The 8 Leadership Archetypes
Of course nobody personifies just one of these to the exclusion of the others, but many can be primarily associated with particular archetypes, including some notable people.
The strategist: Pop stars come, and pop stars go. But to hit the charts in 1983 and still be around three decades later, you have to plan diligently and iterate regularly. Madonna is known for reinventing herself to survive and thrive in the volatile world of the music industry. She looks at the big picture, spots trends most people haven’t seen yet, and positions herself accordingly. She’s recorded in every style from pop to country & western, and found new ways to outrage people almost every year.
If you’re a strategist, you’ll do well in situations where you or your company need new directions, but you may struggle with the nitty-gritty of motivating and managing people.
The change-catalyst: If you love diving into messy situations and taking quick, decisive action, you’re a change-catalyst. Famed CEO Al Dunlap, nicknamed “Chainsaw Al”, was a classic change-catalyst, taking over struggle companies and making drastic, decisive changes.
At Scott Paper in the 1990s, for example, he tripled the company’s value from $3 billion to $9.4 billion, in just over a year, although that did involve firing 11,000 employees, eliminating philanthropy, slashing investments in R&D and closing factories. Change-catalysts are not always so ruthless but they generally thrive in tricky situations that call for strong leadership, while often struggling in more stable environments.
The transactor: Donald Trump is a classic transactor. He started with his father’s firm of suburban residential properties, and quickly started wheeling and dealing his way to more glitzy projects like office towers and lavish casino resorts. His risk-taking style has put him in and out of bankruptcy, but also helped him recover to own millions of square feet of prime Manhattan real estate and build a net worth of $3.9 billion (as well as starring in The Apprentice, of course).
If you share Trump’s dynamic, deal-driven approach, you’re likely to thrive on new challenges, and be great at networking. But you may neglect day-to-day management in favor of pursuing the next opportunity.
The builder: When Jeff Bezos started Amazon in 1994, he was storing and shipping the books from his Seattle garage. Now, he’s built a $140 billion ecommerce giant, as well as starting a human spaceflight company and buying The Washington Post. What ensured his success was not just his vision, but his drive. Bezos is notoriously details-oriented, taking personal interest in much of what goes on inside his corporation.
This blend of creativity, energy and determination defines the builder. You always make an impact and get things done, but can sometimes be difficult to work with, coming across as too controlling.
The innovator: Would you like to work for Albert Einstein? As brilliant as he was, he sometimes found it hard to relate to ordinary people. This is a man who once lectured his 8-year-old grandson for 3 hours on the mathematical properties of soap bubbles. In 1952, he was offered the presidency of Israel, but turned it down, saying he wouldn’t be good at working with people.
If you’re an innovator, you are always curious about new things, and great at inventing new solutions. You’re may not be very practical, though, nor like managing other people. Try to work in tandem with someone who is more task-oriented.
The processor: Processors love order and structure. Sheryl Sandberg plays a processor role at Facebook, directing the company’s creative energy towards business productivity. She led determination of a revenue model, mostly based on advertising, and helped the company transition from fast-growing startup to profitable public company, via a massive IPO.
As a processor, you want to make things more efficient. You’ll work dependably in a variety of management roles, but you might struggle in volatile situations requiring frequent changes of direction.
The coach: Jackson’s “Zen Master” nickname is a tribute to his holistic coaching style, taking a broad view of what each player could contribute in terms of personality and character, in addition to passing and shot blocking, and working to get the best out of each of them.
If you’re good at listening to, supporting and motivating other people, you can be classified as a coach. You’ll thrive as a motivational leader of action-oriented teams like sales, but your loyalty to your people may cause conflict when layoffs or other unpleasant decisions are needed.
The communicator: Communicators have a gift for inspiring people. That gift has been clear throughout Oprah Winfrey’s career: whether on local TV, national TV, print, movies or other outlets, she’s always been able to connect with people.
If you find it easy to motivate people and convey your vision, you’re probably a communicator. You’ll quickly develop a loyal following, but the danger of this leadership style is that you may make ambitious promises and fail to follow through. Make sure that you surround yourself with people who can handle the details and implement your ideas.