Sign up to get Steve Denning's FREE newsletter


You'll get tips, tricks and advance chapters from Steve's forthcoming book. Click here to sign-up for newsletter.

Five different types of leaders

An interesting article in Harvard Business Review by Gary Willams and Robert Miller argues that executives typically fall into one of five decision-making categories:

  • Charismatics can be initially exuberant about a new idea or proposal but will yield a final decision based on a balanced set of information.
  • Thinkers can exhibit contradictory points of view within a single meeting and need to cautiously work through all the options before coming to a decision.
  • Skeptics remain highly suspicious of data that don't fit with their worldview and make decisions based on their gut feelings.
  • Followers make decisions based on how other trusted executives, or they themselves, have made similar decisions in the past.
  • Controllers tend to focus on the pure facts and analytics of a decision because of their own fears and uncertainties.

  • The five styles span a wide range of behaviors and characteristics. Controllers, for instance, have a strong aversion to risk; charismatics tend to seek it out. Being more persuasive involves understanding what sort of a leader you are dealing with a adjusting the pitch to the personality.

    Taking these differences into account can enhance your chances of persuading the leader to change. If the leader is to fall in love with a new idea, they have to discover it for themselves and make it their own. These five different types of leaders will tend to discover the new idea in different ways:

  • Charismatics are mercurial and can leap at an attractive idea that they can call their own. They will tend to accept – or reject – an idea on the spot.
  • Thinkers need to be given the time and the material so that they can work through the details.
  • With skeptics, there is a need to build on views and beliefs that they already accept and gradually over time lead a shift in their viewpoint.
  • Followers need to be given evidence of how other trusted executives, or they themselves, have made similar decisions in the past.
  • Controllers need to be given the facts and analytics of an issue.
  • Change the Way You Persuade., By: Gary Williams and Robert Miller., Harvard Business Review, May 2002, Vol. 80, Issue 5

    Read the Introduction
    Watch the video
    & pick up these amazing gifts!

    Join our on-line
    discussion group:

    the World
    of Work"