Write a 700- 800-word paper about your go-to and supplemental leadership styles.

Navigate to the “Assessment: What’s Your Leadership Style?” page on the Harvard Business Review website.

Utilize the tool on the page to acquire feedback about your top three leadership styles.

Write a 700- 800-word paper about your go-to and supplemental leadership styles. Include the following:

  • Evaluation of the information provided regarding potential blind spots, and environments in which you are likely to thrive and struggle
  • A list of SMART goals that focus on self-improvement

Cite and reference 3 reputable references to support your assignment

Knowledge Center: Article





Karen Rosa West, PhD

TAGS: + Leadership Assessment + CEO Focus + Talent Strategy & Management

Why do some business leaders thrive while others flounder? Professional qualifications and technical competencies (the whats of leadership) play an important role, of course, but far more often we’ve observed that success or failure depends on how leaders lead — specifically, how leaders’ styles mesh with their teams and the cultures of their organizations.

An empirical research project we conducted to better understand these dynamics, and the behavioral patterns that underpin them, identified eight leadership styles, or archetypes. Taken together, they suggest implications for senior executives looking to better understand — and improve — their leadership skills, for teams seeking to improve their dynamics, and for organizations striving to improve the overall effectiveness of their leaders.

To learn more about the leadership styles, and to take a brief assessment, see our article in Harvard Business Review. The assessment provides immediate feedback about your style — potential strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots — and pinpoints the settings where you’ll be most and least effective.

What we did

To better understand how leaders lead and what contributes to effective leadership, we created a psychometric survey to measure three interrelated facets of leadership that our experience suggests are important differentiators. Specifically, we wanted to see to what degree leaders possessed 1) a “thriving mind-set”[1] (including a clear sense of purpose, deep commitment to learning, and conveyed sense of optimism); 2) a combination of social, self, and situational awareness; and 3) essential leadership values such as a performance orientation, ethical integrity, ability to collaborate, and openness to change, among others.

The survey included 1,006 largely US-based executives of director level and above at companies with 250 or more employees. The respondents represented a broad range of industries and functions. Importantly, our survey questions were designed to highlight the ambiguity and fluidity of the kinds of real-life situations that senior executives face. We did this by asking respondents to rate themselves on a continuum between sets of opposing, yet equally “right,” choices (for example, “I prefer a changing environment” versus “I prefer a stable environment,” or “I love to win” versus “I hate to lose”). Factor analysis allowed us to isolate the dozen or so survey questions (from the original 72) that together accounted for the vast majority of the variance we observed in the responses.

What we learned

When we looked at the patterns in the data and conducted further statistical analyses on them, including cluster analysis, we discovered something interesting: eight statistically distinct leadership styles distributed among respondents. Moreover, while the characteristics of each signature style, or archetype, were quantitatively unique, they also resonated deeply with our own experience of conducting executive assessments. In short, we all know leaders like these — and the strengths and weaknesses they exhibit are at once intuitively recognizable and instructive.

The eight archetypes of leadership:

Collaborator: Empathetic, team-building, talent-spotting, coaching oriented

Energizer: Charismatic, inspiring, connects emotionally, provides meaning

Pilot: Strategic, visionary, adroit at managing complexity, open to input, team oriented

Provider: Action oriented, confident in their path or methodology, loyal to colleagues, driven to provide for others

Harmonizer: Reliable, quality-driven, execution focused, creates positive and stable environments, inspires loyalty

Forecaster: Learning oriented, deeply knowledgeable, visionary, cautious in decision making

Producer: Task focused, results oriented, linear thinker, loyal to tradition

Composer: Independent, creative, problem solving, decisive, self-reliant

To learn more about the leadership styles, and to take a brief assessment, see our article in Harvard Business Review. The assessment provides immediate feedback about your style — potential strengths, weaknesses, and blind spots — and pinpoints the settings where you’ll be most and least effective.

What it means for leaders

It’s important to note that there is no such thing as a “right” or “wrong” leadership style, and in fact individuals are likely to have access to every style to a varying degree. That said, our experience and this research both suggest that leaders are likely to gravitate to a much smaller set of default styles they find comfortable or familiar — and particularly so when they are under stress or aren’t consciously managing the impressions they leave on others.

What might this mean for leaders? For senior executives, recognizing their “go-to” style or styles could help them better understand and articulate the focus of their leadership (be it relationships, ideas, problem solving, execution, and so on) and thus better play to their strengths when leading teams or operating in complex environments. Moreover, it can help individuals understand the other leadership styles to which they have access, thus potentially broadening the range of situations and environments where they might be successful.

