Are you an autocrat like Jack Welch or a nurturer like Tony Hsieh? Here's how leadership has evolved over the last 30 years.
There are no bright lines between leadership eras.
Very broadly speaking, the long-dominant model of autocratic leadership became less popular in the 1980s, influenced by, among other things, a new interest in culture and the popularity of books like In Search of Excellence, which advocated centralized values and decentralized decision making.
Empowerment became a watchword in the 1990s, as organizations flattened and technology put tools and information in employees' hands.
In the past decade, companies have grown more nurturing in response to a new understanding of the correlation between engagement and productivity, a greater emphasis on social responsibility, and smaller budgets with which to retain top talent. It has gone kind of like this:
The Age of Autocracy
General Electric's Jack Welch is dubbed Neutron Jack for his propensity to get rid of employees while leaving buildings intact.
Oracle's Larry Ellison models himself on samurai as he attacks competitors and pushes employees to the limit.
Michael Eisner drives up Disney's stock price while driving employees crazy with his micromanagement.
The Age of Empowerment
Howard Schultz's expansion plans for Starbucks rely on store-level employees making decisions based on knowledge of their regions.
Oprah Winfrey is a demanding boss--but as inspiring and caring offscreen as she is onscreen.
Meg Whitman takes over eBay, a company whose business model is all about autonomy, which requires her to trust people while insisting on integrity.
The Age of Nurture
David Neeleman dons an apron and serves snacks to JetBlue passengers.
Whole Foods's John Mackey contributes $100,000 annually to a fund for workers with personal struggles.
Tony Hsieh enshrines honesty, humility, and weirdness among Zappos's core values.
LEIGH BUCHANAN is an editor at large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture. @LeighEBuchanan