Leadership Styles Quiz: Which Of These Different Leadership Styles Do You Use?

Leadership styles describe the differing types of leadership that leaders use. But what's your leadership style? Are you like a tech CEO or a world leader? More like Steve Jobs or Gandhi? Take this Leadership Styles Quiz and see what style of leadership you have!

Some are leaders and managers are competitive, others collaborative, and others structured. Research identifies four types of leadership styles: Pragmatist, Idealist, Steward and Diplomat.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

It's time to really understand your style. We're going to dig deep into leadership styles, but feel free to jump to any section that interests you:

The 4 Types Of Leadership Styles

Now that you have your personal leadership styles results, let's dig deeper into each of the four fundamental leadership styles: Pragmatist, Idealist, Steward and Diplomat. Here's a quick overview of the 4 types of 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, 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 visionary leadership, even when others feel anxious). They are also hard-driving and often enjoy smashing through obstacles.

Pragmatists rate very high on Challenge, moderately high on Directiveness and Structure, and much lower on Feeling. 

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. Their leadership skills provide 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 Steve Jobs 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 very much a coaching leader). They're often charismatic, drawing others to them with their intuition and idealism. Their leadership skills are often quite refined, 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 Sheryl Sandberg (COO of Facebook), Tony Hsieh (Founder 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' leadership behavior 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. The Diplomat is an affiliative leader. 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 David Glass (former CEO of Wal-Mart) would be examples of Diplomats. 

VIDEO OVERVIEW OF LEADERSHIP STYLES

LEADERSHIP STYLES BY FUNCTION

One of the most popular questions about leadership styles is whether different departments employ different styles of leadership. And the answer is YES. As you can see in the chart below, for example, in Operations departments the Pragmatist style is twice as common as in Human Resources. And Finance uses considerably less of the Diplomat leadership style than for example, Marketing departments. 

Which Style Of Leadership Is The Best?

Contrary to what most business books would have you believe, there is no one right way or one perfect way to be a great leader (or even an effective leader). Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower were both incredibly successful leaders, but their styles were a study in contrasts. And leaders like Tim Cook from Apple, Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook, and Jeff Bezos from Amazon, are all successful leaders with wildly different approaches.

It seems intuitively obvious that leaders should embody and employ different leadership styles; companies aren't all the same, so why should their leaders be the same? And yet, every year there are a wealth of books purporting to illuminate the "one path" to great leadership. It's an absurd conceit, and a damaging one.

A different leadership style will be necessary at a hard-charging Wall Street investment bank than at a small community hospital in Mississippi. 

The leadership style that works best for a team of ambitious, competitive go-getters (the Pragmatist) is not the style that works best for a group of affiliative collaborators (the Diplomat) or detail-oriented, rule-followers (the Steward).

Truly great leaders understand their leadership style, when to embrace it fully or dial it back, in which environments they are most likely to succeed, and how to choose followers who fit well with their leadership style.

It's great for every leader and manager and executive to be transformational rather than use transactional leadership or authoritarian leadership. And few people love working for autocratic leaders. But you can still be a transformational leader with any of the four primary leadership styles. 

Are Situational Leadership And Leadership Styles The Same Thing?

The essence of the situational leadership model is that there's no one perfect leadership style or one path to effective leadership. Instead, managers and executives should adjust their approach to the task at hand, including the abilities and willingness of the employees being led. In that regard, situational leadership and leadership styles are similar.

But one key difference in the leadership theory is that a good leader doesn't just adjust to the tasks and abilities of their followers; they also take into account the personalities, histories, and motivations of their people. The situational leader will evaluate the knowledge of their employees, but they typically miss their employees' unique personality styles. Here's what we mean: 

If you're leading a team of ambitious, competitive, demanding and audacious goal-setters, the Pragmatist style is a good choice. This doesn't mean using an autocratic leadership style, it simply means that when you've got these types of followers, you can use a Pragmatist style and challenge them to achieve really big goals.

If your followers are driven by affiliation and teamwork, and if they're harmonious, forgiving, and highly collaborative, then the Diplomat style is ideal.

If your employees are detail-oriented, rule-following, consistent performers, then try the Steward leadership style. The Steward's emphasis on formal procedures, rules and policies, and on setting clear expectations, will work well here.

If your employees love learning, and they've thrived under more democratic leaders or a boss who practiced participative leadership, they'll generally respond very well to the Idealist's coaching leadership style. 

Which Of The Leadership Styles Use Servant Leadership?

The creator of servant leadership, Robert K. Greenleaf postulated that the servant leader should ask, "Do those served grow as persons? Do they, while being served, become healthier, wiser, freer, more autonomous, more likely themselves to become servants?"

With that definition, the Idealist and Diplomat leadership styles most closely resemble the servant leader.  

Idealists are the closest style to servant leadership. They're 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.

Second would be the Diplomats, who 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. 