It could also help leaders recognize potential pitfalls and areas for heightened vigilance. For example, a “collaborator” whose empathetic, consensus-driven style is a strength when interacting with his or her C-suite peers could find it ineffective (or even counterproductive) when interacting with subordinates who crave clarity and direction. Similarly, a learning-oriented “forecaster” who uses his or her ability to gather information and think conceptually to help generate great ideas may not consider formulating a deeper buy-in strategy that appeals to people’s hearts as well as their heads.

Similarly, a better understanding of the archetypes and how they interact with one another could help inform the talent management approaches taken by companies, including:

Understanding how leaders are likely to react to and deal with ambiguity

Identifying situations and contexts in which up-and-coming leaders are likely to be most successful and where they may find their leadership skills stretched

Seeking to understand — and balance — team leadership dynamics in order to align leadership styles with organizational objectives (for example, leading a change initiative)

While our research into these leadership archetypes is in its early stages, some things are already quite clear. Human motivations and behaviors are complex, and therefore any model attempting to explain them (including this one) will always have limited power as a predictive tool. Moreover, change is constant as leaders evolve throughout their careers and accumulate experience. Nonetheless, by developing an enhanced understanding of how leaders behave and interact with one another, we might better seek to harness that ability to change in service of expanding leadership potential.


Assessment: What’s Your Leadership Style?

Karen West

Elliott Stixrud

Brian Reger

JUNE 25, 2015


Your go-to leadership style: PROVIDER

You are motivated by two different yet equally strong desires: to lead from the front and to take care of people around you. You are confident in your abilities, deeply loyal and committed to your colleagues, and filled with a sense of conviction — all characteristics that may be very appealing to followers. You are also likely to believe that your approach is the right one, and you are highly motivated to share it with those you are close to so that they will succeed. But your conviction can also lead to insular thinking, and others may find you intellectually distant or overly focused on your own perspective. Your team may see you as deeply caring and thoughtful, but also inflexible and convinced that your way is the only path forward.

Potential blind spots:

• Integrating differing viewpoints. Your compassion and listening skills have the effect of making your colleagues feel heard. Yet they may see that your actions don’t change in response to their suggestions. Try implementing a few of their ideas.

• Operating day-to-day. Your focus on higher-level strategy and relationship building probably overshadows your interest in the details of execution. Build processes and support systems (perhaps with the aid of a Harmonizer or a Producer) that keep you accountable.

• Forging personal relationships and remaining accessible. While you care deeply about providing for others, your colleagues may see your relationships as somewhat one-dimensional — that is, more student-to-teacher than peer-to-peer. Find opportunities to share more of yourself (your background and your thinking) so they can get to know you as a person.

While you can improve in each of these areas, your natural or default style will resonate in certain work environments and fit less well in others. So you may want to seek out settings that play to your strengths, even as you work on areas for development to thrive in a broader range of contexts.

You’re likely to thrive if:

• Others in your organization feel a strong need to belong — for instance, a relatively young workforce who would benefit from your mentoring and guidance.

• You work in an environment that expects and values a clearly defined, strongly held point of view.

• Your team needs a leader who can set a clear, deliberate path forward.

• Your organization specializes in a narrow market or field that can benefit from your way of doing things.

You may struggle if:

• Your personal vision and perspective will be regularly challenged — for instance, if you join a group of established veterans who will test you as a rite of passage.

• The situation requires a diverse group of individuals who can build on one another’s ideas to be successful.

• You are asked to adopt a methodology or approach that is unfamiliar or substantially different from your preferred way.

Supplemental style: PILOT

You are a forward-looking leader who often enjoys the challenge of working in an environment that’s ambiguous, complex, and characterized by significant change. You are capable of not only generating compelling strategies but also translating them into action. And you are open to input from people you trust. Because you have clear opinions, relish challenges, and value collaborating with others, you’re comfortable and effective working in teams. At times, though, the combination of your strong drive, dynamism, and “here and now” mentality can spur you to push for changes faster and harder than your colleagues are ready for. As a result, you may be perceived as unreflective, tough to satisfy, and consistently disappointed in the performance of others. Some people may even find your intensity to be unsettling.

Potential blind spots:

• Making space for others. Your strongly held views can dominate the room and leave little space for others to freely share their thoughts and insights. Make a conscious effort to listen, and be mindful that you may be unintentionally encouraging people to defer to your perspective.

