F. O., & Weber, T. J. (2009). Leadership: Current theories, research, and future directions. Annual review of psychology, 60, 421-449.

Tell me about which leadership type you like to have more information.

There is an easy way to summarize these different forms of leadership. You are either a leader who focuses on tasks, and the structure and processes necessary to get tasks done, or you are a leader who focuses on the relationships between individuals.

Leadership Development

If you think that some people are just “born as leaders”, and you consider yourself not one of those lucky ones, rest assured that only 30 % of leadership performance can be traced back to your genes. This gives you plenty of room to develop your leadership skills. Scholars have looked at leadership development in two ways: Intrapersonal focus and interpersonal focus.

Intrapersonal: The link between experience and leadership development

It is important to keep in mind that quality of experience is more important than quantity of experience. This means that tenure and seniority per se does not mean that someone is a good leader. It is the amount of high quality learning experiences someone has gathered over years that makes someone a good leader. Additionally, it is not only the experiences that one has, but also the events someone observes that influences leadership development (social learning theory). In this way, children for example, learn to behave like leaders by observing their parents.

Intrapersonal: The link between personality and leadership development

Assuming that personality has a total control of your leadership style is the wrong mindset. Personality is more or less stable once adulthood is reached. Of course, it varies across situations, but the changes are not as dramatic as throughout the developmental years of childhood and teenage years.
The Big 5 is the most prominent psychological construct. It lists five major personality factors: conscientiousness, agreeableness, extraversion, openness to experience, and emotional stability. Of those personality factors, conscientiousness and extraversion are good predictors of leadership performance. Regarding leadership development, agreeableness influences if someone emerges as a leader, but in a negative way: They more you seek to agree with others, hence the higher you score on agreeableness, the less likely it is you will emerge as a leader.

Intrapersonal: The link between skills and leadership development

There are many studies looking at skills and leadership. Different skills are investigated making it hard to draw a conclusion from the diversity of studied factors. But a c couple of main points can be made: For different levels of leadership, different combinations of skills are important. This means that someone who is a good junior level leader will not automatically achieve high levels of performance at a senior level. There is also a time lag between learning a skill, doing a leadership training course, and experiencing higher leadership performance. The reason for this time lag is that individuals first need to internalize the new skills, create a new or modify their existing “leadership scripts”.

Interpersonal: The link between your environment and leadership development

The main take away from studies looking at interpersonal factors is that leadership development doesn’t happen in a vacuum but in relation to other people, followers and superiors. This means that trust and respect need to exists between leaders and followers for someone to develop his or her leadership skills. Another interpersonal factor is social capital, the resources individuals can access thanks to the relationships they have. Leadership development strengthen this social capital of an organization, especially when leaders adapt a transformational approach to leadership and build relationships between employees.

You and your leadership development

If you want to become a better leader there are several things you can do, short of scheduling a call with me .
First, is to get a good idea about where you are in your leadership journey and what your strong and weak points are. This means gathering feedback from those people with whom you interact often. Ask your peers, your subordinates and superiors. Keep in mind that you will score your leadership skills higher than your subordinates, but that your superiors will pretty much have the same opinion that you about your leadership skills. The right answer is somewhere in the middle. When collecting feedback from others, don’t forget that others will only judge the behavior they can see.
Second, you need to decide if you want to develop alone without a mentor or coach, or if you want to discuss your development with someone. Of course, this is a cost-benefit analysis you need to do. Costs include not only money, but also time, and trusting someone with your development. A mentor or coach can also be a friend who has some leadership skills or just a critical person who can push you to reflect on your experiences deeply enough to draw insights and develop new strategies. Discussing your development with someone helps you reflect on your experiences at a deeper level, and keeps you accountable.
Finally, you need to pick areas you want to work on. Some people say to focus only on your strength and build on them, while others would say to work on your weaknesses. Honestly, in some areas you are going to be very bad, and it might not make sense to work on them. Again, your decision. If you are currently under a lot of pressure, pick some low-hanging fruits, aspects in which you can grow relatively easy. On the other hand, if you want your boss’s job in 2-3 years, pick those areas that require more effort. Develop strategies to work on them, and keep track of what you do. Read some leadership books or watch Ted videos. Developing and continuously revising a self-narrative, a life story about the leader you are, will help you keep track of who you are as a leader. Seeking out experiences in which you develop empathy for others can help you tremendously in becoming a better leader.


  • Avolio, B. J., Walumbwa, F. O., & Weber, T. J. (2009). Leadership: Current theories, research, and future directions. Annual review of psychology, 60, 421-449.
  • Day, D. V., Fleenor, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Sturm, R. E., & McKee, R. A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 63-82.
  • Judge, T. A., Bono, J. E., Ilies, R., & Gerhardt, M. W. (2002). Personality and leadership: a qualitative and quantitative review. Journal of applied psychology, 87(4), 765.
  • Lee, A., & Carpenter, N. C. (2017). Seeing eye to eye: A meta-analysis of self-other agreement of leadership. The leadership quarterly.

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