Transformational Leadership And Leadership Styles: A Surprising Link

Transformational leadership describes leaders who inspire, empower, and stimulate followers to exceed normal levels of performance. And the research shows that a transformational leadership style delivers better results, like employee engagement, job satisfaction and even productivity, than does transactional leadership (a style whereby leaders foster compliance through punishments and rewards).

Now, here's the surprising part: All 4 types of leadership styles can act as transformational leaders; they each just do it in their own unique ways. 

Pragmatists evidence transformational leadership by challenging and inspiring their team members to achieve bigger goals. For example, in the study Are SMART Goals Dumb? we discovered that only 14% people say that their goals for this year will help them achieve great things. But with the Pragmatist, those numbers can increase significantly. 

Idealists are transformational by continually learning and growing, and encouraging everyone else to do the same. For example, in the study The State Of Leadership Development, we learned that only 20% say their leader always takes an active role in helping employees to grow and develop their full potential. But with the Idealist, that improves greatly.

Diplomats display transformational leadership by empowering and building deep personal bonds with their employees. For example, in the study The State Of Leadership Development, we see that only 26% of employees say their leader always responds constructively when employees share their work problems. But with a Diplomat, employees' concerns would always be responded to constructively.

Stewards act as transformational leaders by providing a stabilizing and calming force for their team members. For example, in the study Fewer Than Half Of Employees Know If They're Doing A Good Job, we know that only 29% of employees know whether their performance is where it should be, and that's causing major problems for employee engagement.  But the Steward corrects that issue almost immediately.

These Are The Styles Of Leadership Most Susceptible To A Transactional Leadership Style

Transactional leadership is focused on controlling and organizing, using primarily rewards and punishments as motivation. Unlike transformational leadership, which inspires and empowers followers, a transactional leader focuses on more on ensuring compliance.

Transactional leadership generally involves using formal power, reward power and coercive power. Formal power comes from having a title. It generally comes from a place in a hierarchy, so I have more power as a VP than I did as a director. I have more power as a director than I did as a manager, and so forth. Coercive power is the power that comes from being able to punish people; 'If you don't do this thing by Friday you will be fired.' Reward power is the flip side of that; 'If you do this by Friday, then you can take Monday off.'

The two leadership styles most susceptible to using transactional leadership are the Pragmatist and the Steward. 

The Pragmatist is not someone who gives assignments and, as long as the work gets done well, leaves it up to the employee to determine how. The Pragmatist uses structured and directive leadership, and people who work for a Pragmatist can expect to receive clear and detailed instructions on exactly how tasks and projects should be performed. Like a transactional leader, this can include equally strong communications regarding performance expectations and the consequences of unsatisfactory work.

The Steward stresses stability and predictability, typically retains the final decision-making authority, tells employees exactly how tasks and projects should be performed and works harder and longer than anyone else on the team. If you work for a Steward, then there's no mystery around what happens if you fail to do your work satisfactorily; this management style makes consequences abundantly clear, before poor work has a chance to occur. 

These Are The Leadership Styles Most Likely To Use Participative Leadership (and Democratic Leadership)

Participative leadership means that employees are involved in decision-making that would typically be the sole purview of managers and executives. This involves sharing the challenges facing the organization and then accepting input and responding constructively when employees share suggestions, ideas or information.

Democratic leadership takes participative leadership one step further. A democratic leadership style means that leaders actually allow employees to vote or determine a course of action. The democratic leader doesn't just solicit input, they let employees make the decisions. 

The Diplomat is the style most likely to use democratic leadership. Here's an example. Sam Walton founded Wal-Mart, but his successor, David Glass, grew sales more than tenfold, to $165 billion and earnings soared from $628 million to $5.4 billion.

David Glass was quiet and egoless. In a Fortune interview, he said, "Most people have enough ego that they want to distinguish themselves from a charismatic leader, and that's what creates the problem. I've never had much ego, and I'm not worried about things like that. I'm more interested in the satisfaction that we are doing the right things and we're getting it done and being a part of it. I like being part of a winning team. I don't have to be the winning team."

One of the hallmarks of Diplomats is their tendency to put the needs of others ahead of their own. They're likely to care deeply about people, and support and cheer their success. And that is going to involve lots of participative leadership (and even democratic leadership). 

Which Leadership Style Has The Most Charismatic Leadership?

Charismatic leadership occurs when a leader uses persuasiveness, influence and communication skills to motivate and inspire others. The charismatic leader's power comes not from their formal authority but from the power of their personality. It's very closely related to referent power. [You can test whether you're someone who uses referent power on the quiz Which Types Of Power Do You Use?]

But every one of the four leadership styles can display charismatic leadership. George Washington and Mother Teresa were Stewards and incredibly charismatic leaders. Mohandas Gandhi was a Diplomat and a historically charismatic leader. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a Pragmatist, and I think we would all agree that he had a remarkably charismatic leadership style.

That being said, of the 4 different leadership styles, the one that is likely to find charismatic leadership most natural is the Idealist. 

Remember that 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. The Idealist is a collaborative leader, and they're open-minded and prize creativity from themselves and others.