• Taking time to reflect. Your propensity to seek out new challenges may come at the expense of not learning from the past. Temper this tendency by conducting structured “after-action reviews” when you wrap up projects.

• Managing an intense personal drive. The very same energy and “always on” orientation that helps you get results can also make it hard to achieve internal balance. Get away from your work now and then to clarify your insights and perspective, even if you don’t think it’s necessary. The team will thank you, too — your intensity may be exhausting and demotivating to the people around you.

• Stepping back and letting others lead. Your natural inclination is to proactively and boldly lead projects and initiatives of your own creation. However, part of being a leader is giving people around you the chance to develop their own leadership capabilities and grow. When appropriate, carve out meaningful leadership roles for others.

• Thinking through implications for major changes. The changes you tend to be attracted to are large and influential. Your approach, however, is likely to be “ready, fire, aim.” Before you push forward on initiatives, take time to identify and address the risks.

While you can improve in each of these areas, your natural or default style will resonate in certain work environments and fit less well in others. So you may want to seek out settings that play to your strengths, even as you work on areas for development to thrive in a broader range of contexts.

You’re likely to thrive if:

• You’re in a complex or ambiguous environment that requires clear strategic and visionary leadership.

• Decisiveness and fast growth are paramount where you are — in a start-up, for example, or a turnaround situation.

• Your organization is static and needs to reengage its workforce.

• You’re given room to own and drive your projects and initiatives.

You may struggle if:

• You’re working for a micromanager or in a controlling environment.

• Your organization has conservative managers or board members who hesitate to challenge the status quo.

• Less-seasoned individuals on your team require a good deal of support and handholding.

• Your tasks must adhere to firmly established processes and protocols, as in some industrial and manufacturing environments.

• You’re not the only natural Pilot in the group, and people’s designated roles and responsibilities don’t precisely clarify “who owns what.”

Supplemental style: COMPOSER

You have the ability to blend creativity with logic to solve problems. You trust your intuition when generating ideas, and you are good at establishing clear boundaries for how and when to work with colleagues. Still, you are most comfortable when operating independently, never more so than when pursuing your own ideas and plans. Indeed, collaboration is challenging for you, and you may have difficulty “letting go” and relying on colleagues to contribute. These tendencies can make it more challenging for you to navigate your organization effectively. For example, you may struggle to get buy-in or otherwise advance the projects you’re working on.

Potential blind spots:

• Remaining open and flexible. You trust your gut so much that you may inadvertently crowd out others’ ideas with your own. Be deliberate about soliciting input — the additional brainpower can help you make your good ideas even better.

• Gaining buy-in. Your tendency to go at it alone comes with the risk that people around you won’t fully understand your ideas. By sharing your thinking as it develops (with your bosses and subordinates), you’ll be more likely to gain their support, particularly if your ideas reflect and incorporate their perspectives.

• Communicating with patience and clarity. Because much of your thinking and reasoning is internal, what is obvious to you (because you’ve already worked it out) may be brand-new or confusing to others. So you may need to backtrack and guide others through your thought process as you convey your ideas. Try to be patient and openly field questions; being abrupt might convey to others that you doubt their intelligence if they don’t immediately get what you’re saying.

• Team-building. You tend to focus on ideas and place a high value on independent thinking. Consequently, some of the more relational or emotional aspects of team building that others value highly may strike you as unnecessary or distracting. Partnering with a more relationally focused leader (such as a Collaborator or an Energizer) from time to time could help you improve the overall productivity and satisfaction of your team members.

• Being mindful of the grand scheme. Your independent streak could mask the fact that you have taken a narrow view of the problem at hand. Step back and look at the whole picture to better anticipate the short- and long-term consequences of your solutions or interventions.

While you can improve in each of these areas, your natural or default style will resonate in certain work environments and fit less well in others. So you may want to seek out settings that play to your strengths, even as you work on areas for development to thrive in a broader range of contexts.

You’re likely to thrive if:

• You have direct control over projects and timetables.

• Your circumstances require speedy and agile — yet thoughtful and decisive — problem solving, such as analyzing and responding quickly to new market data or research.

• Independence is valued in your organization, as it is in many research, legal, and creative settings.

• Building relationships isn’t central to your work (this is sometimes the case in IT, R&D, or engineering).

You may struggle if:

• You’re in an environment that calls for significant collaboration (for example, a cross-functional product team that relies on group problem solving).

• People in your company are typically influenced more by relationships and emotions than by ideas.

• Projects need extensive legal or medical review, and a lot of iteration, as they do in compliance and other “high-touch” environments.

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