What is a leader?  It sounds like a simple question, doesn’t it, but this question has had people scratching their heads for centuries. Here are some definitions, both good and bad, of a leader as well as some specific leadership styles, along with their high points and pitfalls.

Leaders – people in power – have the ability to both inspire and intimidate others to do things that “need to be done.” No doubt you’ve encountered both the intimidators and the inspirers.  Intimidators often micromanage others because they think that things can only be done one way, their way.  They’re more often than not critical and/or blaming of what and how others are doing what they’re doing.  They often exploit other people for the benefit of themselves, not the goals of the work itself.  And they usually like to keep others off balance by not communicating, not being transparent, not sharing information.

On the other hand, inspirers tend to recognize, appreciate and encourage the potential in others.  They are open to, and even, encourage innovative ideas.  They more often than not encourage others to tap into and utilize their talents.  They are more likely to embrace communication, openness and transparency.  And they willingly give others credit for their contributions.

Which leader would you choose to be yours…the inspirer or the intimidator?  And which leader would you choose to be?

Once you decide which leader you would like to become, think about which style of leadership is best suited for you.  Here are several to consider:


  1.  Pace Setting Leader – They set performance standards and schedules for the team to achieve its goals to ensure that work gets done on schedule and that work goals are met quickly. Pace setters may overwhelm workers and/or harm creativity, but are most effective when the workers are highly motivated and competent. A good example of this is Jack Welch.
  2. Commanding Leader – He or she makes decisions alone and gives orders. Commanders are helpful during a crisis as they make quick decisions, are rarely challenged and are often respected. Commanders can inhibit critical thinking and demoralize others because their opinions aren’t ever solicited or valued. Think about leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Winston Churchill.
  3. Visionary Leader – A Visionary sees the big picture and sets overall goals for the team. They are most effective in “change” scenarios and when thorough explanations are needed. Visionaries often inspire creativity and teamwork if the context is clear and well defined. Well known Visionaries are Walt Disney and Steve Jobs (Jobs once said, “My job is not to be easy on people. My job is to make them better.”)
  4. Democratic Leader – This kind of leader makes decisions with the team and works collaboratively with them.  Democrats tend to boost morale and improve interpersonal relationships, though the work may be inefficient because collaboration and collectivism take time. This style is most effective with skilled/experienced workers whereas others may be confused. John F. Kennedy is a good example of democratic leader.
  5. Affiliate Leader – They create emotional bonds with workers while making them feel safe and a part of something. Affiliates risk workers putting in mediocre performances as this style is most effective during stressful situations and when used in conjunction with other leadership styles.  Mother Theresa is a successful example of an Affiliate leader.
  6. Coaching Leader – This person is a mentor to inexperienced workers/team members by being supportive and providing feedback often.  This approach creates a very positive environment in which workers/members grow and improve. It is also a time consuming leadership style and requires patience, but is most effective with an inexperienced team of workers who want to learn. Remember the great coaches, John Wooden and Red Holzman

What else can be said about effective leaders and leadership styles?   John Quincy Adams, one of our Founding Fathers, said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.”  Adams is another great American example of how the concepts of inspiration and effectiveness go hand in hand.


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