When confronted in a difficult situation, which are you likeliest to get caught up in? Ideas and concepts? A strategic battle of wits? Concern for the feelings of others? Or a focus on getting things done efficiently in the moment?
There’s no right answer to this question, according to executive coach and bestselling author Wendy Capland. But it could help you figure out what your leadership style is, and how to play to your strengths and work with your weaknesses. A while back, I wrote a column from an interview with Capland. As a follow-up we decided she would coach me and that I would write about it. The first step in the process was to complete her Leadership Communications Style Survey to get a sense of my leadership style, and what strengths and behaviors I’m likeliest to use. (If you’d like to take the test yourself, Capland is generously offering access to readers of this column. Click here, and then enter the password: leadership.)
In her decades as a coach, Capland has given this test to thousands of leaders, both executives in large organizations and people who head their own smaller companies. Respondents have been divided about evenly among the four types of leaders:
Envisioners are big-picture seers. They’re good at thinking outside the box, looking far into the future, and coming up with creative solutions to problems or new ways of thinking about them. They often come up with big plans and they’re happiest doing that and then leaving the implementation to others. I had a boss like that once, I bet you did too.
When I took the style survey, I came up with high marks as an envisioner which isn’t surprising since writer is a typical envisioner occupation, according to Capland. Leadership roles, scientists, planners, artists and professors are other envisioner jobs. The down side of envisioners is that they can be hard to pin down, vague, and idealistic, according to Capland. Also, they can tend to talk a lot and listen too little. You’ll get the most interest from an envisioner if you focus on the big picture, use phrases like “what if” and think in terms of philosophy and the long term.
Analyzers are orderly, systematic, and fact-oriented. They like structure and predictability, and they also like tackling problems and getting organized. Typical occupations include lawyer, accountant, and engineer, but even so, I’m an analyzer first and foremost.
The down side of analyzers is that they can be skeptical, overly cautious, unwilling to take risks and too slow to make decisions. To get an analyzer’s attention, be logical and orderly. Ask for a specific desired outcome. Bring data.
These are open-hearted leaders for whom building relationships is the highest priority. They’re perceptive, intuitive, and completely people-oriented. They’re empathetic and spontaneous, and place little value on formality. Typical occupations include entertainment, sales, and counselor or psychiatrist.
The down side of feelers is that they can be sentimental, live in the past, and overly concerned with how others perceive them. They are often impulsive, making decisions by gut feel rather than on facts. If you want to make headway with a feeler, begin by creating a personal relationship. It helps if you have friends or contacts in common.
Doers want to get the job done. They’re results-oriented, high-energy, and always on the move. They’re decisive and outspoken and good at juggling many responsibilities at once. We have a family member–the mother of seven–who wakes before the rest of the household is up and then greets everyone with fresh-baked rolls in a kitchen that’s already spotless. She’s a doer and then some. Pilots, athletes, doctors, and military officers are often doers. According to my survey results, I turn into a doer when under pressure.
The down side of doers is that they can be overpowering and sometimes short-sighted. Also, once they make up their minds to accomplish something they can be driven and even relentless. If you want to work with a doer, forget the chit-chat and focus on efficiency. Be prepared to say exactly what you can do for them. And don’t necessarily expect them to arrive on time.
Both good and bad.
Which style are you? Some of these may seem good or bad to you–they certainly did to me. But thinking about it, I realized the styles that seemed best were the ones that displayed traits I’d like to see more of in myself. It might look completely different to someone else. As Capland notes, every style has its advantages and disadvantages, good qualities not-so-good ones. And, like me, you may combine two or more.
Anyway, the point isn’t to try to change your style. Whichever style you have can work well for you, and you probably couldn’t alter it if you tried. The point is to recognize your own style, and the styles of the people you want to work with and influence. That will help you be more effective, whichever type of leader you are.