Here’s a quick overview of the four leadership styles:
- Pragmatists are driven, competitive, and they value hitting their goals above all else.
- Idealists want to learn and grow, and they want everyone else on the team to do the same.
- Stewards are dependable, loyal and helpful, and they provide a stabilizing and calming force for their team members.
- Diplomats are the affiliative force that keeps groups together and typically build deep personal bonds with their employees.
Remember that leaders can be effective or ineffective within each of these four styles of leadership, and there are a million subtle variations, but these four leadership styles give us a way to pinpoint some major philosophical differences between leaders.
Now let’s take a deeper dive…
The Pragmatist Leadership Style
Pragmatists have high standards, and they expect themselves, and their team members, to meet those standards. Pragmatists are driven, competitive, and they value hitting their goals above all else. They can be bold thinkers, unafraid of taking the road less traveled (even when others struggle or feel anxious). They are also hard-driving and often enjoy smashing through obstacles.
Working for Pragmatists can be difficult but rewarding. The job is not for the faint-of-heart or thin-skinned, but the opportunities to learn and become expert under the Pragmatist’s tutelage are second-to-none. The job can sometimes feel like an apprenticeship to a master artist or professor. This offers the potential for exceptional intellectual growth, but also for burnout and criticism. It’s a great situation for the right individuals, but employees who work for Pragmatists may find that bottom-line results can sometimes outpace softer measures like employee engagement.
The Pragmatist style is the least common of all the leadership styles, accounting for around 8-12% of American leaders. But, it’s interesting to note that top-level executives have a higher percentage of Pragmatists than other groups, like Managers, Directors and Vice Presidents.
Based on my observations, I consider Franklin D. Roosevelt, Jeff Bezos (CEO of Amazon) and Marissa Mayer (CEO of Yahoo) to be Pragmatists.
The Idealist Leadership Style
Idealists are high-energy achievers who believe in the positive potential of everyone around them. Idealists want to learn and grow, and they want everyone else on the team to do the same. They’re often charismatic, drawing others to them with their intuition and idealism. They’re open-minded and prize creativity from themselves and others.
Working for Idealists offers the chance to be creative and to express oneself. Team members find they have an equal voice and that they learn by doing. Working for the Idealist often provides a very democratic experience. There isn’t as much process and structure as with some other leaders (like Stewards), and that can be a plus or minus depending on the employee. Idealist leaders are often found doing creative work, brainstorming around a table with like-minded individuals. For the appropriate people, working for the Idealist is a great situation.
The Idealist leadership style accounts for about 15-20% of American leaders. And based on my observations, famous Idealists include Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) and Meg Whitman (CEO of Hewlett-Packard).
The Steward Leadership Style
Stewards are the rocks of organizations. They’re dependable, loyal and helpful, and they provide a stabilizing and calming force for their employees. Stewards value rules, process and cooperation. They believe that a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and they move only as fast as the whole chain will allow, taking care and time to help those who struggle to keep up.
Working for Stewards offers the chance to be part of a well-oiled machine. Here, employees find security, consistency and cohesion. The job may not offer great opportunities for individual glory or an adrenaline rush, but it does provide great opportunities for team success. Stewards can often be found in mission-critical areas of the organization and they are often relied-upon by leaders in other divisions. For the appropriate people, working for the Steward is a great situation.
Similar to the Idealist, the Steward leadership style accounts for about 15-20% of American leaders. And based on my observations, famous Stewards include George Washington, Mother Teresa and Ginni Rometty (CEO of IBM).
The Diplomat Leadership Style
Diplomats prize interpersonal harmony. They are the social glue and affiliative force that keeps groups together. Diplomats are kind, social, and giving, and typically build deep personal bonds with their employees. They’re often known for being able to resolve conflicts peacefully (and for avoiding conflicts in the first place).
Working for Diplomats is often more fun and social than working for other leaders (especially the Pragmatists). Diplomats put less emphasis on challenging their employees, focusing instead on putting their people in positions that leverage their strengths in order to achieve success. Diplomats work to avoid having people feel uncomfortable or anxious, and Diplomats are typically thought of as highly likable. Traditional measures of employee satisfaction are often very high for Diplomats. For the appropriate people, working for the Diplomat is a great situation.
The Diplomat is the most common of all the leadership styles, accounting for around 50-60% of American leaders. And it’s interesting to note that, unlike the Pragmatists, top-level executives have a lower percentage of Diplomats than other groups, like Managers, Directors and Vice Presidents.
Based on my observations, Mohandas Gandhi and Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook) would be examples of Diplomats.