Leaders need to know their leadership type. My years of research have found that there are four main types:
- Create: The Artist is clever and creative. They envision change, so their influence is based on anticipating a better future and generating hope in others. Being original is highly prized. They express themselves in spontaneous, creative responses to their surroundings. They are imaginative, able to handle a high degree of ambiguity and are comfortable with abstract ideas. Success for this type is defined by expressing new ideas and prototyping those ideas when possible.
- Compete: The Athlete is aggressive and decisive. This leader actively pursues goals and targets and is energized by competitive situations. Winning is a dominant objective, and the focus is on external competitors and market place position. These leaders are hard drivers and producers, very demanding of themselves and others. Speed, stealth and discipline are key to their approach. Success for this type is in energizing employees by expanding opportunities for problem solving and redeploying resources. Power is key.
- Collaborate: The Sage is caring and empathetic. The Sage is aware of others and cares for the needs of individuals. This leader is skilled at both building a community of people and sharing knowledge between them. They seek interactions among community members and allies and use processes like conflict management and consensus decision-making. Their success is defined by the creation of strong relationships through dialogue, trust, and understanding. Outcomes of these collaborative practices are shared values and commitment. They use their team orientation and cooperative nature to accomplish their goals. Morale and commitment are actively pursued.
- Control: The Engineer is a well-informed technical expert. They are diligent, meticulous, and function-based. They influence others based on the control and management of information. Improving efficiency through process redesign and the implementation of reliable technology is a hallmark of the Engineer. Success for this type is in improving quality through the use of procedures. This leader is risk averse, and seeks to take variation out of the system, valuing standardization and consistency. Measurement is used as a tool to achieve these values.
Once leaders know their leadership type, they need to know where they have strengths and where they don’t. Leaders should know when to use the right tools. A tool kit is not unlike the set of techniques available to leaders: a hammer, a saw, and a wrench are all indispensable when you’re building or repairing something, but they’re not interchangeable. The same occurs when leaders are weighing ideas or possible innovative techniques.
Leaders should also keep an open mind and know their weaknesses. Everyone has a worldview and therefore a bias towards a particular strategy or perspective. Leaders should partner with others that challenge them. Sages and Engineers challenge each other, as do Engineers and Artists. Great leaders will develop the appropriate culture and competencies in their company to produce the desired value proposition. However, leaders typically favor practices that closely resemble their own preferences instead of changing those practices to fit the situation, to the detriment of the organization. Lacking range and knowledge about when you need to enlist others will not result in the desired outcome.
Additional information can be found on my blog at the Huffington Post. The following video goes more in-depth into the four types of innovators. You can find out what kind of creative leader you are by taking this quiz.
This question originally appeared on Quora.
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