Experts weigh in on a variety of leadership styles and developing leadership skills


Meghan Joyce

RHINOS are known for their dominative and assertive qualities, although one does not have to posses these traits to be a good leader.

Amodhya Samarakoon , Health and Wellness Editor

It vibrates from fists slamming against tables, fills the room with one glance, and pours out from behind loud voices. Leadership. It’s a skill that appears in classrooms, manages discussions, and directs sports teams; leadership glares at us from the television, entrances us from the silver screen, and sometimes decides to disappear just when things get rough. Yet, unbeknownst to many, it is a skill that comes in many forms with ever changing methods of practice.

Although the media and perhaps the classroom presents only one or two leading styles – those that accompany outspoken, strict, and authoritative personalities – upwards of six styles exist. An individual is often a combination of multiple leadership styles and people naturally fall into one specific category more heavily. Leadership styles are not things to try out in hopes of fitting into one best: a given leading style will most likely come naturally based on other personality traits. The six main types, according to an article titled “Leadership Styles” by The Wall Street Journal, are  visionary, coaching, affiliative, democratic, pacesetting, and commanding.

Director of Corporate Training Solutions at General Assembly Michelle Hoover states that there’s no better form of leading.

“Leadership styles are not fixed; they should be fluid,” she said.

Hoover, who works with Fortune 500 Companies to improve their workers’ leadership abilities, emphasizes the importance of modifying one’s leadership style to fit the situation. Although Hoover advises people with so much experience that students’ may feel their skills pale in comparison with even the basic abilities of chief executives and managers, the process of becoming a great leader applies to those of all ages and experiences.

“Refining one’s approach to leadership is a lifelong process. It’s not about adopting one style and sticking to it stubbornly .. it’s about being exposed to as many styles and approaches that you’re willing to try,” Hoover said.

Refining one’s aproach to leadership is a lifelong process. ”

— Director of Corporate Training Solutions at General Assembly Michelle Hoover

High schoolers, teetering on the brink of adulthood, have just started developing traces of dominant leadership styles and preference; all of us own the necessary tools to lead and must learn how to use different parts of our personalities to lead in varying scenarios.

“Think of leadership styles like tools in a toolbox. You wouldn’t use a hammer when you need a wrench … some situations will call for the coaching [leadership] style/wrench, and others will be better served by the pacesetting style/hammer. A great leader knows how to use all the tools in his/er toolkit,” Hoover said.

Leading is also something to learn and practice as trends change and people find new  ideas. David Kansas, the Executive Vice President of Minnesota Public Radio and school alumnus, states that he still continues to develop his skills as a leader.

“I learn from experience, by reading books, watching movies, and by seeking counsel from other people in leadership,” Kansas said.

By participating in student groups such as SAC, theater, and football in high school primed him with valuable leadership skills. Over time, he’s developed a favorite approach to leadership.

“I prefer a ‘servant-leader’ approach. Placing the success, achievement and satisfaction of those who work for me front-and-center is important .. giving folks the freedom to dream and try for great things is crucial to an organization’s success,” he said.

I learn from experience, by reading books, watching movies, and by seeking counsel from other people in leadership.”

— Executive Vice President of Minnesota Public Radio David Kansas

A huge fear when taking on a leadership role is that one won’t be authoritative and command everyone’s attention with nothing more than a mere flick of the wrist. However, this stereotypical leader, outspoken and extroverted, doesn’t exist within – or even collaborate well – with most people.

“It’s very common for people to equate marks of extroversion as solid leadership. But, that’s not a rule,” Hoover said.

Introverts, calm people, and those with soft voices can posses the same ability to lead as someone with a megaphone naturally built into their voice box.

“I believe great leaders are also great listeners. In my experience, soft wisdom carries more force than loudness and intensity … loudness or quietness is less important than firmness and confidence,” said Kansas.

Similarly, Hoover states that commanding the room with a soft confidence rather than a loud one doesn’t need to be less effective – introverts can simply lead with a different dynamic with their unit.

“[Introversion doesn’t mean] that you can’t deliver a powerful message or do … the things that a good leader needs to do,” she said. “Introverts have to be very purposeful about their energy expenditure. In pursuit of leadership, they can have quiet, one-on-one conversations with the people they are leading to share a vision or offer coaching.”

Both Hoover and Kansas emphasize the importance of staying on your toes when leading. Although students take on forms of leadership in smaller forms than heads of large corporations, they can still practice leadership, preparing themselves for larger roles to take on after high school.

“Leadership is always evolving. Great leaders keep learning. They find new ways to inspire and motivate people to do great things,” Kansas said.