Two of the characteristics that make someone charismatic are optimism and empathy, and Idealists have both of those qualities in spades. Optimism reflects the belief outcomes of events or experiences will generally be good or positive. And when the Idealist tells employees, "I believe you can be great at this," they're connoting optimism.

And empathy comes from being to see the world through another's eyes, to take their perspective. [You can test your empathy with the quiz Do You Know How To Listen With Empathy?] When the Idealist says to employees, "I love your creativity, walk me through your great idea," they're employing empathy. 

CEOs Often Have This Leadership Style

Famous CEOs like the late Steve Jobs, Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos are all Pragmatists. Why? Because each one is incredibly hard working, a visionary leader, focused on BHAGs (big hairy audacious goals), and they're willing to leave their comfort zone.

The Pragmatist pushes employees to work on strengthening their weaknesses, not just focus only on their strengths, and to give maximal, 100% effort. The Pragmatist doesn't ask employees to do anything that they're not willing to do themselves. They typically work harder and longer than anyone else on the team.  

Elon Musk, a famously hard-working CEO, certainly challenges his people to a high level of performance, but he has also admitted in interviews to personally putting in long hours, even up to 100-hour work weeks, to achieve his big goals. (He can also be considered a pacesetting leader).

Jeff Bezos said, "If you want to be a pioneer, you have to get comfortable being misunderstood. In some ways it's a much more pleasant life, probably, we wouldn't know from personal experience, to not - you know, once you have something good just to hone it and hone it and hone it and not try anything new."

Steve Jobs offered one of the most famous statements of a visionary leader ever, noting, "At Apple, people are putting in 18-hour days. We attract a different type of person: a person who doesn't want to wait five or ten years to have someone take a giant risk on him or her. Someone who really wants to get in a little over his head and make a little dent in the universe. We are aware that we are doing something significant. We are here at the beginning of it and were able to shape how it goes. Everyone here has the sense that right now is one of those moments when we are influencing the future."

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.

This does not mean that CEOs can't employ other leadership styles. But, at least in the realm of legendary CEOs, a Pragmatist leadership style is fairly common. 

Being A Bad Boss Is Not A Leadership Style

Most people want a manager or executive who evidences a modicum of common decency, tolerates at least a bit of disagreement, and minimally shares some occasional good news. These are fundamental leadership behaviors that most followers desire and that, ideally, are embraced by all leaders, regardless of their leadership style.

There are also leadership behaviors that are fundamentally bad. I regularly receive emails from managers whose bosses are mentally and cognitively unfit to be leaders, and they'll ask something like, "Is there a management style that encompasses 'crazy?'" The answer is simply, "No." To even enter the discussion about one's leadership style, a person must first demonstrate some foundational mental, emotional and cognitive competence. We can discuss the leadership styles of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Dwight D. Eisenhower because, even though they both made mistakes, they were mentally, emotionally and cognitively competent. 

Perhaps you've witnessed someone in a leadership role who didn't cope well with ordinary stresses such as basic criticism or unflattering news. Or they lacked a basic grip on reality. Or they consistently demonstrated belligerent, instigating and vitriolic behavior. A person like that does not have a leadership style; they don't even deserve the moniker of leader. They may hold an impressive title, but they are not a leader. And aside from the rare masochist, no one loves following someone who displays those kinds of behaviors.

Be Wary Of Autocratic Leadership If You Have These Types Of Leadership Styles

Autocratic leaders like control over decisions, like to control how people perform their work, and no, they're not especially warm-and-fuzzy. But while it's not a universally idealized leadership style, the study, "Autocratic Leadership: New Data Reveals Who Likes It" revealed that some people actually like autocratic leaders.

That being said, being an autocratic leader is best avoided, except in certain circumstances. Two of the key characteristics of autocratic leaders are that they believe that people should do what they're told and that they generally retain the final decision making authority. Unlike laissez faire leadership, these managers and executives maintain strict control. One note: This not the same as being an authoritarian leader, who wants personal dominance and obedience.

Of the 4 types of leadership styles, the Steward and Pragmatist are most susceptible to veering towards autocratic leadership. 

In the ideal state, Stewards are dependable, loyal and helpful, and they provide a stabilizing and calming force for their employees. Stewards value rules, process and cooperation (To some people, Stewards can feel a bit like a bureaucratic leader). 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. This is the opposite of a laissez faire leadership style.

But when Stewards take that style too far, their rules can be overly rigid and their control can be stifling. Again, the Steward leadership style can be just as effective as any of the others, but when this style becomes extreme, autocratic leadership could become a dangerous temptation.

The same can be said of Pragmatists. Working for Pragmatists is often intense and not for the faint-of-heart or the thin-skinned. Bottom-line results will always outpace softer measures such as employee engagement. In the ideal state, 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. But in the extreme, it can be exhausting and dictatorial. The Pragmatist is not a laissez faire leader, so lots of participation from employees is unlikely.  

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