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How to Determine What Type of Leader You Are?

Posted on October 1st, by Henry Goldbeck in Leadership. Comments Off on How to Determine What Type of Leader You Are?


According to Harvard Business School, the most important and telling question to ask a leader is whom do you serve? Yourself? Your team? Society?

The answer reveals more about leaders than knowing their personality traits. Transactional leaders, the most common type of leader, who exchange benefits with their “subordinates and demands a sense of duty with rewards and punishments to reach goals.”
Transformational leaders causes change in individuals and teams, for the greater good as their end goal.

Some leaders will tell you, using a popular descriptor, that they aspire to be servant leaders. The question still remains, however, a servant to whom? To yourself, to your group, or to society

Mitch Maidique, visiting professor at Harvard Business School, delves into a six-level leadership model, with explanations of what organizations and employees can expect from each type of leader.

The Sociopath

It is as bad as it sounds, at the base of the model is the Sociopath, who serves no one. Abnormally low empathy and destroys value in those around them and themselves. Fortunately, this is less than 1% of the population. As an extreme example, Adolf Hitler.

The Opportunist

Second level is the opportunist leader, who serves only themselves and often at the expense of others. So after a great idea was submitted that could benefit the entire team, they ask, “what’s in it for me?” Exhibit A, Bernie Madoff.

The Chameleon

Third level is Chameleon leaders who would change pursuits and or positions to please as many people as possible. Typically Chameleon leaders are weeded out before they make it to the top. Interestingly, it is found in politicians, John Kerry was branded as a “flip-flopper” “I actually did vote for the [authorization bill] before I voted against it.”

The Achiever

The Achievers, commonly found in senior execs, they rarely fail to achieve their targets and are frequently the star employee. Once they have an objective they will drive to achieve it in a single-minded manner, a quality prized by top executives. However, this trait can cause a negative effect. They are so driven towards their single goal that they fail to give consideration to the broader mission. An example Maidique offered is former Hewlett-Packard CEO Mark Hurd. “Sure, HP”s stock price more than doubled during his tenure, but he did it by slashing research and development.” Now HP is feeling it”s repercussions behind highly innovative companies like Apple.

The Builder

The fifth level, Builders, possess a grand vision for the future of their organization. They motivate others with their energy, enthusiasm and integrity. They serve by managing for the long term and will not be seduced by short-term profit. Iconic leaders like Oprah Winfrey and IBM’s Tom Watson Jr. are builders.

The Transcendent

Transcendent leaders are a rare bred. They transcend their political party, ethnic or racial group and even their institutions. They focus on how to benefit all of society. Like Martin Luther King Jr., Nelson Mandela wanted people judged by the “content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” The Dalai Lama, another Transcendent, asks to himself first thing every morning, “How can I help to make the world better today?” Howard Gardner, author of “Truth, Beauty and Godness Regramed”, quoted that these are “global citizens

The Mix

No one is only one type of leader, even the Dalai Lama had to deal with the pull of his emotions when making decisions. Everyone is capable of continuing their moral development. For example, how we see the world at age 60 may considerably be different than how we see it at 30.

This is an example of a profile for a young professional at 35


So ask yourself, Who Do You Serve? It will be your first step towards becoming a better leader.

Additional and Inspiring Readings:

Instructions for Life by the Dalai Lama.My favorite instruction, “When you lose, don’t lose the lesson”

Dalai Lama Image: The Unofficial Stanford Blog
Are You a Level-Six Leader? Mitch Maidique, July 6, 2011

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Henry E. Goldbeck, President of Goldbeck Recruiting Inc, is a Certified Personnel Consultant (CPC) and founded Goldbeck Recruiting in 1997. Since then, Henry has built the company's reputation as a leading headhunter and recruitment agency in sales, marketing, operations, engineering, and executive level positions across a variety of industries.

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